If any single player proved this season how valuable the existence of the DH is, it’s Bryce Harper. Without the DH role available, the Phillies would have lost him for the season in April. Without him for that long, it’s hard to see a path where the Phillies even make the playoffs, let alone become the National League Champions.
2022 stats: .286/.364/.514, 18 HR, 63 RBI, 20.4 K%, 10.8 BB%, 138 wRC+, 2.5 WAR
The last time the Phillies had the reigning NL MVP on their roster, they made it to the World Series for the first time in 15 years. 2021 was superstar-quality for Bryce Harper, but his performance in the 2022 postseason was the stuff that creates legends. Harper, the NLCS MVP, led all of MLB in playoff homers (6 - tied with his own two teammates), was first in hits (22), and was second in RBI (13). His greatest moment of this season, and perhaps the greatest moment of his career thus far, was of course his go-ahead two-run homer in game 5 of the NLCS, which sent the Phillies to the World Series.
This moment, right here? Yeah, we’ll all be thinking about this moment for a long, long time.
Still thinking bout this pic.twitter.com/cZC3NRKZzV— Starting 9 (@Starting9) December 27, 2022
Harper faced two major injuries this year that severely affected how he was able to contribute to the season.
On April 11, he injured his elbow throwing to home plate. At the time, it was listed as a strain and the team hoped that he would be able to return to the field later in the season. That never happened, and later tests confirmed a baseball player’s worst nightmare: A torn UCL. From April 16 on, Harper was unable to play in the field and was stuck to DH duties only.
On June 25, he suffered a fractured thumb that sidelined him for all of July and most of August.
After he returned to batting, it took a while for Harper to return to form. In fact, it wasn’t until the playoffs that he started to look like the 2021 MVP version of himself.
Harper successfully underwent Tommy John surgery on November 23. Timelines are all subjective and not at all definitive, but the Phillies expect him to be out until the All Star break, and even then won’t return to the field immediately.
Final Grade: C+
(I can’t in good conscience give him a higher grade, with the amount of time he missed.)