Mike Trout and Bryce Harper won the Rookie of the Year awards today. Here are columns I wrote about each this year:
BOSTON — Mark Trumbo is a 26-year-old dripping with talent and Incredible Hulk-like strength.
The 6-foot-4, 225-pound Angels left fielder entered yesterday against Boston batting .286 with 30 homers and 77 RBIs.
He has to be the young Angels superstar who everybody in baseball is talking about, who White Sox pitcher Chris Sale described as a “man-child,” and who just appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated with “The Supernatural” in all capital letters written across his chest, right?
The actual man-child/supernatural talent has the locker right next to Trumbo’s in the visitor’s clubhouse here at Fenway.
His name: Mike Trout. His height/weight: 6-1, 210. His job: dominating baseball games. His age: turned 21 on Aug. 7.
“At Mike’s age I was playing in the Midwest League (Class-A), hitting .220 and contemplating what I was going to do with myself,” Trumbo said. “It’s unbelievable for someone to put up the type of numbers he’s putting up at any age let alone 20 and 21.”
Trout has a chance to become only the third player ever to win both the Rookie of the Year and the MVP in the same year. Fred Lynn and Ichiro Suzuki have done it.
The center fielder also is on pace to become the second player (after Suzuki in 2001) to lead his league in batting average and steals in the same season since Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson did it in the National League in 1949.
Trout, who spent almost all of April in Triple-A, entered yesterday’s game leading the AL in batting average (.344), stolen bases (39), runs (97), slugging percentage (.606) and OPS (1.014). He ranked second in the AL in on-base percentage (.407). And he had 24 homers and 70 RBIs.
His talent combined with his hustle makes him arguably the most exciting player in the majors.
“I know it sounds strange, but seeing him hit routine ground balls and seeing how close the plays are at first, that pumps me up because he’ll beat some of them out,” Trumbo said. “Infielders are like, ‘What happened?’”
Neck-and-neck for the lead in the AL MVP race are Trout and Detroit third baseman Miguel Cabrera, who entered yesterday hitting .328 with 31 homers and 105 RBIs.
“He’s fun to watch,” Trout said about Cabrera. “I got to talk to him a little bit at the All-Star Game. … He just puts up incredible numbers.”
But Trout is putting up better numbers in almost every category.
“I just feel more relaxed,” Trout said comparing this year to last season when he played 40 games for the Angels and hit .220. “I’m getting to play every day, leadoff — and just being in there every day makes me feel more comfortable.”
The argument, however, could be made that Cabrera is more deserving of the MVP because he is hitting better in clutch situations.
Entering yesterday, Cabrera was hitting .447 with a .523 on-base percentage with two outs and runners in scoring position and .354 with a .447 on-base percentage in late-and-close situations.
Meanwhile, Trout was hitting .297 with a .435 on-base percentage with two outs and runners in scoring position but just .205 with a .260 OBP in late-and-close situations.
Trout doesn’t pay much attention to the AL MVP discussion.
He is just out there having fun like he did when he played in the Arizona Fall League this past offseason on the same team with Red Sox injured third baseman Will Middlebrooks. Those two spent a lot of their free time playing Madden Football and Call of Duty.
Nationals 19-year-old rookie Bryce Harper also was on that team.
“They both have a great swing,” Trout said about Middlebrooks and Harper. “They go out and compete every day and don’t take any day for granted and they’re out there having fun just like me.”
The Angels were 6-14 when Trout was in Triple-A during April. They were 55-45 in games that he has appeared in entering yesterday.
“I like making adjustments throughout the game,” Trout said. “A lot of these pitchers I haven’t seen. Just seeing pitches in that at-bat before and putting them in the back of my head (helps).”
BOSTON — The biggest story in baseball remains Bryce Harper, the 19-year-old Washington Nationals phenom who appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated at 16 years old.
The cover read: “Chosen One: Bryce Harper is the Most Exciting Prodigy Since LeBron.”
Harper means to Major League Baseball what LeBron James meant to the NBA in 2003-04, what Sidney Crosbymeant to the NHL in 2005-06 and what quarterback Andrew Luck likely will mean to the NFL next fall.
Tons of fans here at Fenway this weekend have Bryce Harper-fever. And why not?
“Mr. Harper, can I have your autograph please?” several kids holding up pens and baseballs near the third-base dugout were yelling to the potential superstar outfielder yesterday as Washington took batting practice.
Harper broke onto the scene April 28, going 1 for 3 with a double and RBI in his major league debut. He is batting .282 with six homers, 17 RBIs, eight doubles, four triples, three steals, 26 runs and a .364 on-base percentage in 37 games (142 at-bats).
Not bad for the 19-year-old whose big head of hair certainly makes him stick out in the Washington clubhouse. But it’s not just his cool hairdo that makes him popular. He has a real passion for baseball and a perfect youthful energy. And he appears deserving of the hype.
Harper isn’t the only young player tearing up the majors right now. So are Red Sox 23-year-old third baseman Will Middlebrooks and Angels 20-year-old outfielder Mike Trout, both of whom were Harper’s teammates in the Arizona Fall League this past offseason.
“You step your game up a little bit,” Harper said about playing with Middlebrooks and Trout.
Harper, who was selected first overall in the 2010 draft, doesn’t remember how old he was when he thought to himself for the first time, “I think I’m good enough to make the majors someday!”
“That everybody’s dream: to play in the big leagues,” he said. “I wanted to try to be the best baseball player I could to make it that next level and play in the big leagues.”
Harper is so talented he beat his older brother — 22-year-old Bryan Harper— to the majors. Bryan is a left-handed hurler in the Nationals minor league system. He was drafted in the 30th round in 2011.
Bryan is just starting his professional career. He pitched at the University of South Carolina where he was teammates with talented Red Sox prospect Jackie Bradley Jr., who is hitting .379 with a .488 on-base percentage in 57 games (203 at-bats) for the Salem Red Sox of the Carolina League.
Bryce and Bryan surprisingly were not competitive growing up, Bryce said.
“I’ve always supported him and he’s always supported me,” Bryce said. “He’s a left-handed pitcher. So it was totally different between me and him.”
The Nationals rookie sensation went one-on-one with The Eagle-Tribune yesterday.
— As told to Christopher Smith
Eagle-Tribune: When was the first time you hit a home run over a fence?
Harper: Seven years old playing with 10-year-olds in the World Series in Vegas, actually. I hit one to right-center out of Arroyo Grande Park and into the trees over a 200-foot fence. That was the first one. It was like I was doing cartwheels around the bases.
E-T: So was that home run or your first major league homer more thrilling?
Harper: I’m not sure. I don’t really worry about home runs. I don’t really worry about them at all. I just try to go up there and make something happen and try to hit doubles as much as I can.
If they go, they go. If they don’t, they don’t. I really don’t look at my home run numbers at all.
E-T: Was your dad athletic?
Harper: My dad actually ran track, played football, baseball, basketball and soccer. He did everything. But he was a big-time track athlete. Ran a 4.3 40-(dash). He’s unbelievable.
E-T: It must be cool you and your brother Bryan are with the same organization.
Harper: Absolutely. He went to South Carolina and won a national championship over there and got drafted by us (30th round in 2011). It’s just a great time for him. He’s probably going to go to (short-season Class A) Auburn and get his career started. I’m really excited for him.
E-T: Did Bryan play at South Carolina with now-Red Sox prospect Jackie Bradley Jr.?
Harper: Yeah, I saw Jackie play. He’s an unbelievable athlete. He can run, he can throw, he can hit. He’s an exciting player to watch and he’s very good in center field.
E-T: What do you think about Will Middlebrooks’ game?
Harper: Middlebrooks is an unbelievable athlete. He plays third base really well. He can play any spot on the field. You put him anywhere, he can play. And the biggest thing about Will is he’s a gamer, he plays the game hard and he absolutely rakes. He’s an impressive player to watch.
Look at his numbers now. He’s just an unbelievable hitter. Same thing with Mike Trout. They’re both unbelievable athletes and unbelievable players.
E-T: How often do you and Bryan talk?
Harper: I talk to him once or twice a week. I don’t really like to bug him. He’s on his own program. I’m on my program. That’s how it is.
E-T: Which major leaguer would you like to sit down with and talk hitting?
Harper: There are a lot of guys who can really swing it in this league. (Yankees second baseman Robinson) Cano can swing it. (Texas outfielder Josh) Hamilton. Manny Ramirez when he was going good, he could always swing it really well.
There’s a lot of guys that you could sit down and talk to and they are going to give you the same advice: see it, hit it, play hard.
E-T: Since being promoted to the big leagues, have you been watching more video?
Harper: I watch video as much as I can. I think it helps me out probably the most. And just listening to all the veteran guys on my team (helps). All the veteran guys really help me out every day. They know what to do and what not (to do) in situations.
E-T: What baseball team does someone root for growing up in Las Vegas?
Harper: I root for the Nationals. That’s who I root for every day (laughing).
E-T: They haven’t existed in Washington long. Which team before that?
Harper: The Senators. That’s who I rooted for: the Senators. (laughing). You know, I just tried to root for the best teams or just tried to look at players. I didn’t root for anyone really. But I liked to look at all the good players and see them play.
E-T: Is there a pitcher you grew up watching who you are looking forward to facing?
Harper: I don’t know if there’s a guy in the big leagues that you look forward to facing. They are there in the big leagues for a reason. I’ve got to respect all those guys that have been there and done that so there’s not one guy who I’d like to face. I want to face a lot of guys.