Within a few hours on Friday, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper were called up by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Washington Nationals respectively. Two of the top three minor league prospects on nearly every top 100 (or 101) prospect list heading into the season. For baseball fans, this is nirvana. For fantasy baseball players, it requires a bit more analysis to determine what we should expect for the rest of 2012 and beyond.
Tale of the tape
Bryce Harper: Born: October 16, 1992 (Age 19) Height: 6′ 3″, Weight: 215 lb. Bats: Left
Mike Trout: Born: August 7, 1991 (Age 20) Height: 6′ 1″, Weight: 210 lb. Bats: Right
No, not that kind of analysis. For fantasy baseball players, we want to know what we can expect from each player for the rest of this season (just over 140 games left for each player). I will wrap up the column with some information on what to expect as the players develop.
Harper was recalled when Ryan Zimmerman was placed on the DL with an AC joint injury. In my earlier column this week, I noted that history has not been kind to 19 year olds in the major leagues. Harper batted seventh in his major league debut and if he remains in that spot in the lineup, his value will be muted when compared to Trout who is leading off.
Harper possesses extraordinary power and average to a tick above average speed. He has yet to play extensively at AAA meaning he hasn’t seen enough breaking balls to be able to consistently handle them at the major league level. Therefore, he is a batting average risk in his first taste of the majors.
Sadly, for Nationals fans, Harper’s value is probably tied to Zimmerman’s and Mike Morse’s ability to heal quickly and stay healthy. Zimmerman is first eligible to return on May 6 so Harper’s stay could be short. There is a chance that Harper sticks in the majors when Zimmerman returns, but I believe the Nationals will want him to develop a bit more at AAA.
Harper can change that by getting off to a quick start and forcing the Nationals to keep him in the majors. However, Harper has started slowly as he’s been promoted to AA and AAA. I don’t believe the majors will be any different for him. Harper is a baseball player in the truest sense of the word and a joy to watch on the field, but he may not contribute in a meaningful way this year.
Projected line for the rest of 2012: 50 GP 175 PA .240 BA 8 HR 25 RBI 20 R 5 SB
Trout was recalled when the Angels decided to release veteran Bobby Abreu and eat the remainder of his $9 million contract. Trout has 286 games of minor league experience (nearly 150 more than Harper) over the last four seasons. I do not believe Trout will see the minor leagues again unless he is on a major league rehab assignment at some point in the future. He is here to sink or swim.
Trout has superhuman speed on the bases and in the field. He has developing power and plays excellent defense from all reports. He had a 40-game preview of the major leagues last year and struggled hitting just .220 in 135 PAs with 30 strikeouts. However, in just under 100 PAs at AAA this year he hit .403 with an 11/16 walk to strikeout ratio and 1.091 OPS.
Trout will be given a longer leash than Harper and has (on paper) a better supporting offensive cast with Albert Pujols, Kendrys Morales and Howie Kendrick. It is only a matter of time until the Angels offense begins firing on all cylinders and Trout will be a beneficiary of that largesse.
Projected line for the rest of 2012: 120 GP 510 PA .265 BA 5 HR 40 RBIs 70 R 25 SB
For traditional scouting reviews of Trout and Harper, head over to Baseball Prospect Nation and take a look at Mark Anderson’s work. These reviews should give you a better idea of the qualitative evaluation of both players. Both are seen as the top 1% of future major leaguers. For keeper or dynasty players, there are few if any reasons to trade these players away. No player is a sure thing to actualize his tools into production, but both players are as close to sure things as you will likely see. If a member of your fantasy league is willing to listen to trade offers for either one, do what you can to put them on your squad.
As Harper matures, he will become a middle of the order hitter with the chance to lead his league in HR through his prime years. In his prime he could hit 40+ HR in multiple seasons. Early in his career, he should have enough speed to steal 10-15 bases. His other counting statistics will likely depend on the Nationals front office and its ability to surround him with top of the order talent. For Harper to be a truly elite RBI-man, he will need an above average leadoff man to get on base in front of him and Zimmerman.
As Trout matures, his speed will slowly wane and his power will slowly increase. At his peak, Trout will likely hit 15-20 HR and could steal 40+ bases. He may have multiple seasons of 50+ SB as he has top notch speed and has a career 79.4% success rate in the minors. Trout will be a top of the order fixture for the next decade and will contribute in every category.
As Ice Cube says, It Was a Good Day. One baseball fans we will remember for a long time.
Chris Garosi is a contributor for District Sports Page. One of his favorite sports memories is witnessing Wilson Alvarez’s no-hitter at Memorial Stadium in 1991. Chris has played fantasy sports since the pre-Internet days and participates in any league for any sport to which he’s invited. You can follow him on Twitter at @chrisgarosi.