History in the making: Mike Trout and Bryce Harper are baseball’s best players at 23 and 22

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I know they both receive plenty of attention, but while looking over the All-Star rosters it struck me that we’re seeing something truly special with Angels center fielder Mike Trout and Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper being the two best players in baseball at ages 23 and 22.

Trout, the reigning MVP, leads the American League in home runs, slugging percentage, runs scored, and Wins Above Replacement at age 23.

Harper, an All-Star in 2012 and 2013 having a spectacular breakout season, leads the National League in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, and Wins Above Replacement at age 22.

Players who’re that great and that young just don’t come around very often, so two of them dominating baseball at the same time is amazing. Here are a couple stats to illustrate my point, via Baseball-Reference.com’s indispensable “Play Index.”

First, here are the highest OPS totals ever posted by a 22-year-old:

1.287 – Ted Williams, 1941
1.168 – BRYCE HARPER, 2015
1.085 – Joe DiMaggio, 1937
1.066 – Jimmie Foxx, 1930
1.026 – Eddie Mathews, 1954

Harper will probably come back down to earth a bit in the second half, but still seems likely to finish the season with an OPS solidly above 1.000. Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Jimmie Foxx, and Eddie Mathews are the only 22-year-olds in baseball history to top a 1.025 OPS and they’re all in the Hall of Fame.

As the reigning AL MVP and many people’s pick to win the award in 2012 and 2013 as well Trout has been doing the historic excellence thing for longer than Harper, so here are the highest career Wins Above Replacement totals compiled by hitters through the end of their age-23 seasons:

36.0 – Ty Cobb
34.2 – Ted Williams
34.1 – MIKE TROUT
31.4 – Mel Ott
30.1 – Ken Griffey Jr.
29.7 – Mickey Mantle
27.7 – Alex Rodriguez

Incredible company and here’s the thing: Trout still has two-and-a-half months remaining in his age-23 season, which means there’s a very strong chance he’ll pass Ted Williams and Ty Cobb to sit atop that list.

I realize “Mike Trout and Bryce Harper are both really good and really young” isn’t exactly a ground-breaking revelation, but I’m still not sure that we fully grasp the level of young greatness we’re witnessing right now.

Video: Christian Yelich leads MLB in home runs again

Christian Yelich
AP Images
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Tied at a league-leading 10 home runs apiece with Cody Bellinger and Khris Davis, it wasn’t long before Brewers slugger Christian Yelich set himself apart from the competition yet again. During the bottom of the first inning on Friday, the 2018 NL MVP singled out the first pitch he saw from the Dodgers’ Ross Stripling — an 86.5-m.p.h. slider just wide of the strike zone — and returned it to the second deck seats in right field for his 11th home run of 2019.

While Bellinger and Davis will undoubtedly continue to make it difficult for Yelich to claim sole honors at the top of the leaderboard, the 27-year-old outfielder has had a banner year so far. Through the first three weeks of the season, he’s batting a strong .354/.447/.823 with 15 extra-base hits, 29 RBI, and three stolen bases across 94 plate appearances. The 29 RBI (27 entering Friday’s game) he collected between March and April eclipsed Prince Fielder’s previous franchise record of 26 RBI — and there’s no telling how much higher that total will rise by the end of the month, too.

Even with the benefit of Yelich’s immense talents, however, the Brewers are just clinging to a first-place tie with the Pirates atop the NL Central. They dropped their last two games to the Cardinals and Dodgers, respectively, and will need to overturn the remainder of their series against LA to build up their division lead again. They’re currently tied 2-2 with the Dodgers in the seventh.