Fantasy Baseball 2013: How Much Better will Trout and Harper Get?

Bryce Harper coming out of the box

April 28, 2012 will go down in history. Bryce Harper and Mike Trout made their 2012 debuts on that day. Effectively, it was the beginning of their careers, even though Trout did play a little in 2011.

If you believe the hype, the two may go into the Hall of Fame on the same day a few decades from now. Considering the start to their career, it is hard not to believe the hype.  Two of the most heralded prospects in baseball history lived up to the billing and earned Rookie of the Year honors this week to prove it. 

Trout, the Angels outfielder who turned 21 late in the season, had one of the great rookie seasons of all time with a .326 batting average, 30 homers, 83 RBI and 49 stolen bases in 139 games. 

Harper’s stats don’t match up to those, but he had one of the greatest seasons ever for a 20-year old when he hit .270 with 22 homers and 59 RBI in, you guessed it, 139 games in the outfield for Washington.

The parallels between Trout and Harper are eerie as both were 20-years old when they were called up on the same day and both played the same number of games in 2012. They were teammates last year in the Arizona Fall League, made the All-Star Game in their rookie year, and capped the year with the top rookie honors in their respective leagues. 

So where do they go from here, and what can fantasy baseball owners expect from the two next seasons?

 

Mike Trout Mike Trout

As you marvel at Trout’s rookie season, you also have to wonder, Has he peaked? It’s a silly question you would never ask about a rookie, but how much better can he get?

The answer is that he hasn’t peaked, but it is possible that 2012 will go down as one of the top five seasons in Trout’s career when it is over.

Only 35 players in baseball history have hit over .326 for their career, so it is safe to start there when talking about which stats from his rookie year seem least likely to carry over for long. 

Yet, Trout has hit at least .326 in all four professional seasons, so that may be sustainable. He hit .352 in a couple of Single-A stops in 2009, .341 for two Single-A teams in 2010, and .326 in Double-A in 2011 before getting called up to the majors, and then hit .403 in 20 Triple-A games this year before being called up again by the Angels. 

The only time he didn’t hit was during his 40-game stint with the Angels in 2011 when he batted .220. Just one year later, he raised that average by nearly 50 percent. 

So the average looks like it is for real, but what about the power?

His home run totals took a huge jump in 2012 over what he did in the minors. Trout hit 23 homers in 286 minor-league games before hitting 30 in less than half that many games last year. 

Fluke? No way. 

The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder is about the same size when he was drafted (actually, five pounds lighter comparing his bio then and now) but obviously got stronger as his power numbers went up each year in the minors. Sometimes you just need to use the eyeball test and anyone who looks at him can see the power is legitimate. 

Plus, when a guy hits 30 homers against major-league pitching, there is no reason to question why he couldn’t hit as many in the minors. The “Can-he-do-it’ questions have been answered. 

There wasn’t a fluky power surge at some point during the year that distorted his numbers as he hit between five and 10 homers in four of the five full months he was in the bigs. 

His 83 RBI doesn’t jump out at you until you realize he did it hitting in the lead-off spot. Even with his speed, he will likely move down in the order in the future and make 120 RBI an annual occurrence. 

The speed is legit as well as he had 89 stolen bases in his final 202 minor-league games. He has 53 stolen bases in 58 attempts in the majors, so 50 stolen bases also looks like a benchmark he can reach each season. 

Mims’ Early Projections for 2013

H AB R HR RBI SB AVG
Best Case Scenario 225 625 150 41 107 63 .360
Realistic Scenario 205 625 135 34 96 55 .328
Worst Case Scenario 185 625 125 26 84 42 .296

 

Bryce Harper Bryce Harper

The biggest difference between Harper and Trout is that Harper made his debut this season while Trout got 40 games in 2011. Harper was drafted the year after Trout and needed one less full year in the minors before getting to the Nationals. 

When you look at the comparisons, it is fair to wonder if Harper has a year in him during 2013 like Trout had this past season minus the insane stolen base numbers.

In 2011, Trout hit .220 with five homers and 16 RBI in 123 at-bats during his first call to the majors. In 2012, Harper hit .272 with 22 homers and 59 RBI in 533 at-bats during his first trip to the bigs. 

The power numbers project out pretty equal over the same number of at-bats with Harper hitting more than 50 points better than Trout. Considering that Harper was a better prospect than Trout, why couldn’t he make the same jump in his second year in the majors?

Harper’s average was pretty close to his minor-league average of .289 so don’t expect him to ever get to Trout’s level there, but .272 will likely be one of the lowest averages in his career. 

He hit 22 homers at age 19 during his first time looking at major-league pitching, so that will likely take a big jump as soon as next season and could possibly double within a year or two. Like Trout, Harper’s RBI total takes a hit because he bats second in the order but he too is a candidate to be in the middle of the order soon. Hitting there, he would regularly exceed 110 RBI each season. 

Mims’ Early Projections for 2013

H AB R HR RBI SB AVG
Best Case Scenario 210 640 118 36 101 30 .328
Realistic Scenario 185 640 110 29 83 26 .289
Worst Case Scenario 173 640 100 24 72 21 .270

 

The Final Word

When you project next season for Trout and Harper, you do it from different angles.

With Trout, you try to figure out if he can put up better numbers than he did this year while with Harper you are guessing just how much better he will get. 

Trout’s numbers this year duplicated over the rest of his career put him in the Hall of Fame, so it is tough to project just how much better he can be. If you give him the usual inflation over a rookie campaign, is .350 with 50 homers, 120 RBI and 60 stolen bases out of the question? Probably, but who would have projected the 2012 season he had? So, we will just have to wait to see what he can do next. 

Harper arrived in the majors months ahead of when he was expected, and a year ahead of what many were projecting, so an uptick is expected next season. When you consider he is a guy who was on the cover of Sports Illustrated at age 16, left high school after his sophomore year to play in junior college, and then was drafted before what should have been his senior year of high school, his potential to catch up to Trout’s stats could come quickly. 

The only thing that seems certain is that two of baseball’s top hitters for the next dozen years have arrived. 

Trout will be the No. 1 pick in many fantasy baseball drafts next year. Harper is not far away from moving into the first round, too. 

Topics: Bryce Harper, Mike Trout

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  • bears

    a pretty glaring error in this post is with regard to Harper’s age.  He debuted and played out the regular season as a 19 year old, NOT a 20 year old.  He only turned 20 this past month.  His season was especially impressive if not historic when placing it in the proper context of a teenager.  He’s more than a full year younger than Trout which adds to the potential you raised for Harper’s break out being next year.

    • http://fantasybaseballcrackerjacks.com/ Clave

      Good eye! Thanks for spotting that. Right after I hit send on this comment, I’ll go in and correct that.
       
      19 is pretty remarkable for what Harper did, especially considering the levels of knuckleheaddomness that most of us are mired in.
       
      Think also about some other modern players who debuted at 19. I’m thinking about Griffey, A-Rod, and Adrian Beltre if I remember correctly. Pretty remarkable company.

      • bears

        @Clave
         and Harper outperformed most of those players handily as a teenager.  The other name I hear for his performance at that age is Mel Ott, but that’s dated enough that it’s hard to draw a comparison.

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