Best Rookie in Baseball: Bryce Harper or Mike Trout?
Currently, there's no competition
By: Charlie Miller | 5/23/12, 4:46 PM EDT
Mike Trout or Bryce Harper?
Proposing the question to most casual fans as to who the top rookie in baseball is this season, most answers will include Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals, either at the top or near the top of their lists.
If you watch the baseball highlight shows, you know Harper has a cannon arm, swings a powerful bat from the left side, has tremendous speed and is daring on the basepaths, enough so his first major league stolen base was a steal of home off the Phillies’ Cole Hamels, as the lefthander was throwing to first. Whether it’s throwing or running (or even losing a fly ball in the lights), the 19-year-old phenom has been a lead part of the highlights many nights. The media throng for his major league debut in Los Angeles against the Dodgers was unreal.
But there’s a 20-year-old outfielder on the other coast who is upstaging the Nats’ rising star. Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels made his debut last season as a teenager and didn’t have great success, but wasn’t exactly overmatched either. And after a strong start at Triple-A this season, Trout was recalled the day before Harper made his ballyhooed debut. But Trout’s recall was quickly and easily buried by Harper’s debut.
Sometimes the substance of a good steak gets lost in the sizzle on another plate. Trout’s substantive exploits on the West Coast have been overshadowed by Harper’s sizzle on the East Coast. And it’s understandable given fans’ thirst for the spectacular. A Bryce Harper pop out in his debut somehow seems more exciting than an RBI double off the wall by a 20-year-old in his second season.
Perhaps it’s location. Playing in the nation’s capital draws a little more attention nationally than playing on the south side of L.A. It also could have something to do with the Nationals’ place near the top of the standings in the National League East. It’s unfamiliar territory for the franchise that moved to Washington in 2005 and has never had a winning season in DC. The Angels, meanwhile, are fledgling near the bottom of the AL West. Everyone loves a winner.
And the coverage of Trout has been muted in his own market by the team’s struggles, particularly the slow start of one very famous teammate. When Albert Pujols is hitting below .200, there must be nothing else to talk about.
Maybe it’s because last season was supposed to be Trout’s “phenom coming out” season. He was 19 and baseball’s next great superstar. He was so 2011, now 2012 belongs to Harper.
But the truth is that, on the field, Trout has outshone Harper.
No matter what stats you use to compare the two, Trout is winning 2012 handily. He’s hit for more power. He has a higher batting average. He’s getting on base and stealing more than Harper. In reality, Harper’s only edge this season is his throwing.
Does this mean Trout will have a better career? Absolutely not. Both appear mature and resilient enough to handle the slumps and defeats that will certainly come their way during their careers. And that’s another area where Trout has a head start. He’s been three, done that. And now his career is on the elevator.
Harper will get there. These two could be opposing one another in All-Star Games for years to come. But for now, let’s keep 2012 in perspective — and give Mike Trout his due.
by Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie)
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