Washington Nationals: Bryce Harper expectations, predictions for 2018

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 12: Bryce Harper /

The 2018 MLB season will likely be the swan song for Bryce Harper in a Washington Nationals uniform. The expectations are as high as ever with the former first overall draft pick looking to leave a lasting impression on the fans.

Before he goes into the free agent pool and breaks new contract records, Bryce Harper has another year left with the Washington Nationals. This is good news for Washington as they look ready to seriously compete again in 2018.

The 2015 MVP put together another great year in 2017 although it was slightly tarnished by injuries. Still, Harper showed that his down year in 2016 holds no weight.

Expectations for Harper in 2018 will reach a new level. If not for playing in only 111 games last season, Harper would have been a serious MVP contender, likely in the top five. His .319/.413/.595 finished second to only his 2015 season. The 29 home runs and 87 RBI also earned a runner-up award on his career totals, falling only to his accomplishments from two seasons ago.

The incredible 2017 campaign helped put Harper back into the conversation for who is the best player in baseball. His struggles in 2016 made doubters out of many. The quick turnaround restored a lot of faith in the star right fielder who put together his fifth All-Star season in six chances.

Washington Nationals: Expectations and Predictions for Harper in 2018

We can count on Harper to slug home runs and drive in about 100 of his teammates if healthy. However, it’s runs scored that has been Harper’s better statistic over the years. In each of his six seasons, Harper has scored more runs than he drove in. Even in 2015 Harper drove in only 99 but backed up the MVP season with a league-best 118 runs scored.

With Ryan Zimmerman back in the fold as a productive bat and Daniel Murphy surely to continue to hit well, we should see Harper score over 100 in 2018 while fighting to finally reach triple-digits in RBI.

Batting average is the hardest area of Harper’s game to predict. He’ll have a high OBP, but just how much of it comes via hits is difficult to estimate.

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In his first three seasons, Harper hit between .270-.274 in each season. Then he obliterated baseballs for a year and set a career-high with a .330 average. Sandwiched between that incredible number and last year’s .319 batting average is the pitiful .243 he hit in 2016.

Given this, I still say it’s safe to expect Harper to hit in the .290s next year. Asking him to consistently bat over .300 is lofty. There’s a good chance if he had the at-bats in 2017 he would have lost a few points over time.

Harper is not someone I see competing for batting titles often. He’s also not the kind of player to drop below .250 like he did in 2016.

In the power department, I do see Harper hitting about 40. Next season is his age 25 campaign and it’s clear his home run hitting abilities are growing.

Next: Imagining the Atlanta Braves in the 2018 Postseason

Harper will continue to build on his free agent stock. When the 2018 season finishes, Scott Boras, and his favorite client will be all set to make a cannonball-like splash next winter.