There is about one-third of the MLB season still left to be played, but Bryce Harper has thrust himself directly into the National League MVP hunt.
When the white-hot Ronald Acuna Jr. tore his ACL shortly before the All-Star break, the door opened for a host of players to state their cases for the top player in the NL.
San Diego star Fernando Tatis Jr. seemed ready to step into the MVP lead, but he is currently on his third stint on the IL because of a shoulder injury. He has already missed 23 games this season, and there’s a real possibility that he could undergo surgery and be lost for the season.
Mets ace Jacob deGrom certainly made a case for himself with his dominant first half of the season, but he has been out since July 7 with an elbow issue. The injury will likely keep him out until at least September, if not the remainder of the season.
With the top three candidates seemingly out of the running, that leaves about a half-dozen players vying for the MVP. Taking out Acuna and Tatis, here are the NL fWAR leaders among position players through Aug. 4:
Trea Turner is having a great year, but we can all but rule him out. He was traded to the Dodgers at the deadline, and no player has ever won the MVP in a year in which he was traded. Understanding that WAR does not solely determine a most valuable player, that leaves a pair of players each for the Dodgers and Padres, Brandon Crawford and Harper.
Looking beyond WAR, Harper is the only player in the National League currently with a .300/.400/.500 line this season. He’s sixth in the league in batting average, second in on-base percentage and fourth in slugging percentage. He’s the only player in the top six in those categories right now.
What’s just as important in an MVP race is that the team Harper is playing for is winning. Maybe not as much as Phillies fans would prefer, but they are 18-12 in their last 30 games and very much in the hunt for the NL East. Harper is a very big reason for it and you could argue that he’s the biggest.
A lot can happen over the final two months of the season, but at this point, with the NL MVP race fairly open, the Phillies’ superstar has as good a chance as anyone to take home the hardware.