Playing 37 percent of a normal season lends unpredictability to a lot of things.
The MVP race is one of them.
If a player has a big month, that accounts for half of the season. Any number of guys can get hot for 3 or 4 weeks and establish themselves as the frontrunner for MVP honors.
Bryce Harper is one of those guys. Harper won the 2015 NL MVP as a 22-year old, hitting .330 with 42 HR, 99 RBI and a 1.109 OPS. But he hasn't finished in the Top 10 of the MVP voting since. Entering his second season in a Phillies uniform, Harper is listed among the favorites to win the 2020 NL MVP award.
Depending on which sportsbook you're referencing, Harper has anywhere between 13-1 to 20-1 MVP odds. The players with better odds than Harper include Christian Yelich, Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger, Ronald Acuna Jr. and Juan Soto. The competition to win NL MVP will be stiff, especially when you factor in other worthy candidates like Nolan Arenado, Javier Baez, Freddie Freeman and Kris Bryant.
But if you can get Harper at anywhere close to 20-1 odds, several reasons suggest it may be worth taking a flier.
His penchant for hot starts over the course of his career is well documented. Harper has a 1.025 OPS to go along with 47 HR and 132 RBI in 179 career games in March and April. He's entering his age 27 season, which is often the peak of a player's prime.
He's settled in to his new city and adjusted to his new teammates. Granted, Harper and every other MLB player will have to adapt to the unprecedented circumstances surrounding this season. But speaking with the media last week, he seems as comfortable as one can be with the idea of playing baseball in the middle of a pandemic.
And let's not forget the added motivation of watching his former team hoist the World Series trophy last October.
The one drawback that comes to mind is that Harper will be playing in empty ballparks, at least to start the season. More than any other player in baseball, Harper feeds off the crowd. He channels the positive energy at home and the negative energy on the road and uses it to his advantage.
Will a lack of juice in the ballpark have an adverse effect on his performance?
"It's going to be a challenge for everybody," Harper said last Friday in a zoom press conference with reporters. "You have to remember that you are playing for the fans who are watching you at home. They're probably excited as all get out to be able to watch you play. I'm going to play my same game. I'm still going to pump my fist, I'm still going to play as hard as I can. There are people watching, they might not be in the stands but they're watching us from home and we owe them our best."
17 days away from Opening Day, Harper is locked in. It's been a long time since he's gone 10 months without playing a meaningful game. His focus and excitement are evident just listening to him talk. It all could translate to a big year, potentially an MVP year.
Place your bets accordingly.