Good piece, Chris. If there is one thing ZiPS(R) may be understimating, in addition to his defense as you stated, is his BB% (8.7%). Based on watching his approach and his MiLB numbers (11-12%), I think I think he’ll walk more.
Also, *homerism alert, possibly*, I think Andrew McCutchen may have something to say about ‘best player in the game’ status. Harper/Trout have both been excellent, but it’s not locked in that either will be best player, in my eyes.
I would say that although Trout probably has less total baseball experience, he still has more elite baseball experience. Harper may have had longer seasons and played against better competition throughout his earlier days, but I don’t think it means too much for either at this stage of the game. There isn’t much that a 12-18 year old can do experience-wise to prepare for the real test of AA-MLB type pitching to come, other than actually facing and studying it on a regular basis.
Elite prospects don’t usually begin getting tested beyond physical condition and natural ability until they push past at least A ball. So I think it’s maybe more about each of your lower level experiences putting you in a position to do well as you advance per level. Both have obviously had plenty of valuable experience to get them into each of those advanced situations.
Past A ball, Trout more than triples Harper’s experience. Having said that, both are still relying heavily on physical condition and raw skill because of their relative inexperience. I just think Harper has to rely on it a bit more because he’s less experienced with elite competition.
Something else extremely impressive, is Trout’s “consistently elite” BABIP output. He was basically a .400+BABIP MILB hitter, and after a really low stretch during his first MLB stint last year, so far, he’s up into the .360 range for the ’12 season. It will be interesting to see how things settle in that area of his game.
On the chart, putting Trout at the bottom doesn’t tell us a whole lot. Who are the 5 or ten next guys, so we can see where he clusters, not where he falls short (not that falling short of the players on that list is a failing).
There’s not a scout in baseball who would rate Makeup a ‘push’ between Trout and Harper.
This isn’t a prediction Harper’s going to explode sometime or anything. But let’s wait till something bad or UNFAIR! happens to him and see how he deals with it. Before we now conclude he has good makeup, too.
Last year, when Trout was 19, in about exactly the same amount of PAs (134 Trout, 129 Harper) Trout put up .8 WAR vs Harper’s current .5 WAR. Harper’s bat may be better but at this very unspecific point in both of their careers Trout has been better.
As an Angels fan I wouldn’t trade Trout for Harper straight up, and for many of the reasons cited – his makeup, his lower chance of not fulfilling his potential, his overall balanced skill set – but it is mainly because he’s just so damn exciting to watch and, I must admit, he’s “our” phenom.
To me the comparison seems to overly favor the gaudy power potential of Harper. Certainly Harper will likely have higher OPS and HR totals, but Trout will do (and already does) little things that, when combined, make him a more interesting and, I would say, at least equally valuable player. To put it another ay, do you want a 1.000+ OPS hitter with good RF defense and above average speed or a .900+ OPS hitter with excellent CF defense and blazing speed? If Harper ends up hitting .300/.450/.650, then it will be hard for Trout’s secondary skills to make up for the difference, but if Harper hits .290/1.000 and Trout hits .320/.950, then Trout’s speed and defense will more than make up the difference. I’d say the differential in terms of OPS is about 100 points – Bryce has to be at least 100 points higher than Trout to make up the difference in terms of overall value.
The most common comp that I’ve heard for Trout is Grady Sizemore who I think works reasonably well, but if Grady had hit .300 regularly and was even faster. Actually, Trout reminds me a bit more of Rickey Henderson, with less SB but a higher average. I also like the comp of Jacoby Ellsbury, 2011 version.
The bottom line, though, is that the Nationals and Angels are both lucky: both players are already very good and only going to get better and, I would imagine, we’ll be having similar conversations for the next 5-10 years.
I think the counter argument to that is that most of that WAR total from Trout’s age 19 season came from his defense which is less reliable over 40 games than offensive numbers are. Trout’s age-19 wRC+ was 89 last year, Harper’s this year is 130. Certainly Trout is expected to add a lot of value with his defense, but WAR might not be the best measure when dealing with 40 games.
In 5 years Giancarlo Stanton might be hitting HRs at a torrid Bonds PED pace, sans PEDs. Not a good defender, but that would still push him over Harper or Trout. Is Harper expected to top out in HRs/yr as high as Stanton?
It seems you are eluding to Harper’s well publicized temper. While this is certainly not an admirable trait I am not so sure it is a bad thing for a baseball player. Assuming he doesn’t go all Milton Bradley and jeopardizes his career with his temper, I think an uber intense attitude can be a good thing. Wanting to win and perform so badly is the kind of drive you need to become a once in a generation type star.
OPS isn’t really a good stat. It overvalues slugging in relation to on base ability. And it ignores baserunning. For offense, wRC+ is a very good stat that accounts for the relative value of all offensive actions and normalizes for park and league. It’s available on Fangraphs.
“To put it another ay, do you want a 1.000+ OPS hitter with good RF defense and above average speed or a .900+ OPS hitter with excellent CF defense and blazing speed? ”
WAR is created specifically to address this questions. It all comes down to how that OPS is composed (a .450 OBP/.450 SLG hitter is about as valuable at the plate as a .300 OBP/.700 SLG hitter) and how good their relative baserunning and defense is. Since WAR accounts for all of that, I think it provides a good answer to your question.
Harper does all the little tangible things as much or more then trout too. He turns singles into doubles routinely has stolen home already. Both are amazing it’s prolly a push now but honestly a 19 year old even holding his own is a once ina generation thing.
Thanks for stating the obvious, I’m going to assume Angelsjunky new that. Secondly as stated above, if we use fWAR for each players first 130 at bats at age 19 then Trout wins. WAR will tell us alot more when they are both in their mid twenties. If I had to choose one it would be Trout at this point. I think he has more room to grow as a hitter than Harper and is a better athlete.
Trout has been mking doubles out of singles, no? Stealing home is a function of the manager not the player, c’mon. Nothing points to Harper having superior intangibles to Trout so far. ITS JUST A FEW GAMES AND THEY BOTH COULD BE AWESOME.
that’s actually pretty interesting, because while mays obviously had much more power than trout, they kind of relate to eachother in similar ways that harper and trout do, mays with more speed, mantle with more pure power, and mantle was more intense as a person as well.
I own both Trout and Harper in my league, and I watch them both regularly. For me, Trout is hands down the better guy with the brighter future. Has awesome speed and defense. Imagine if he keeps his power up!! Harper always worries me too because he is still an immature boy with a history of emotional flare ups.
I thought I read Bill James saying Mickey Mantle was probably the fastest player in baseball. I looked at “runs from baserunning” on baseball reference, and Mantle had more through age 29 than Mays did through age 31 (when Mays got caught up in games played).
After that, Mantle’s injuries hampered his speed, while Mays continued to blaze right through age 40.
Harper will be the slightly better fantasy option, but I think Trout is the more valuable player IRL. He can beat you in more ways than Harper can IMO
It’s a moot point anyway as both look like they’ll be top 10 players in MLB fairly soon and should stay there for quite awhile
Comment by sausagemcbiscuit — June 1, 2012 @ 4:49 am
Gotcha, Nathan Nathan. OPS, like any stat, isn’t an accurate or comprehensive measure of a player’s overall value, but like all stats it does say something, and what I was trying to point out is that Harper’s overall hitting ability – as a combination of on-base and slugging – is probably going to be better/higher than Trout’s, but that Trout will be better at the stuff outside of what OPS represents, and that I would suggest that the difference will be roughly equal to 100 OPS points, maybe a bit more.
WAR, of course, should account for it, but the problem with WAR on its own is that because it is such a comprehensive statistic, it is hard to tell what is going on “within” the number. For instance, we all know that 7 WAR is a superstar player, but there are many ways to get to 7 WAR. I think both Trout and Harper will, but will take different routes, an Trout’s will be less obvious in terms of the more commonly used statistics (e.g. OPS, SLG, HR, etc).
I know right! People should never, ever do anything rash or poorly conceived, especially at 19! I mean, we never did at that age, am I right?! Those poor, poor people – those mere mortals – they just dunno what it’s like to be perfect sometimes. They should just try harder, I mean, its pretty easy…
I grew up on baseball during the 60’s, so I am a bit cynical,
regarding today’s players. To say that Trout and Harper are
today’s best players does not say much to me, when we
have millionaire players hitting .169, and millionaire
pitchers with 6.09 or higher ERAs. Its just frustrating
when a star pitcher gives up a grand slam to a .169
nobody hitter. During the 60’s, I saw one (three at the
most) grand slam, that I remember. During the last
three years, I’ve seen 20 – 25. I do not find that very
exciting. Now, if Trout and Harper are the best players
since the last 20 – 25 years, I am impressed and take
my hat off to them.
I sense that Trout is the arrogant one. He interviews badly and he has just that look to him. Harper does too, but in a different way. I bet we find out in years to come that trout was a bad teammate. There is something behind the way he chomps his gum and swaggers. I don’t like watching him at all.
They both have huge egos which is quite normal for exceptional people in any walk of life. What was Barry Bonds, humble. Even the ones that seem Modest like Jeter and Maddux have huge ego’s behind the scenes. I mean for christ sakes, after Derek has a one night stand he sends his date home with a basket full of signed Derek Jeter memorobilla.
As of today Harper is up to a wRC+ of 153, Trout is at 170. Remarkable what they’re both doing. They’re both close to qualifying for the batting title, with Trout sitting 2nd in the AL. For wOBA and wRC+ Trout would be sitting 7th and 6th in the two stats, Harper 19th in both.
The two will be forever linked, and most people seem to be ‘taking sides’ with these guys. Can’t we just appreciate both for what they are, which at the moment is arguably the best under-21 rookie tandem in baseball history?
To address an earlier comment, regarding Best Player In Baseball in five years, I think we also have to look at three guys who are doing unbelievable things in the upper minors right now: Jurickson Profar, Oscar Taveras, and Wil Myers.
Myers is 21, and slugging.700+ across AA and AAA this year, and may be able to stick in CF, at least for a few years. Duke Snider redux?
Profar is just 19, plays a solid shortstop, and is hitting for average and power, AND showing excellent strikezone command in AA. Barry Larkin, anyone?
And Taveras, who Mike Newman’s contacts say could be a 30-HR centerfielder, and who Jason Parks describes as having an “80-grade hit tool,” compares pretty favorably so far to Mike Trout at the same age/level.
Trout at 19 in the Texas League:
.326 avg., .958 OPS, just under .60 BB/K
Taveras, same league, 7 weeks older:
.322 avg., .956 OPS, also just under .60 BB/K
You could go back to when they were 18 in the Midwest League, or even 17 in rookieball, and the performances have almost eerie similarities.
Trout is of course vastly superior defensively and on the bases, but they both figure to annually contend for batting titles, and Taveras might have truly elite power, as opposed to Trout’s distinctly-above-average pop.
Indeed, Taveras has an unusually good chance of fulfilling his power potential, since his contact rates are borderline elite. Specifically, let’s compare again Trout and Taveras at age 19 in the Texas League:
Trout: .218 ISO, and 18% K rate.
Taveras: .259 ISO, and 13% K rate.
More power *and* more contact is a potent combo.
I apologize for rambling a bit; I’d still take Trout in five years, no doubt. But as for 2nd-best MLB player in five years, I’d throw Myers, Profar, and especially Taveras into the mix with Harper, McCutchen, Votto, Tulo, Longoria, and Upton.
Looking back at this article now is quite the kick. “If Mike Trout managed to finish the season at [4.8 WAR]” sounds like such a hilarious statement as we now speculate whether or not he will be able finish the season with 10.0 WAR, 30 HRs and 50 SBs…