Skip to content

Time for your “how does Bryce Harper compare to the best 19-year-olds ever?” update

Sep 7, 2012, 12:50 PM EDT

bryce harper getty Getty Images

Bryce Harper has recovered from the first extended slump of his career by going 14-for-35 (.400) with five homers in his last nine games, so it seems like a good time to check back in on how he compares to the best 19-year-olds in baseball history.

First up, OPS:

                    YEAR      OPS
Mel Ott             1928     .921
Tony Conigliaro     1964     .883
Mickey Mantle       1951     .792
Cesar Cedeno        1970     .790
BRYCE HARPER        2012     .783
Freddie Lindstrom   1925     .761
Edgar Renteria      1996     .757
Ty Cobb             1906     .749
Ken Griffey Jr.     1989     .748
Buddy Lewis         1936     .746

You know you’re doing some pretty big things when you’re looking down on Ken Griffey Jr. and Ty Cobb while being one good week from moving past Mickey Mantle.

Harper has scored 79 runs, which is the second-most ever by a 19-year-old behind only Buddy Lewis with 100 in 1936. He also ranks third among all 19-year-olds in homers with 17, extra-base hits with 44, walks with 47, and Isolated Power at .192.

And last but not least: Mel Ott in 1928 is the only 19-year-old in the history of baseball with more plate appearances and a higher OPS than Harper has right now. Toss in his defense and “ferocious baserunning” and Harper is also tied with Ott for the highest Wins Above Replacement (WAR) total ever for a 19-year-old position player at 3.7.

I feel sorry for all the people who decided to immediately hate Bryce Harper forever, because they’re missing one helluva player.

  1. Ben - Sep 7, 2012 at 12:58 PM

    Wouldn’t it make more sense to use OPS+? Those are some pretty different run environments.
    Also, ballsiest 19-year old.

    • dondada10 - Sep 7, 2012 at 1:14 PM

      Excellent point. I think a major issue, however, is that we don’t have Park Factors for older stadiums.

      PF is the driving force behind ERA+ and OPS+.

      • paperlions - Sep 7, 2012 at 1:53 PM

        Not as big a driving forces as the run-scoring environments of the era, which can be standardized without knowing park effects.

    • lumpyf - Sep 7, 2012 at 2:18 PM

      More ballsy than Ty Cobb? I don’t think so. Mel Ott had some big balls too.

      • Ben - Sep 7, 2012 at 4:53 PM

        Ballsy ≠ brutal. But yeah.

  2. darthicarus - Sep 7, 2012 at 12:59 PM

    I just want to leave a preemptive “why the hate?” comment for willclarkgameface who will more than likely have something negative to say here.

  3. thefalcon123 - Sep 7, 2012 at 1:04 PM

    Ranked by OPS+

    Mel Ott 139
    Tony Conigliaro 137
    Ty Cobb 132
    Mickey Mantle 117
    Cesar Cedeno 114
    Ken Griffey Jr. 108
    Edgar Renteria 103
    Freddie Lindstrom 96
    Buddy Lewis 88

  4. thereisaparty - Sep 7, 2012 at 1:09 PM

    *Jurickson Profar: 396

    • thereisaparty - Sep 7, 2012 at 1:59 PM

      Is he not 19? Is his OPS+ not 396?

      • b7p19 - Sep 7, 2012 at 2:53 PM

        Yes and Yes. Or is it No and No? Yes, he is not 19…thats not right. No, he is not not 19? Yes, the answer is No and No.

        No, he is not not 19. No his OPS+ is not not 396. That was too hard for a Friday, damn you.

      • hackerjay - Sep 7, 2012 at 3:56 PM

        Umm…except that he is 19, and his OPS+ is 396 (though it’s only in 4 PAs, which means it’s meaningless).

  5. heyblueyoustink - Sep 7, 2012 at 1:14 PM

    It’s not Harper hate on my behalf so much, I just feel like the greatness of Bryce Harper is being saturated upon the masses. The nice part about him and his slump was you didn’t have to hear about it every five minutes. Let’s see where he’s at in a few years.

    Him and that kid on the west coast who doesn’t seem to get nearly as much love, MVP caliber season and all. You know who i’m talking about, good ole what’s his face…..

    • cosanostra71 - Sep 7, 2012 at 1:30 PM

      I’m an Angels fan, and trust me, very few people want what’s his face to win the AL MVP more than me, but I could honestly care less about how much attention Harper is getting. Harper is one of my favorite players already. But let Harper get the attention. As long as what’s his face keeps playing as he has this year, he’ll get the kind of attention that matters (awards and wins).

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Sep 7, 2012 at 1:35 PM

      Him and that kid on the west coast who doesn’t seem to get nearly as much love, MVP caliber season and all. You know who i’m talking about, good ole what’s his face…..

      Yeah, no one’s written anything about the presumptive MVP (and ROY), who might be having the best 21 year old season, ever in baseball history. Please tell us more about this unknown player…

      • heyblueyoustink - Sep 7, 2012 at 1:51 PM

        I didn’t say “no love”, I said ” nearly as much love “.

        For instance, and you’ll have to forgive me because I don’t have the hours in the day to surf all over the web ( in fact HBT is my main info source ), or if I just happened to miss it, but I have yet to see the above breakdown appear for that unnamed player.

        And I hear he’s from New Jersey, which would make him their best export since the bootlegging days/

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Sep 7, 2012 at 3:00 PM

        but I have yet to see the above breakdown appear for that unnamed player.

        Are you looking for that specific breakdown, or just some “love” for Trout? Because here’s what I was able to find, with all my hours in the day:

        Some tidbits:
        8/24 – Ho Hum: Mike Trout did another record-breaking thing
        8/19 – Mike Trout might be having the best year in Angel history
        8/29 – Mike Trout is first rookie with 25 HR/40 SB

  6. astrosfan75956 - Sep 7, 2012 at 1:22 PM

    He is no Mike Trout though.

    • Ben - Sep 7, 2012 at 1:30 PM

      If possible, he might be better than Mike Trout (which doesn’t seem possible).

      Bill James:

      “Suppose that you have a 20-year-old player and a 21-year-old player of the same ability as hitters; let’s say that each hits about .265 with ten home runs. How much difference is there in the expected career home run totals for the two players?”

      As best I can estimate, the 20-year-old player can be expected to hit about 61% more home runs in his career. That’s right—61%.”

      A developmental year is huge, and for Harper to be this good at 19 is a really good sign. Trout struggled at 19. Although his breakout this year has been totally absurd, and maybe trump the logic above.

    • jscowdin - Sep 7, 2012 at 3:02 PM

      You have spoke the name that must not be spoken!

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Sep 7, 2012 at 4:24 PM


  7. braddavery - Sep 7, 2012 at 1:42 PM

    By simply looking at all the stats, he compares most heavily to a 19 year-old Ken Griffey Jr. Pretty good company.

    • natstowngreg - Sep 7, 2012 at 5:54 PM

      Thanks for the reference to Junior Griffey. In all the hoopla surrounding the top young talent, and for all the debate about all-time greats, Junior tends to get lost. It may be because of the time lost to injuries, and/or disappointment over his late-career performance.

  8. bowwserr - Sep 7, 2012 at 1:46 PM

    You hear a lot more crap about Mike Trout than you do Bryce Harper. And I really, really wish people would stop talkin about Trout. Personally, I like Harper. Good kid.

    • thereisaparty - Sep 7, 2012 at 1:57 PM

      Come on guys, stop talking about a 20yo that is awesome at baseball!

    • cosanostra71 - Sep 7, 2012 at 6:26 PM

      Honestly, not sure why anyone would not like Trout. He’s a great player, plays hard every game, hits for power, has great speed and baserunning ability, wonderful defender. Doesn’t put his foot in his mouth in interviews. And for those of you who aren’t from Southern California, he actually does a lot of work in the community, especially with kids.

  9. kkolchak - Sep 7, 2012 at 2:26 PM

    I’ve been fortunate enough to be at Nats stadium for Harper’s first MLB HR and his two-dinger game against the Cubs this past week. But the play I saw in person that most impressed me was when he gunned down a Cardinals runner at the plate last Sunday to help preserve a 4-3 win. The throw was so good that the play wasn’t even close. Speed, power, the range to play CF and a cannon for an arm. What’s not to like?

  10. ravensoriolesnation - Sep 7, 2012 at 2:53 PM

    Nats lose in 1st round of playoffs bye bye

  11. brianforster - Sep 7, 2012 at 3:23 PM

    i don’t hate harper, or the nats. but i will say im pretty damn jealous. my orioles were way worse for way longer and the nats get harper/stras.

    of course im loving the orioles right now so its kind of moot, but id be lying if i said i wasnt jealous of those 2 phenoms.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Sep 7, 2012 at 4:25 PM

      While it’s not the same, y’all have Machado and Bundy waiting in the wings.

  12. willclarkgameface - Sep 7, 2012 at 4:07 PM

    This poster child for Douchery is an overrated dirt bag. He will end up having a career of “what-ifs” and “coulda beens”.

    Mike Trout, because Harper is such a dope should win AL AND NL Rookie of the Year honors.

    We don’t care about your eye make up, dood. Just shut up and play. And play better than you have been.

    • recoveringcubsfan - Sep 7, 2012 at 5:57 PM

      My girlfriend became a baseball fan for the first time this year and she roots for the Nats. And you, sir, are a sad sack of a human being because, unlike her, you don’t have the prospect of watching a great kid develop into a cornerstone of your franchise for the next decade or so. Instead, you care way too much about what fun others are having. I would mock you except that you know how miserable you are already. My girlfriend, on the other hand, is having a great first year with baseball and she can’t believe how lucky she is. I swear, it’s like how a Yankees fan must have felt when Jeter arrived on the scene. If you think that Harper is somehow bad because he makes people want to watch baseball and have fun doing so, then….

    • bbil2012 - Sep 8, 2012 at 9:31 AM

      Willclark you obviously didn’t hear that Harper is now ” looking down on Ken Griffey Jr. and Ty Cobb”, two players who could not accomplish in their careers what Harper has done in 115 games.

  13. malvord13 - Sep 7, 2012 at 5:33 PM

    My kemp for Harper and a 2nd rd pick is looking real good considering they are tied for home runs and harper is 19, not to mention kemp can’t stay healthy.

  14. zurnvs - Sep 9, 2012 at 4:04 PM

    Todd Frazier is still ROY, not hating, just saying. #GOREDS

Leave Comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. B. Crawford (2836)
  2. C. Correa (2655)
  3. Y. Puig (2567)
  4. G. Stanton (2528)
  5. G. Springer (2504)
  1. H. Pence (2387)
  2. J. Hamilton (2232)
  3. H. Ramirez (2173)
  4. M. Teixeira (2117)
  5. J. Baez (2048)