Thoughts on Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon on a Sunday Morning Coming Down
Mike Trout and Bryce Harper will forever be linked. They got called up on the same day last April, both made the All-Star team, and both won rookie of the year. The only issue is that everyone forgets that Trout had a disappointing age 19 season and so the comparison was always age 20 Trout to age 19 Harper. Through the magic of stats we can track how Mike Trout was doing through his first 16 games as a 20 year old to how Harper is doing so far this season. Instead of comparing the age 21 Trout to the age 20 Harper we'll compare apples to apples. Through his first 16 games last season Mike Trout hit an impressive .333/.391/.567 with 3 homeruns. Through his first 16 games as a 20 year old Bryce Harper is hitting .371/.426/.758 with 7 homeruns.
It should be noted that not one of those stats leads the majors and it is very early in the 2013 season. It is also impossible to say that Harper will regress to the mean because as a second year player he has no defined mean. What can be said is that while it is unlikely for Harper to keep it up it isn't impossible for him to do just that. The best OPS ever for a 20 year old was Mel Ott's 1.084 in 1929 and so far in 2013 Harper is at 1.185. Harper's numbers could drop, but they also could not. It is a long season and a lot is going to happen between now and October. By the way Mel Ott also holds the record for most homers hit by a 20 year old with 42. At 7 through 16 games Harper is on pace to hit 65 if he played in 150 games. While 65 homers is extremely unlikely more than 42 is well within reach.
As promised in the title I also have more than a few thoughts on Anthony Rendon being called to the majors. It is a good move. It is a move I started to think was likely yesterday when it was announced that Zimmerman was going for an MRI. This customary April injuries by Zimmerman are nothing new. For some reason Zimmerman doesn't think it takes him long to get into the flow in Spring Training so therefore he hardly participates and then every April he tears some muscle. Muscle tears occur because the muscle isn't ready to be used in the fashion a person is using it. By not playing in the field in Spring Training until the last week and then suddenly playing nine inning games every day it is very likely that Ryan Zimmerman is causing himself all these April injuries, and now for the second straight season the Nationals top prospect is being called up as he hits the 15 day DL.
I have had the chance to see Anthony Rendon on a couple of occasions when he was in Potomac. His batting stance reminded me of Miguel Cabrera and there exists that sense of dread when he is in the batters box. Pitchers worked him differently than they did the rest of the P-Nats line-up. In most of the at bats I saw Rendon was either walking or lining the ball hard somewhere. He has all the tools to be a great hitter. He has excellent plate discipline, plate coverage, and a quick bat. He gets the barrel to the ball quickly and can hit to all fields. As with calling any player up to the majors straight from AA there are questions about his readiness, but Rendon's bat was thought to be major league ready the day he was drafted and it is better to give the best hitting talent in the system an opportunity than to try and rely on a AAAA player like Carlos Rivera or a decent bench bat like Chad Tracy.
Today is Anthony Rendon's major league debut and players only get one of them. I am sure all Nats fans remember Harper's double last season or Ian Desmond homering in his first game. Whatever happens today for Rendon it is going to be special. Before being called up he was off to a hot start in AA hitting .292/.462/.500. Before that Rendon had an excellent Spring Training and an even better Arizona Fall League. In Spring Training Rendon hit .375/.412/.875 in 32 at bats. It is a small sample size but it was the best competition he had faced up until that point and it was encouraging to see the hot hitting from spring carry over into AA. Before Spring Training though Rendon took part in the Arizona Fall League where he hit an impressive .338/.436/.494. Put it all together and Rendon has been hitting well in his last three months of baseball, and the Nats would have had scouts watching him at every level to see how he is handling different types of pitches, location, and the quality of contact. One way or another ready or not here he comes.