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Phillies’ Bryce Harper wins NL’s Outstanding Player Award; MVP could be next

The star right fielder takes home one of the Players Choice Awards presented by the MLB Players Association.

Bryce Harper became the fourth outfielder in history to have 100 runs, 100 walks, 40 doubles, and 35 home runs in a season.
Bryce Harper became the fourth outfielder in history to have 100 runs, 100 walks, 40 doubles, and 35 home runs in a season.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

Bryce Harper’s peers voted him Thursday as the National League’s top player and now he’ll wait to see if baseball writers agree.

Harper was named the NL’s Outstanding Player, which is one of the Players Choice Awards awarded by the MLB Players Association. The National League MVP Award — which Harper will at least be a finalist for — will be announced on Nov. 18 and is voted on by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

He ranked first this season in the NL in OPS (1.044) and slugging percentage (.615), second in on-base percentage (.429), third in average (.309), and sixth in homers (35). He finished the season with 101 runs, 100 walks, 42 doubles, and 35 home runs to become just the fourth outfielder in baseball history to have 100 runs, 100 walks, 40 doubles, and 35 home runs in a season. He joins Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds, and Stan Musial.

“That’s the face of baseball,” said Cincinnati second baseman Jonathan India, who was named NL Outstanding Rookie.

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Zack Wheeler was a finalist for the NL Outstanding Pitcher Award, which was won by the Dodgers’ Max Scherzer. Wheeler led the majors in innings (213⅓) and led the NL in strikeouts with 247. He should be a finalist for the Cy Young Award, which will be awarded on Nov. 17.

Harper is just the second Phillies player to win the Outstanding Player Award, which was introduced in 1994. Ryan Howard won it in 2006 when he won the MVP. The Phillies have not had an MVP since Howard and Jimmy Rollins (2007) won it in consecutive years.

“Bryce’s 2021 season was one of the greatest in our franchise’s history,” Phillies managing partner John Middleton said in a statement.” “He put up incredible offensive numbers especially down the stretch, when he started each of the team’s final 72 games.  To be selected by his peers and awarded with the 2021 MLBPA NL Outstanding Player Award is one of baseball’s highest honors and only further validates his accomplishments this season.  In addition to his on-field success, highlighted by his selection as a Silver Slugger finalist, Bryce is a special person off the field, which is why he is also being honored with this year’s Stan Musial Award.  When we first signed Bryce, we knew we were getting one of the best in the game.  We couldn’t be happier to have him in Phillies pinstripes as he continues to leave his indelible mark on this great sport.”

The finalists for the MVP have not been announced, but Harper is likely up against the same cast he topped for the Outstanding Player Award: Atlanta’s Austin Riley, Washington’s Juan Soto, and San Diego’s Fernando Tatis Jr. Harper’s OPS ranked first in the majors and his WAR (6.6 according to FanGraphs) ranks first among that group.

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Harper had a .429 on-base percentage in 599 plate appearances this season. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was the only other player with a .300/.400/.600 slash line. Harper became only the fourth Phillies player since 1900 — joining Howard, Chuck Klein, and Lefty O’Doul — with that slash line.

Gold Glove finalists

The Phillies were one of baseball’s worst defensive teams, but that did not prevent Wheeler and J.T. Realmuto from being named finalists Thursday for the National League Gold Glove Award.

Wheeler had a .958 fielding percentage and ranked fifth among NL pitchers in defensive runs saved. Realmuto, who won the award in 2019, had the highest fielding percentage (.999) among all catchers who caught more than 65 games and caught the third-highest total of innings (973) in the NL. But his caught-stealing percentage (26%) was slightly better than league average and his defensive runs saved (0) was the lowest of his career.