Baseball’s best young players: Bryce Hunter and Mike Trout


Even though he’s barely out of high school, 19-year-old Bryce Harper has enjoyed big success at bat since the Nationals brought him up from the minor leagues. (Jabin Botsford/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

Harper or Trout? Trout or Harper? Let the arguments begin.

This season, two very good and very young baseball players have burst on the scene: Bryce Harper and Mike Trout.

Washington Nationals fans are excited about their 19-year-old outfielder. Harper was called up from the minors after Jason Werth broke his wrist. Right away, Harper showed he belonged in the big leagues. Going into yesterday’s game against the New York Mets, Harper was batting a solid .268 with nine home runs and 29 runs batted in (RBI). The speedy rookie has also scored 51 runs and stolen 13 bases.

That’s pretty good for someone who is barely out of high school.

I know it’s hard for the kids who are wearing Bryce Harper T-shirts to believe, but Trout is even better. The 20-year-old center fielder for the Los Angeles Angels is batting .354 — tops in the American League — with 15 home runs and 47 RBI. Trout is super fast, too. He has scored 71 runs and swiped a major-league-leading 31 bases.


Mike Trout of the Angels is more than a year older than Harper. In only his second year in the major leagues, Trout has become one of the best players in baseball. (Mike Stobe/GETTY IMAGES)

Harper may be one of the best players on the Nationals, but Trout is one of the best players in baseball.

Of course, Trout, who will turn 21 on August 7, played 40 games in the majors last season and is more than a year older than Harper. Any kid knows a year can make a big difference. Maybe Harper will be as good as Trout next season.

This is not the first time two terrific young players made a big splash in the same year. Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays first played major league ball in 1951. Mantle was 19 years old, while Mays was 20. They both played center field for teams in New York — Mantle played for the Yankees and Mays for the Giants (who later moved to San Francisco).

Baseball fans argued for years which player was better: Mantle or Mays? Mays or Mantle? Fans, and especially older fans, still argue about the two Hall of Famers.

It’s close, but if I had to choose, I would pick Mays. The Say Hey Kid, as Mays was called, was a great player a few years longer than Mantle. As the chart below comparing some of their career batting statistics shows, Mays hit more home runs, had more RBI and scored more runs than the Yankee slugger.

Mays Mantle

Batting average: .302 .298

Home runs: 660 536

RBI: 1,903 1,509

Runs scored: 2,062 1,676

If Harper turns out to be another Mantle or Mays, Nats fans will not be disappointed. And we can argue — maybe for years — whether he’s better than Trout.

Fred Bowen writes the sports opinion column for KidsPost. He is the author of 18 sports books for kids, including “No Easy Way: The Story of Ted Williams and the Last .400 Season.”

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