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.