The combined age of Mike Trout (20) and Bryce Harper (19) is just three years older than Paul Konerko (36).
Baseball players, no matter how talented, simply are not supposed to succeed in the Big Leagues at such young ages.
(And, for the record, baseball players are not supposed to improve as all around hitters at such an advanced age like Konerko has. So show some love for Paulie!)
Those extremely young hitters who do tear the covers off of baseballs, especially at Harper’s age of 19, are almost surely all-time greats.
So just in case you haven’t been paying attention, here is a quick update on what Trout – who has single-handedly saved two of my fantasy baseball teams from uncharacteristically poor drafts – and Harper have done since being called up this year.
Trout actually came up last year and had a cup of coffee with the big club at 19. He did not take the league by storm anywhere near like Harper has done this year at the same age, hitting .220 with 5 dingers.
He’s made up for it this year.
In addition to making a number of highlight reel catches in center field, Trout has absolutely lit up opposing pitchers while hitting out of the leadoff spot almost every day since he re-arrived.
Here are Trout’s ridiculous numbers on the year, in 187 plate appearances:
- 6 HR, 10 2B, 3 3B
- 35 R and 26 RBI
- 15 SBs (leads league)
- OPS+ of 168
Granted, it’s a small sample size, and pitchers are sure to make adjustments as Trout makes his second and third trips through AL ballparks…but, well, holy crap this kid is good.
To put Trout’s numbers into overall perspective, he is #22 overall on Yahoo’s fantasy player rater. That sounds very impressive until you realize that he is the only guy in the top 25 with fewer than 197 official at bats; Trout has 165.
Oh, and the Angels have stormed back from an awful start to be right back in AL West contention. Their rise coincided with Trout’s arrival.
Assuming his numbers don’t fall off a cliff, he’s an All Star already. At 20.
And then we get to Mr. Hype himself, who is on pace to turn in one of the best – if not the best – debuts by a 19-year old in MLB history. I’ll link you here to this Grantland piece again in case you didn’t click on the link above. Look at the other names on the lists Harper is showing up on.
Let’s run down Harper’s stats in 172 plate appearances:
- 7 HR, 8 2B, 4 3B
- 30 R and 19 RBI
- 4 SB
- 20 BB: 29 K
- OPS+ of 153
Damn near as impressive as Trout’s…until you remember that Harper is a year younger and is facing Major League pitching for the first time while adjusting to the Major League life at the same time, unlike Trout who got his feet wet last year. That makes it even more impressive.
Also consider that haughty jackwads like Cole Hamels are inexplicably targeting Harper with fastballs in the back, and Harper is the one taking the mature high road, and the overall body of work becomes even more impressive.
And then there is this Goliath of a home run Harper hit last night. Yep, the power is real…and it’s spectacular.
Like Trout, Harper is an All Star. At least, he should be.
Harper isn’t nearly as high as Trout in terms of fantasy numbers, mainly because he doesn’t have enough plate appearances for his counting stats to be as high and he doesn’t steal as many bases. No matter. Once the ABs even out, he’ll be right up there too.
Besides, looking at the impact of Trout and Harper in terms of their fantasy stats is the wrong fantasy to consider with these two baseball prodigies. More relevant is the fantasy of thinking about just how good they can be.
Frankly, it seems impossible to dream to big with way their careers have started. To have both youngsters doing at the same time makes it even more exciting and compelling, as we’ll now have the next 10-15 years to track them alongside of one another as they undoubtedly spend a decent chunk of that time duking it out for the title of Best Player in the Game.
If you think that’s hyperbole, I think you just don’t understand how damn near unprecedented it is what these two guys – who can’t legally drink, but who can force opposing pitchers to – are doing.
Here’s a hat tip to you, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. Keep up the great play.
Nothing is as fun in baseball as a young phenom exceeding massive hype and taking the league by storm. These two are doing it as well as any before them ever have.
Update: And you can add funny catch phrases to Harper’s list of accomplishments. Anytime a reporter asks a dumb question, players should respond just like Harper does here, by saying, “That’s a clown question bro.”