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So far Bryce Harper is the best 19-year-old hitter of all time

Jun 13, 2012, 1:50 PM EDT

Bryce Harper AP

Last night Bryce Harper launched a mammoth home run and then gave the leader in the clubhouse for best quote of the season, and he’s already followed that up by hitting a double this afternoon against the Blue Jays.

Midway through his 41st career game Harper is now hitting .309 with a .391 on-base percentage and .559 slugging percentage, which is good for a .950 OPS that would be the highest for a 19-year-old in baseball history.

Here’s the all-time leaderboard among 19-year-olds with at least 200 plate appearances:

Mel Ott              1928     .921
Tony Conigliaro      1964     .883
Mickey Mantle        1951     .792
Cesar Cedeno         1970     .790
Freddie Lindstrom    1925     .761
Ty Cobb              1906     .749
Ken Griffey Jr.      1989     .748

That’s quite a list.

He’ll inevitably go through a rough patch at some point and may come back down to earth a bit in general, but so far Harper has shown no signs of slowing down and in fact has hit .370 in his last 100 trips to the plate.

Right now it’s not a stretch to say that Harper is the best 19-year-old hitter of all time.

  1. ajcardsfan - Jun 13, 2012 at 2:05 PM

    That’s pretty impressive considering it’s been close to 20 years since anybody has joined that list. I hope Harper keeps it up

  2. thefalcon123 - Jun 13, 2012 at 2:15 PM

    Ott actually had a slightly higher OPS in his first 41 games as a 19-year-old (.969). So, take that Harper! You’re not even as good as that Ott guy at this point! Like that guy ever amounted to anything.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jun 13, 2012 at 2:25 PM

      Dude, that’s a clown stat.

    • ajcardsfan - Jun 13, 2012 at 2:44 PM

      I think I’m going crazy, could have swore I posted a response to this…(Maybe HBT is trolling me)

      However, falcon, I would like to applaud you for a post so sarcastic I can taste it. Very well done!

  3. natstowngreg - Jun 13, 2012 at 2:24 PM

    Of course, having played about one-quarter of a MLB season, it’s impossible to say. Tony C looked like he would be a Hall of Famer until he took a pitch in the face. Pete Reiser looked like a Hall of Famer for the Dodgers until he ran into outfield walls too often. Harper is fun to watch, and gives us Nats fans much hope. Right now, I’m just enjoying watching him, even when he messes up (like getting picked off first last night).

    Harper has shown a good eye at the plate and a willingness to take outside pitches the other way for hits. Those attributes should help him avoid long slumps. An average around .300 may or may not be sustainable, but the power is undeniable. If he hits .280-ish with 35-40 homers a season for the long term, avoiding serious injuries, a bust in Cooperstown will await him along with (hopefully) a World Series ring or two.

  4. mullman7675 - Jun 13, 2012 at 2:35 PM

    Mike Trout is just as good, if not better.

    • theawesomersfranchise - Jun 13, 2012 at 2:43 PM

      Trout is just as good 19 year old hitter of all time, if not better 19 year old hitter of all time?
      Impressive

    • kkolchak - Jun 13, 2012 at 4:04 PM

      I’ll make a deal with you Trout fans…I won’t make irrelevant comments about Harper on posts about Trout if you stop making irrelevant comments about Trout on posts about Harper.

    • paperlions - Jun 13, 2012 at 4:23 PM

      You have about a 51% chance of being right. Trout is just as good (about a 2% chance as the likelihood that they are the same quality of player is low), or better (about a 49% chance), or not as good (about a 49% chance)….one of those things, for sure.

    • foreverchipper10 - Jun 13, 2012 at 5:15 PM

      Trout is not 19.

  5. theawesomersfranchise - Jun 13, 2012 at 2:42 PM

    Really? Hadn’t noticed

  6. paperlions - Jun 13, 2012 at 2:57 PM

    So….where are all of the people that were saying they weren’t impressed with any of his professional performances? If you ever weren’t impressed with what Harper was doing, you really don’t understand the importance of age and context on performance.

    • natstowngreg - Jun 13, 2012 at 7:08 PM

      Now that you mention it, haven’t seen any of those who pronounced Harper a bust before he signed. And labeled Harper a bust before he played his first pro game. Or those who labeled Harper a bust before he played his first MLB game. They’ve sort of disappeared. Hope they’re OK.

  7. fleshybear - Jun 13, 2012 at 2:58 PM

    and then there is mike trout who is better statistically in every category except hr

    • theawesomersfranchise - Jun 13, 2012 at 3:01 PM

      And then there is the part of the article called its main point talking about his age of 19 years, while Trout is 20.

      Go write your “Trout is the best 20 year old of All time” article, it might be true

      • Roger Moore - Jun 13, 2012 at 9:49 PM

        Or not. The leader board for 20 year olds is a much tougher competition than for 19 year olds. It includes seasons like Arod in 1996 (.358/.414/.631, 161 OPS+), Ted Williams in 1939 (.327/.436/.609, 160 OPS+), and Ty Cobb in 1907 (.350/.380/.468, 168 OPS+). 20 seems to be the youngest age that batter has ever put up a really impressive season.

    • paperlions - Jun 13, 2012 at 3:16 PM

      Mike Trout as a 19 yr old:

      40 games, 135 PAs: .220 Avg, .281 OBP, .390 Slg, 6.7% BB rate, 22.2% K rate, .303 wOBA, 89 wRC+

      Harper as a 19 yr old:

      40 games (through yesterday’s game), 172 PAs: .307 Avg, .390 OBP, .553 Slg, 11.6% BB rate, 16.9% K rate, .399 wOBA, 153 wRC+

      Still think the difference between 19 and 20 isn’t important?

      In addition, the 20 yr old Trout has an unsustainable .405 BABIP, and still has a lower walk rate and higher K rate than Harper…offensively, the 19 yr old Harper still looks better than the 20 yr old Trout once the sample sizes get large enough to better reflect performance. Trout looks like the better fielder though.

    • townballblog - Jun 13, 2012 at 3:25 PM

      That’s a clown comment, bro.

    • natstowngreg - Jun 13, 2012 at 7:12 PM

      It is not necessary to go on about Mike Trout every time Bryce Harper is mentioned. And vice versa. Both are off to excellent starts and promise to be stars for many years to come. Give it a rest.

  8. Detroit Michael - Jun 13, 2012 at 3:23 PM

    Measured in terms of OPS+, Harper is on pace for a 153 OPS+, which would be second best of all-time (assuming of course he finishes the year at the same figure) among players age 19 or younger with a minimum of 200 PA. First is a guy named Fred Carroll, a rookie for the Columbus Buckeyes in 1884 in the American Association.

    Mike Trout currently has a 168 OPS+, which would be the best of all-time (assuming of course he finishes the year at the same figure) among players age 20 or younger with a minimum of 200 PA. Top six are very impressive: Ty Cobb, Mel Ott, Al Kaline, Mickey Mantle, Alex Rodriguez and Ted Williams.

    Thanks to baseball-reference.com. I would have used wRC+ at Fangraphs if their searching / sorting was easier.

  9. dallasstars9 - Jun 13, 2012 at 3:41 PM

    Both Trout and Harper are studs. Maybe we’ll see an Angels vs Nats WS and we can put the stats aside and just concentrate on the game.

  10. unlost1 - Jun 13, 2012 at 4:30 PM

    thumbs up if you think “clown comment” is a clown comment!

  11. randygnyc - Jun 13, 2012 at 4:37 PM

    Over time, with more outfield experience, I like the upside of Harper’s fielding potential. He just doesn’t have enough exposure out there yet to knock his fielding.

    Overall, I’d take Harper any day, and everyday over Trout. Trout’s underlying component is speed. It makes everything he does, better. Without that speed, he’s likely a shadow of what you see now. Speed is one aspect of a players profile that can’t projected as something sustainable. Age and injuries will see to that. There is no substitue for instincts, of which Harper has, in spades.

    • kkolchak - Jun 13, 2012 at 4:54 PM

      Plus, Harper was thrust into playing CF, a position he had NEVER played before this year. The fact that he can even do it without embarrassing himself is in and of itself amazing.

  12. btwicey - Jun 13, 2012 at 5:01 PM

    It’s amazing how far this kid has come in 6 months…. Incredible. Looks like he’s maturing daily and it’s showing in his boss game.

  13. hardjudge - Jun 14, 2012 at 5:12 AM

    Harper’s doing pretty well in the outfield for a catcher.

  14. bickman61 - Jun 14, 2012 at 7:33 AM

    Look at some of the comments from other Nat’s players about Harper. Yep, he’s killing it on the field and looks like his physical ability is going to get better and better. The real amazing thing for me is the respect he is getting from his teammates. From everything I read and hear from all sources, this “kid” is as likeable as they come and is a fantastic guy in the clubhouse.I strongly believe this translates into on field production. In my 50 years of watching the game I’ve never seen a rookie with as much poise and talent. Right now, he looks and acts like the real deal which makes me as a Nat’s fan very excited about the future! Oh, forgot to mention I like trout – especially grilled. Yep – clown comment.

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