How could Bryce Harper possibly be better than Mike Trout in 2013?
In 2012, Mike Trout batted .326 with a .399 OBP and .564 slugging percentage in 559 at-bats over 139 games. Trout had 27 doubles, eight triples, 30 home runs and 83 RBI with 67 walks, 139 strikeouts and 129 runs scored. That all came with 49 stolen bases in 54 attempts for an elite stolen-base percentage of 91 percent.
Meanwhile, Bryce Harper batted .270 with a .340 OBP and .477 slugging percentage in 533 at-bats over the same 139 games. Harper hit 26 doubles, nine triples and 22 home runs to amass 59 RBI, with 56 walks, 120 strikeouts and 98 runs scored. Harper stole 18 bases and was caught six times, an impressive 75 percent success rate.
Taking a closer look, Trout was 56 points higher in batting average, 59 points higher in OBP and 87 points higher in slugging percentage than Harper. Trout hit eight more home runs with 24 more RBI, drew 11 more walks, scored 31 more runs and stole 31 more bases with a stolen base percentage that was 16 percentage points higher. In fact, the only two major categories in which Harper bested Trout were triples and strikeouts.
Just on past performance alone, Trout will be expected to have the better season in 2013.
Next season, Harper will be playing his second season at the major league level, just as Trout did in 2012.
You see, one fact that was always conspicuously absent from the heated debate regarding which of these two players was having the better rookie season was that Trout actually made his debut during the 2011 season, not the 2012 season like Harper. In fact, Trout played 40 games in 2011, falling five games short of qualifying as a rookie, thus becoming eligible for Rookie of the Year in '12.
Trout would not have won AL Rookie of the Year in 2011 if he qualified. In those 40 games he totaled 123 at-bats, barely hitting his weight with a .220 average. Trout compiled a pedestrian .281 OBP with a feeble .390 slugging percentage. He hit six doubles, no triples and five home runs, while driving in 16 runs and scoring 20. Trout walked nine times while striking out 30 and was perfect on four stolen base attempts.
Not only does Trout have more MLB experience than Harper, but he improved dramatically as he gained that experience.
More to the point, Trout has significantly more professional baseball experience than Harper. Trout has totaled 465 games and 1,799 at-bats as a professional baseball player. Harper, on the other hand, has totaled only 269 games and 994 at-bats as a professional baseball player.
In fact, Harper has now played more games at the major league level (139) than at the minor league level (130). Yet despite that lack of experience, Harper was able to equal Trout's achievement, as they each won the Rookie of the Year Award in their respective leagues last season.
During the 2013 season, Harper's major league and therefore professional at-bats will increase. As these at-bats increase, Harper's offensive numbers will improve as well. One need look no further than Trout's brief but brilliant MLB career to see the same pattern.
With this increase in professional experience and subsequent improvement in offensive numbers, Harper can close the gap with Trout, a gap that Trout helped establish during the 2012 season. In fact, not only can Harper close this gap, he can surpass Trout and have a better 2013 MLB season.
Thanks to Harper's own record-setting season, this gap is not all that large.