Most fantasy baseball experts will tell you to go with veteran players over newcomers as top rookies are often more hype than players that will lead you to a fantasy baseball league championship.
Moreover, picking up a 19-year-old player, no matter how good he appears to be, has historically not been a great decision. Justin Upton was the top pick in 2005 and in his 19-year-old debut, Upton hit .221 in 140 at bats with 2 homers and 11 RBI. Then, there’s Andruw Jones, who at age 19 was already a minor league player of the year on two occasions. Jones’ 1996 mark was a .217 average in 106 AB’s with 5 homers and 13 RBI. The only 19-year-old phenom to make a significant impact was Ken Griffey Jr. Griffey Jr. was the first pick of the 1987 draft and he hit .264 with 16 homers, 61 RBI, and stole 16 bases.
Now, there’s 19-year-old Bryce Harper and 20-year-old Mike Trout to consider for your fantasy baseball team. The two will inevitably be compared, but they are actually two very different ballplayers.
Harper appears to be swinging out of his shoes trying to send the ball into the next county with every cut. He’s capable of hitting the ball 500+ feet and this fact was well documented starting at about age 15. Trout, on the other hand, looks like a more polished hitter and has more of a line drive swing plane.
When it comes to experience, Harper has already appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated. He’s had only 129 games in the minors before making his MLB debut. Trout got in 40 games last year as a 19-year-old and his stats, like his predecessors are equally unimpressive — just a .220 average in 123 at bats. That being said, Trout does have a larger sample size of 286 games played at the minor league level where he has amassed a startling .342 average and was hitting at a .403 clip this year.
Washington and the Los Angeles Angels are teams going in opposite directions. The Nationals sit atop the National League East thanks to the best pitching staff in baseball. Washington has a 2.41 team ERA and opponents are hitting just .209 against the Nats this year. The last place Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are 23rd in runs scored and one of the biggest stories of the year has been Albert Pujols still looking for his first home run in an Angels uniform.
Who is the Better Fantasy Baseball Choice: Harper or Trout?
Each player’s value for fantasy baseball is likely going to come down to playing time. Harper’s call up to the Bigs was necessitated by the injury to Ryan Zimmerman and the absolutely putrid play by the trio of left fielders in Washington. Mark DeRosa, Xavier Nady, and Roger Bernadina were hitting a combined .097 on the year when starting in left field. Mike Morse could probably help the cause, but he’s out until June.
In Los Angeles, Vernon Wells continues to be a disappointment in the Angels of the outfield and Peter Bourjos has an ailing hip that will likely require surgery in the off season. That means that Trout is penciled in as the starter in center field until further notice.
One things is for sure. Their managers are not afraid to throw these youngsters into the fire at their tender ages. Manager Davey Johnson has already put Harper into the coveted #3 spot in the order for the Nationals. Trout was so revered that the Angels decided to release 38-year-old veteran Bobby Abreu despite still owing Abreu $8 million this year.
So, of these two young superstars in the making, who is the better choice for your fantasy baseball team? If you are looking for the next Rookie of the Year candidate, then your choice is most definitely Harper as Yu Darvish is going to get all of the votes for Rookie of the Year in the American League. If you are looking for fantasy baseball stats, however, its kind of a toss up. Harper likely is the better choice over an entire career so if you are in a keeper league, Bryce is your guy. If you are looking for success in 2012, however, Trout has more security of getting playing time and is the better choice given his greater experience.