Bryce Harper, Mike Trout already in elite company

Bryce Harper

Coming into play on Wednesday, Nationals rookie Bryce Harper boasted an OPS+ (i.e., OPS adjusted to reflect league and home-park conditions) of 141 (meaning his park-adjusted OPS was 41% better than the league average). Also coming into play on Wednesday, Angels sophomore Mike Trout boasted an OPS+ of 148. Both marks constitute excellent production for any player, let alone those who haven't had much exposure to the highest level.

But even that undersells what's going on with Harper and Trout. Harper is 19 years of age and won't turn 20 until the playoffs. Trout, meanwhile, won't turn 21 until August. Even being a major-league regular at all at such young ages is an indicator of future greatness, but thriving? That's rarified air.

How rarified? Let's begin by assuming some decline this season on the behalf (behalves!) of Harper and Trout. Let's set the OPS+ bar at 125 so there's sufficient downward wiggle room. Let's also assume that Harper and Trout each logs a qualifying number of plate appearances (they're on pace to do so). Here, then, is the exhaustive list of qualifiers who achieved an OPS+ of 125 or better at age 20 or younger (from 1901 onward) ...

RkPlayerOPS+YearAgePAHHROPS
1 Ty Cobb 167 1907 20 642 212 5 .848
2 Mel Ott 165 1929 20 675 179 42 1.084
3 Al Kaline 162 1955 20 681 200 27 .967
4 Mickey Mantle 162 1952 20 626 171 23 .924
5 Alex Rodriguez 161 1996 20 677 215 36 1.045
6 Ted Williams 160 1939 20 675 185 31 1.045
7 Rogers Hornsby 150 1916 20 550 155 6 .814
8 Jimmie Foxx 148 1928 20 473 131 13 .964
9 Frank Robinson 143 1956 20 667 166 38 .936
10 Dick Hoblitzell 143 1909 20 592 159 4 .782
11 Mel Ott 139 1928 19 500 140 18 .921
12 Ken Griffey Jr. 136 1990 20 666 179 22 .847
13 Sherry Magee 134 1905 20 669 180 5 .774
14 Tony Conigliaro 133 1965 20 585 140 32 .850
15 Ty Cobb 132 1906 19 394 113 1 .749
16 Jason Heyward 131 2010 20 623 144 18 .849
17 Vada Pinson 129 1959 20 706 205 20 .880
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/30/2012.

Survey the list above and you'll see a healthy gathering of Hall of Famers and future Hall of Famers. That's the company that Trout is keeping by producing in the majors when the typical player his age is toiling in, say, the Midwest League. (Side note: Don't even ponder giving up on 22-year-old Jason Heyward yet.)

You'll also observe that two of the above names -- Ty Cobb and Mel Ott -- appear on this list at age 19. And they are Harper's fellow travelers. Once more: Cobb, Ty; Ott, Mel.

Obviously, Harper's and Trout's early bestowals aren't ironclad guarantees of future greatness. But there's undeniably a strong relationship between being a productive regular at age 19 or 20 and going on to a legendary career.

But no pressure, of course.


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