Bryce Harper has his eye on joining the annual Best Shape Of His Life list, telling Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post that he plans to lift tons of weights this offseason and get “as big as a house” by the time spring training rolls around.
Harper also told Kilgore that the nagging knee and hip injuries he dealt with for much of the season won’t require surgery and “it’s more trying to take the time off and let everything settle down.”
Harper got off to an incredible start to his sophomore season at age 20, hitting .373 with nine homers through 23 games, but then he started crashing into walls and playing through injuries and ended up hitting just .249 with 11 homers in his final 95 games. Or as Harper put it: “Body-wise, I felt pretty good except for when I did run into the walls.”
Overall he still finished with a strong .854 OPS, which was a 37-point increase from his rookie season, and Best Shape Of His Life or not a healthy Harper should have a huge 2014.
I would hope by now that I no longer have to preface All-Star talk with my usual “none of this matters” disclaimers, but please keep all of that in mind when I mention that Nick Markakis is leading all National League outfielders in All-Star voting.
Markakis, with 1,173,653 votes, has surpassed the slumping Bryce Harper in that category. Harper has 1,002,696 votes. The third place outfielder is Matt Kemp of the Dodgers with 925,697. Fourth place — Charlie Blackmon of the Dodgers — is like 300,000 votes back of Kemp.Yes, Markakis, Harper and Kemp may be the starting NL outfield. Brandon Nimmo — not on the ballot — should be grumpy, but he’ll get his chance I’m sure.
The thing about it: Markakis, for as unexpected as his appearance may be on this list, deserves to at least be in the top three. He’s second in WAR among National League outfielders behind Lorenzo Cain. He’s slowed down a good bit in June and he’s coming off of a 2017 season in which he had a 96 OPS+ and 0.7 WAR, but he’s having quite an outstanding season. I write that mostly so that there is a record of it come October and we’ve all forgotten it.
Seriously, though, good for Markakis, who has never made an All-Star Game. Good for Kemp too for that matter, who most people assumed was a walking — well, limping — corpse heading into this season. Good for Harper because anything that can keep up the guise of him having a good year when, in reality, he’s really not, will help his confidence as he heads into free agency.
Finally, good for the American League, who will likely get to face a far, far inferior National League team next month in Washington.
The rest of the voting: