Washington Nationals Editorial: Revisiting the Bryce Harper vs. Mike Trout Debate

mweyrich
Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports /
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After Bryce Harper’s historic 2015 season, let’s revisit the Bryce Harper vs. Mike Trout debate

In the 2012 season, Major League Baseball began its transformation from a veteran-dominated sport to a league headlined by young talent. The National League stepped back in awe as Washington Nationals 2010 No. 1 overall draft pick broke on to the MLB scene, leading his team to their first playoff series in team history while taking home Rookie of the Year honors.

Meanwhile, over in the American League the Los Angeles Angels were busy watching a young stud of their own take his first full season in the majors by storm, finishing second in MVP voting while receiving the AL Rookie of the Year Award. Bryce Harper and Mike Trout, both selected in the first round of their respective drafts, may just be the best two players in all of baseball, but who will be better in 2016?

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Combined, the two phenoms have hit 236 homers, drove in 645 runs, and accumulated two MVP awards. In 2016, Trout will be entering his age-24 season while Harper, a year younger, will be looking defend his MVP title after his historic age-22 year. While the Angels’ center fielder has accumulated more accolades and accomplishments over the past four years, Harper has put together the more dominant single season.

In their careers, Trout leads the way in nearly every offensive statistic, from games played to home runs. No one in their reasonable minds will doubt that Trout has been the better player. In the field, Harper has more outfield assists (in less opportunities), but Trout avoids errors much more often.

Looking at single season totals, however, changes the game completely. In their best single-season efforts of their careers, Harper beats Trout in home runs, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, walks, and OPS, while Trout has the edge in hits, doubles, runs scored, RBIs, and stolen bases.

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Heading into 2016, which player will have the better offensive season? Trout figures to be hitting third in the lineup, placed between Kole Calhoun (.308 OBP in 2015) and Albert Pujols (.480 SLG). Harper will most likely slot in at the number three spot as well, sandwiched between Anthony Rendon (.344 OBP) and Ryan Zimmerman (.465 SLG). Both players have teammates in front of them that can get on base and power hitters behind them that are capable of driving them in. So the question boils down to, who will be a better hitter?

If both players remain healthy, one could easily see either of them taking home their respective MVP honors in 2016. They have the chance to become the first duo to ever win Rookie of the Year and MVP Awards together. Harper is the flashier player, always playing with a high level of intensity unparalleled by the rest of the league. Trout, on the other hand, has been the most consistent player in all of baseball. The scary part? They’re both only getting better.

All right, all right, who do I think will be better in 2016? Call me biased, but here’s the case for Bryce Harper. The 23-year old is coming off one of the greatest single-season efforts in the history of the game, regardless of age. Staying healthy has been a problem for Harper in the past, but I expect that getting a full season under his belt will do wonders for the rest of his career.

Since August 1st of 2014, Harper has posted a 1.082 OPS, far and away the highest mark in all of baseball. That is eight months of regular season baseball in which he averaged a higher OPS than Hall of Famer Tris Speaker ever achieved in a single season. Trout has a pretty high ceiling, but it remains to be seen if he ever achieves numbers that historic.

With both players seemingly having their paths to Cooperstown cut out for them, all that’s left to do is sit back and watch the two studs compete at the highest level. They aren’t even 25 yet folks, so let’s sit back and enjoy the ride.

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