Bryce Harper is just 22 years old, and already he is being mentioned in the same sentence as Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, and Barry Bonds. All of his great stats aside, where Harper is showing the most promise is in his OPS+ number. OPS+ is basically a way to historically categorize a player’s on base percentage plus slugging. It is a tough thing to do, but by using a scale where 100 equals the average player in baseball history in comparison to all others, only a handful of players have ever been 100 percent better than average. Right now, Harper’s OPS+ number is up above that number, putting him at a tie with Ted Williams for the youngest player to be that high. The year that Williams did it, he hit .406. The only other player to have achieved this before the age of 24 is Ty Cobb. That’s some pretty impressive company to be in.
OPS+ isn’t a great indicator for using on your fantasy team, but it does show something about how that player ranks historically against some of the greats. Harper is up near the top of the list, which says a lot for him and his future.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that he will be the top daily fantasy baseball points producer, though. Not even for an outfielder. In fact, right now, Harper and Mike Trout keep going back and forth on different sites for who is the top points contributor in the outfield. At DraftKings, for an example, they are currently each putting in 10.4 points per game so far this season. With Harper’s salary being $300 higher, Trout is actually the superior choice in the outfield just because he’s a little cheaper. It is of interest to note here that the OPS+ number for Mike Trout for this season is only 185. Giancarlo Stanton is contributing 10.2 points per game this season, too, and once he gets off of the DL and is fully healthy, he could be a choice for you. He’s even cheaper than Trout.
The bottom line, though, is that Harper has more upward potential than either of these players. Yes, it’s hard to see that in the moment, but there’s a strong chance that this is only for that moment. Ten years from now, we are likely to look back at Harper and see that he was just building maturity. It won’t help you now in fantasy play, but it is something to start thinking about as you move forward. Because he is young, he still hasn’t learned a lot of the patience that’s needed to be amazing at the plate. He swings at pitches outside the strike zone, has a temper, and can be emotional. These things aren’t helping him. But in a year or two, those things will be noticeably less harmful to him. It’s already apparent that his discernment at the plate has gotten better. The Nationals have stated that this is his biggest improvement from last year to this one.
And everyone is in agreement that there are more improvements to come. The interesting thing about Harper is the fact that there’s always a hint of the future with him. He’s playing great now, but there’s always the caveat that, “in five years, he’ll be even better.” It’s easy to say that; statistics say that players hit their peak in their late 20s. But just because that’s true doesn’t mean that he’s not already great. He just has even more potential to grow into.
OPS and OPS+ are both great indicators, but they are not the only things you should be looking at for your fantasy roster. If you do look at just one number, though, it should be OPS as this gives a good summary of the player’s ability to get on base and hit for power.