You wouldn’t think it would be possible for Bryce Harper, of all people, to do anything quietly, or under the radar.
After all, if there were a way to quantify “most career hype,” well, you could do a lot worse than pointing to the guy who was on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a teenager, then was picked No. 1 overall, then won the 2012 Rookie of the Year, then was named the 2015 Most Valuable Player, and then signed a 13-year-deal with the Phillies -- among 100 other things.
Maybe it’s because the Phillies, thanks largely to a flammable bullpen, are two games under .500 in his three years there. Maybe it’s because the next crop of highly touted superstars, like Juan Soto and all the famous sons of famous fathers, has arrived to gain well-earned attention. Maybe it’s because we all can’t stop staring at Shohei Ohtani, understandably, or because Harper's RBI total is low, thanks largely to his teammates. There are plenty of ways to explain why Harper isn’t quite in the spotlight like he once was.
Those reasons might be understandable, yet they all make it far too easy to miss what he’s doing. Harper has a .306/.417/.557 line, a year after putting up a .268/.420/.542 line, making him a top-6 hitter over the past two seasons. He has the third-best OBP in 2020-21; he has the eighth-best slugging.
Harper is one of just four hitters to have a .400 OBP / .500 SLG combo this year, after being one of just eight hitters to do it last year; combine 2020-21, and the only three such studs are Soto, Freddie Freeman … and Harper. Looking at his career numbers, there have been nearly 700 players to take at least 5,000 plate appearances since integration in 1947, and his offensive performance to date is tied for 30th best (understanding, of course, he hasn’t reached his thirties yet.)