The coming baseball season – five days away! – will be defined at least in part by how Bryce Harper and Mike Trout make the next step of their career. They could challenge for MVP titles at ages 20 and 21, respectively, thanks to their startling blend of speed and power. They play baseball with the subtlety of a freight train.
The bar argument of who you’d rather have may persist for years, possibly decades; we still debate DiMaggio or Williams, right? Few players could provide a better insight as to how they compare at this stage of their careers than Nationals right-hander Dan Haren, who played with Trout on the Angels last year and now shares a clubhouse with Harper. Only one other player — former Nationals reliever Sean Burnett — has been teammates in the majors with both.
“They’re different players, definitely,” Haren said yesterday after his final spring start. “I really enjoyed my time with Mike. We got along really well. They’re very different, and they’re very similar. They’re both – sometimes, if you look from an opposing team’s standpoint, you don’t like Bryce or you don’t like Trout. And then you get on their team and it’s the opposite. You kind of see how they are and you like them.
“They both are on the borderline of confident and arrogant, you know? But I think that’s what takes them to the next level. They think that they’re better than everybody else. That’s probably a good way to think. Skills-wise, they have different skill sets. Bryce might have more power. Trout has more speed. I don’t think they’ve even reached their potentials.”
I pointed out to Haren that Harper clearly had a perception of being confident/cocky, but that Trout doesn’t seem to be regarded that way as much, at least publicly.
“When you first meet Mike, when he was first coming through the minor leagues, I was there, too,” Haren said. “He can maybe rub you the wrong way, thinking, ‘Oh, man, he thinks he’s pretty good.’ And then he goes out, and he is that good. And then you realize what kind of guy he is. I really grew to like him a lot.”
And, so, has he come around to Harper the same way?
“He’s a lot more normal than he seems from an opposing team standpoint,” Haren said. “He’s a really hard worker. He’s put together like I don’t remember any 20-year-olds being put together, body-wise. Man, I mean, the sky is the limit for the guy. He’s got so much power, speed – everything.”
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The Nationals are back home in Viera for their penultimate Grapefruit League game against the Braves. They’ll also send a split squad to Jupiter, in a bit of bizarre scheduling by the league, to play the Cardinals. At home, Ross Detwiler will start. Against the Cardinals, prospect Taylor Jordan will pitch.
DAYS UNTIL OPENING DAY