Mike Trout eclipses Bryce Harper as MLB’s brightest young star

A funny thing happened on the way to greatness. As it turns out, two of baseball’s brightest stars, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, just happened to hit the 150th home run of their respective careers at the exact same age: 24 years, 295 days old. The two are undoubtedly two of the best players in baseball today, and it’s quite possible that neither has even reached their prime. The two may always be linked with one another and compared to each other. When those comparisons are made over the next decade, we should always expect Trout to win the argument.

In baseball, the name of the game is consistency, and that’s an area where Trout has excelled far more than Harper. For all of his talent, Harper has been a bit erratic. After hitting .330 with an OPS of 1.109 on his way to winning MVP honors in 2015, he took a step backward in 2016, hitting just .243 with an OPS of .814. He has subsequently bounced back for another MVP-caliber season in 2017. To be fair, Harper (allegedly) fought injuries in 2016, but that should not be used as an excuse for such stark differences in his numbers from one year to the next.

From 2012 to 2016, Harper’s OPS each season looks like this: .817, .854, .768, 1.109, and .814. He’s up and then down and then up again. Meanwhile, this is how Trout’s OPS looked from 2012 to 2016: .963, .988, .939, .991, .991. He was never higher than .991 and never lower than .939 over that span, a model of consistency. This season, despite missing time with an injury, Trout has made a substantial leap, with an OPS that’s close to 1.200 and well over 100 points higher than Harper’s heading down the stretch.

In terms of awards, Trout is more accomplished despite far less hype than Harper. Both can hang their hat on being Rookie of the Year. However, the Angels superstar has two MVPs, while Harper has just one. Trout has six all-star appearances compared to Harper’s five, and they’ve all come in consecutive years, which is not the case with Harper. Finally, while Harper has just one Silver Slugger Award, Trout has won five in a row.

Trout is also a more well-rounded and complete player than Harper. Trout has spent almost his entire career playing center field. Meanwhile, Harper, despite moving around the outfield, has played primarily in right field, a slightly less demanding position than center. Trout has also committed fewer errors in nearly 1,000 more defensive innings. Of course, Harper does have more outfield assists by virtue of his arm strength.

Trout is also a superior base runner. He has 156 stolen bases in his career, being caught just 29 times. Harper, meanwhile, has stolen just 60 bases and has been caught stealing 28 times. Trout was even the American League stolen base leader in 2012, his first full season in the big leagues, swiping 49 bases that year. That was also the year the Angels superstar earned entry into the 30-30 club, a feat Harper has yet to reach, and an accomplishment that exemplifies Trout’s incredible blend of power and speed.

Obviously, Harper has plenty of time to catch up. But with each spending more than half a decade in the majors, Trout has proven to be a better and more accomplished player. Playing on the West Coast, Trout still doesn’t get the credit he deserves or as much attention as the more brash and outspoken Harper. But there should be no doubt at this point in time that Harper is the better player.

“Mike Trout is unbelievable. He’s one of the best players in baseball right now, if not the best.”

Bryce Harper

Harper will no doubt have some amazing seasons in the years to come. But Trout will do the same, and with what he’s already accomplished, it may be difficult for Harper to eclipse Trout. Of course, Harper is sure to try, and there’s no doubt it’ll be fascinating for baseball fans to watch.