Fresh off his ROY award, Bryce Harper has become a hot commodity among fantasy baseball managers, to the point where I have seen him drafted in the third round in some leagues. While Harper certainly does have some value as a player, it’s important to try to keep everything in perspective. Though he posted a gaudy WAR of 4.9, a large part of his value is derived from his defense which does not help your fantasy team. He sported a .270/.340/.477 triple slash line, which, while impressive for a rookie, isn’t world beating. He still doesn’t walk enough (9.4 BB%), and strikes out too much (20.1 K%), but his .206 ISO does bode well for his future power potential.
Additionally, he swings at 35% percentage of the pitches he sees outside the strike zone, and only hits 63.2% of them, evidenced by his .352 wOBA. All of this is to say that you shouldn’t expect much improvement on his triple slash line, which limits the amount of runs he’s going to score and drive in, as well as the amount of base-stealing opportunities out there. A reasonable expectation from Harper would be 90-25-65-20-.270 totals, which is nothing to shake a stick at, but is certainly not worth drafting in the third round. Let your fellow league mates overpay on reputation — there are other options out there that offer comparable production in a later round.
Consider Norichika Aoki, the opening day leadoff hitter and outfielder for the Milwaukee Brewers. In his first season he put up .288/.355/.433, a .78 BB/K, and 30 SB. Now that he’s guaranteed playing time and is in a position where he can pad his counting stats, a 100-15-65-25-.290 line is well within reach. This is a comparable production to Harper, with less upside and sacrificing a power for speed, but 10 round later it would be well worth the wait. In fantasy baseball, reputation doesn’t win you games, production does.