In 2017, there were plenty of reasons to think Bryce Harper would return to the majors.
The Washington Nationals signed Harper to a $100 million, six-year deal that will pay him more than $150 million in total over the life of the deal, with the majority of his salary guaranteed.
And the Nationals had a player option on the deal worth $70 million, which means that if Harper was to miss the entirety of the 2019 season with an injury, he could walk away with a $15 million buyout.
That would leave Harper with an annual salary of $225 million, and Harper was a popular choice for best player of the decade for some time.
But now, Harper has been ruled out of the entire season.
Harper is out for the entire 2019 season and could miss up to two months of the year if he’s injured.
The best player to be sidelined at this time of year is Stephen Strasburg.
Strasburg has played through a back injury in each of the past three years, and he has missed at least 20 games each of those years.
So if Harper is ruled out for all of 2019, he will likely be one of the game’s most durable players.
Here are some other reasons to start considering Harper as the best MLB player of 2017.
He’s the only player on the planet to have three seasons of at least 400 hits, 200 homers and 100 stolen bases.
That’s a pretty amazing feat in the modern era of statistics, and that’s a stat that will only increase as players get older.
Harper has had an incredible year.
He has hit a career-high 41 home runs, but he has also driven in a career high 576 runs, and the Nationals have won their past seven games by a combined total of 15 runs.
Harper’s career OPS+ is 105, which ranks him third in the National League behind only Buster Posey and Giancarlo Stanton.
His career slugging percentage is 96.5, and his career OPS against is .937.
The Nationals are also on pace to finish with the best record in the majors for the first time since 2013, when they finished first in the NL East.
The way things have played out in 2017, that’s an incredible accomplishment.
He leads all NL rookies in hits (154), runs (90), hits (4,087), RBIs (81), slugging (.539) and OPS+ (101).
The next closest player to Harper’s production is Jordan Zimmermann (84).
He is tied with Posey for the third-most walks in the league.
The next-closest player is Joey Gallo (79).
And the third closest player is Bryce Harper (69).
He led all NL first basemen in walks last year.
Bryce Harper has not been on a hot streak, but it hasn’t stopped him from getting on base.
He had an .895 OPS at first base last year, good for fourth-best in the Majors.
He ranks second in the American League in on-base percentage, behind only Bryce Harper.
Harper leads the majors in slugging (10.4 per game), runs scored (3,902) and doubles (20).
His OPS+ ranks fifth among qualified first baseman.
He and Stanton are the only players in the top 20 in OPS+, and the only two players in that group to rank in the Top 10.
Harper ranked in the middle of the pack among all qualified hitters, while Stanton was in the bottom five.
He owns the second-best OPS+ in the game.
Bryce’s OPS+ ranked second in baseball last year behind only Stanton, and it’s tied for the second highest among qualified hitters behind the New York Yankees slugger.
He ranked fifth among all hitters with at least 1,000 plate appearances.
He also has at least 100 plate appearances in four consecutive seasons.
Bryce had two years of at-bats above 1,200 before his injury.
The last time he had more than one year in the 1,300-plate range was in 2017.
He tied his career high with 29 home runs in 2017 after hitting his first career grand slam in June of 2015.
That season, Harper was one of just eight players in baseball history to hit 29 homers in a single season.
He recorded his 300th career homer, which was the second of his career.
His 300th home run came in July of 2016, and only the eighth time in his career that he hit more than 300 home runs.
The only other player in MLB history to do so is Mark McGwire, who did it in 1993.
He reached the milestone in just eight months.
He became just the third player in history to record two 300-homer seasons in one season.
The others were Joe DiMaggio (2000), Manny Ramirez (1996) and Greg Maddux (1997). 12.