By: Chris Dommermuth
Coming into this baseball season, there were two “super” prospects that many owners were waiting to be promoted to the bigs. For different reasons, OF’s Mike Trout of the Angels, and Bryce Harper of the Nationals, despite all the world of promise, started the year out in the minor leagues.
Trout, just 20 yrs. old, was sent to the minors despite a very solid spring, mostly because the Angels didn’t have a spot for him in the lineup to play everyday. When the Angels signed Albert Pujols, they were forced to move Kendry Morales to DH. The same move forced second yr. man Mark Trumbo, who hit 29 HR’s last season as a rookie, to consider moving to third base, a position he had never played in his pro career, just to be able to get playing time.
If the first base position seems like a mess, the OF was just as worse. The Angels also had 4 starting caliber outfielders on their roster not named Trout. The regular starters were going to be Torrii Hunter, Vernon Wells, and Peter Bourjos, with veteran, and two-time All Star Bobby Abreu being the odd man out receiving just spot starts. Abreu caused some short-lived controversy when he demanded a trade in Spring Training if he wasn’t given regular playing time.
Abreu was not traded during Spring Training, but rumors swirled around him as trade-bait that the Angels were clearly trying to unload. Abreu was then released Friday, after appearing in just 8 games and receiving 27 at-bats.
In the midst of the Abreu news, the Angels sit at just 6-14 and are falling behind back-to-back AL champions, the Texas Rangers. Pujols still has as many home runs this season as I do (for the record, that’s zero), and they clearly need a spark.
Insert Mike Trout to the big league level. Trout has been brought up to give the Angels an offensive spark, but I just don’t know he is ready to be taken with your waiver quite yet. Owners will be clamoring over his potential and drooling to add him to their roster, but where does he fit with the Angels? Unless another roster move is made to clear a spot, Trout still doesn’t have a full-time spot on their roster. How could you warrant using a number-1 waiver pick on a guy that will, at best, play 4 games a week?
Regardless of his playing time, he will no doubt be a keeper, one day. He just isn’t a guy who’s ready to lead a fantasy team quite yet. Lets remember, he’s still just 20. I know it feels like we’ve been hearing about this guy forever, but he’s still too young and raw.
What can you expect of him while he is playing this season?
Trout is a guy who can hit for average and has exceptional speed. The 25th overall pick in 2009, has just 23 home runs in 286 career minor league games, but has 108 stolen bases and a .342 batting average over that same span.
He’ll no doubt develop power as he gets more mature, but for now, you can’t expect anything more then 10-15 home runs. His swing is too pure to not eventually develop power, he has hit at every level, including a .403 batting average so far this season at Triple-A.
Trout will be great one day, just now is not the time to freak out and grab him at the expense of your waiver pick. If you’re in a deep keeper league that also has plenty of bench spots, he’s worth a look, but only if it’s a DEEP keeper league.
As for Bryce Harper, he was sent to the minors after the completion of Spring Training for different reasons. Harper is still just 19-yrs. old, and makes Trout look like a wiley old veteran. Harper was sent to the minors to improve his defense (he was a catcher until drafted by Nationals), and to improve his plate presence.
Harper has more hype then Trout does, but Trout is far-and-away more ready for the big leagues then Harper is. The Nationals have a few things working for them, and why bringing Harper up now might just be the right thing to do (even though I’m against bringing guys to the big leagues before they’re the legal drinking age).
First reason is the Nationals every-day third hitter, Ryan Zimmerman, has been placed on the 15-day Disabled List with a shoulder injury. This is on-top of 1B/OF Michael Morse having been on the DL since the beginning of the season with a back problem. That leaves the Nationals with a huge hole in the middle of their lineup, a spark with the potential of Harper’s is something the Nationals desperately need right now. Especially with them currently sitting in first place of the NL East (I know it’s early).
Another reason for the promotion is the Nationals have had the worst production in the league out of their left fielders, where Harper would play. The Nationals left fielders have combined to hit just .097 this season. That’s not a typo, they’ve hit lower then half of the Mendoza line. That’s the worst position in the league and the Oakland Athletics third baseman are the only position with a lower OPS then the Nationals LF platoon. There are ten teams out their with pitchers hitting better then .097.
With Harper in left, and Jayson Werth locked in another OF spot, the Nationals will have a platoon of Rick Ankiel, Roger Bernadina, and Xavier Nady rotating at the last OF spot, with Werth moving from RF to CF depending on who’s in the lineup.
Although Harper will likely get more playing time then Trout, I’m still not 100 % sold on using your waiver for this guy either. His potential is so built up that people seem to be overlooking some very alarming factors that work against him having a huge season.
One, no 19 yr.-old rookie has ever had more then 24 HR’s in a season and only 5 have ever hit double digit home runs. According to ESPN.com’s Tristan H. Cockcroft (one of my favorites), the greatest season by a 19-yr. old player was by Mel Ott who .322, with 18 HR’s, and 77 RBI’s in 1928. That’s right, there hasn’t been a better season then that in 84 years. History is certainly against Harper.
The second factor that works against him is he hasn’t performed at the professional level well. He struck out 11 times in just 28 Spring Training plate appearances and in 20 games this season at Triple-A, he has hit just .250 with just 1 HR and 3 RBI’s. That hardly shows him being ready for the big leagues, especially when you consider that Trout was hitting over .400 in Triple-A this season.
So what you’re telling me if you use your waiver selection on him is that Harper is the greatest 19-yr. old player since Mel Ott right? Well I’d have to say those are some fairly big shoes to fill.
Remember, as always, don’t draft or pick up players based off of potential. If you do that, you’ll end up with a bad team with a bunch of names. Always go after cheap proven production over production that you don’t know. No matter what the potential is, they’ll never live up to it. There are countless examples just even in the last 5 yrs ( Jason Heyward, Matt Wieters, Pedro Alvarez, etc.).
And as I always say, never fall in love with your players, always be willing to trade every player, no matter who it is (unless it’s my man crush Matt Kemp).