AND DOWN THE STRETCH THEY COME: HARPER VS. TROUT

It’s been happening all season and dates back even farther, as pheonoms Bryce Harper and Mike Trout have been highly-touted prospects for several years. The comparisons are so natural. A 19-year old and a 20-year old; an American Leaguer and a National Leaguer; both outfielders and both being inserted into the lineups of contending teams.

Harper’s Nationals have held up their end but Trout’s Angels have scuffled, through no fault of his own.

But both prodigies earned their promotions and then played key roles for their big league clubs. Harper contributed right away as he made his MLB debut in Dodger Stadium on April 28th. The Nationals lost, but Harper drove in a run, knocked a double off of the centerfield wall and rifled a throw from left field to homeplate that would have shot down a Dodger runner if the catcher would have held onto the ball.

Trout, after struggling in a 40-game audition last season, came up that same day for the Angels and went 0-for-4. Shortly after that, he started playing out of his mind, as he has most of his life, and took the spotlight from Harper as the most eye-popping prospect to hit the MLB stage. Suddenly, Harper and his crazy skills were almost looked at as an afterthought as Trout dazzled on a nightly basis and Harper saw his average dip to under .250 in August.

Now, both youngsters have over 400 ABs. Harper’s Nats are in firm command in the NL east while Trout’s Angels are all but out of it in the AL west and in tough for the wild card. Lately, Harper’s on the rise and Trout’s slumping a bit. Over their last 10 games:

HARPER – 15-for-40, 5 HR, 10 RBI and 12 runs scored
TROUT – 10-for-44, 1 HR, 3 RBI and 9 runs scored.

Very small sample size. But here is where they stack up over the season:

HARPER – 115 G, 447 AB, .260/.329/.450, 17 HR, 47 RBI, 79 runs scored and 116 hits
TROUT – 115 G, 471 AB, .329/.393/.563, 25 HR, 75 RBI, 109 runs scored and 155 hits

Advantage, Trout. Clearly, going on those numbers and that sample. But lost in this discussion is just how advanced these two youngsters are. Is Harper a washout, after all the hype, because at age 19 he only put up that line? Obviously not. Baseball reports everywhere are posting his lofty place in baseball’s history for teen-agers and it puts him in impeccable company.

Meanwhile, the 20-year old Trout is making major league baseball look easy. And not reported in all these offensive stats is both players’ spectacular defense. Each has the range, the glove and the arm to change a game on defense. And they’ve been doing it all year long.

If you’ve got a favorite, great. Even so, enjoy the other guy. Because you’re looking at not one, but two Mickey Mantles at the same time, with decades of combined brilliance to come. The numbers they’re putting up are no fluke and the attributes that stats can’t explain loom even larger. Bryce Harper and Mike Trout were can’t-miss and they’re nailing it.

They’re going to combine for a can’t-miss decade for baseball fans and stats geeks.

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