Yesterday in DC, the best young players in baseball faced off for the first time in their professional careers. They faced off in as much as two outfielders can – the mentioned each other during pre-game media availability. They sent praise across the aisle and explained their friendship, such as it is.
The “rivalry” is a media creation, of course. Drummed up to sell tickets and by the homerish Nats media eager to show the world that the local kid, Bryce Harper, can play too. They’re right, of course. Mike Trout casts quite a shadow but Bryce Harper deserves attention for his exploits between the lines as much as his “exploits.”
But rivals? Bryce Harper has a lot to do before he can get anywhere near Mike Trout’s level.
The above statement is less about Harper than it is a reflection on the incredible beginning to Trout’s career. With two more hits last night, Mike Trout raised his career stat line to .314/.402/.547. He’s the best player in the game right. There isn’t much about Mike Trout abilities on the field that we don’t know and celebrate.
Bryce Harper’s career at the big leagues began at the tender age of 19, where he showed great power and the ability to adjust en route to a fine year. Injuries cost Harper time in 2013 but his abilities shine through. He already has 43 home runs in his career, making him one of the most prolific young power hitters in the history of the game.
Most HR through age-20 season, all time
Without Trout, Harper would be the superstar. The phenom. The great young player with two full (albeit injury shortened) seasons under his belt, breaking records and causing analysts to wear out their superlative supply. Only two position players put up more Wins Above Replacement through their age-20 season. As shown above, only two men hit more home runs at this young age.
Bryce Harper is better than petty comps. His resume as a great young player in this league needs no padding. You know it, I know it, and Harper knows it, too.
“We’re going to roll through baseball over the next 20 years hopefully and make people turn their heads. He’s going to do it, and hopefully I can do it, and [Yaisel] Puig and everybody else in this game. Matt Harvey. There’s a lot of great young talent, and [the attention is] just because it’s me and Trout. That’s the way it always has been, and that’s the way it’s going to be.”
For now and until such time that Bryce Harper jumps on the fast track to Cooperstown, it isn’t “me and Trout.” It is Trout. And others, Harper included. Sorry, Bryce. Mike Trout happens to be on another level.