Bryce Harper and Aaron Judge won’t be competing for the MVP because of their presence in opposing leagues. Judge is doing some amazing things for the New York Yankees this year, while Harper continues to be a force for the Philadelphia Phillies in their lineup.
But that’s the problem. Harper’s abilities don’t go beyond what he does with his bat. As admirable as it is for him to continue to swing through his injury, his inability to play the field has downgraded the Phillies’ defense further.
The last time Harper played right field was April 16. He has only 8 starts in the field all year long, and it’s going to take away some points in his MVP candidacy.
Meanwhile, up in the Bronx, Judge is playing center field regularly for the Yankees. He’s clobbering baseballs, too. Because of the value Judge brings to the Yankees in filling their center field hole, he is a runaway front-runner in the AL MVP race. The exact opposite is the case for Harper in his title defense.
Harper was already a below-average defender but his absence is felt when Nick Castellanos goes out there. Harper is the better defender between the two just as getting punched in the upper back is more preferred than getting clobbered in the face. It still hurts. It’s just not as bad.
Strictly looking at offense, Harper has a strong case for the MVP. He is an OPS masterclass thanks to his incredible power and all of the walks he draws. The better the Phillies play, the more of a case he can build even with the absence of playing the field regularly.
And if Harper does put up those monster offensive numbers, he would make MLB history as the first DH in the National League to win the award. In fact, no American League DH has ever accomplished this if we give Shohei Ohtani last year the benefit of pitching regularly.
Harper needs to make a no-doubter MVP case to win the award again this year. Guys like Paul Goldschmidt and Mookie Betts plan to finish close enough to make sure that doesn’t happen.
source: Section 215