In what was quite possible the most predictable series of announcements in the history of Major League Baseball, it was announced Monday that Bryce Harper and Mike Trout would each be taking home hardware as the Rookie of the Year for their respective leagues.
Harper beat out Todd Frazier and Wade Miley to grab the National League ROY, in what was a closer race than many had anticipated. Trout ran away with the award, with Yoenis Cespedes and Yu Darvish serving as the other finalists out of the American League.
There’s no doubt that the two were deserving of the accolades they receive on Monday. Trout was not only a finalist for Rookie of the Year, but he’s in a neck-and-neck race with Miguel Cabrera as the American League MVP as well. What Harper did as a 19-year-old in 2012 is nothing short of remarkable.
Harper finished the season with a .270 average and 22 home runs for the year. Though he was quiet during a decent stretch during the summer, he picked his play back up, and was a gigantic factor down the stretch for the Washington Nationals, as they rolled to the league’s best record.
Trout was a human highlight reel for the Los Angeles Angels. His glove was fantastic, but so was his bat. He finished with a .326 average, an absurd .399 on-base percentage, and cranked 30 home runs. Oh yeah, he also stole 49 bags. Trout is as five-tool as it gets in the bigs.
Given that the two officially broke into the Major Leagues this season, and both won the Rookie of the Year award, they will be compared regularly throughout their careers, as fair a comparison as it may or may not be. At this point, who should we expect to have the better career?
Both are future superstars, if they’re not already. But while Trout may have trounced Harper from a numbers standpoint in 2012, they could approach a more even level as their careers wear on.
Trout’s numbers are going to come back to Earth at least a bit. He won’t post a .399 on-base percentage again, and his strikeout numbers are a bit higher than you’d like. His BABIP also won’t be .383 in 2013. On the side of Harper, his numbers should actually increase. He went dark in July and August, and the future should see him able to avoid lengthy poor stretches like that.
Looking at more advanced statistics, both players posted a wOBA of at least .350. Trout had the edge between the two, with his standing at a terrific .409. Trout was no. 2 in that category, with Harper also falling into the top 25. It’s safe to say that both are going to be elite bats in this league for a long time.
With Trout, you also have the baserunning aspect. Sure, Harper swipes a few bags, but Trout almost nabbed 50 in 139 games. He’s an absolute nightmare on the basepaths. That may be the only clear edge that Trout has over Harper, even when you look at the two in the field.
Trout is a Gold Glove defender. He was robbed of that honor this season, as the award went to Adam Jones for center field in the American League. Trout’s UZR is top 10 in the league. But not far behind him was Harper, who had a very fine season himself with the glove.
The debate is almost too close to call. Trout has an elite bat, an elite glove, and is a monster on the basepaths. He has all five tools and each of them are elite. But Harper could be considered a five tool guy as well. It should only require another season or so before he officially earns that label.
At the end of the day, it’s almost impossible to declare that one of Mike Trout and Bryce Harper will have a better season than the other. Both are special talents, and are already superstars in the league. Each of them are going to be thrilling players to watch for a very long time in Major League Baseball.