Who Is The Greatest Teenager Ever?

In 2012, Bryce Harper was the Rookie of the Year and an All-Star in his first season in MLB, having collected all of 536 plate appearances in the minor leagues before getting his final call to Washington. After a season of tremendous hype, production, and accolades, how can Bryce Harper follow-up?

Bryce HarperTo see where Harper may go, the first place that you should look is behind him, and all the great seasons produced by other tremendous teenagers.

Player A:

1890 19 136 583 98 139 22 9 6 73 22 53 34 .264 .336 .375 .711 197
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/21/2013.

Player B:

1926 17 35 61 7 23 2 0 0 4 1 1 9 .383 .393 .417 .810 25
1927 18 82 180 23 46 7 3 1 19 2 13 9 .282 .335 .380 .716 62
1928 19 124 500 69 140 26 4 18 77 3 52 36 .322 .397 .524 .921 228
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/21/2013.

Player C:

1953 18 30 30 9 7 0 0 1 2 1 1 5 .250 .300 .357 .657 10
1954 19 138 535 42 139 18 3 4 43 9 22 45 .276 .305 .347 .652 175
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/21/2013.

Player D:

1905 18 41 164 19 36 6 0 1 15 2 10 23 .240 .288 .300 .588 45
1906 19 98 394 45 113 15 5 1 34 23 19 41 .316 .355 .394 .749 141
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/21/2013.

Player E:

1989 19 127 506 61 120 23 0 16 61 16 44 83 .264 .329 .420 .748 191
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/21/2013.
Player F:
1964 19 111 444 69 117 21 2 24 52 2 35 78 .290 .354 .530 .883 214
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/21/2013.

Bryce Harper:

2012 19 139 597 98 144 26 9 22 59 18 56 120 .270 .340 .477 .817 254
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/21/2013.

So, who is the competition?
Player A: George Davis
Player B: Mel Ott
Player C: Al Kaline
Player D: Ty Cobb
Player E: Ken Griffey, Jr.
Player F: Tony Conigliaro

It is impossible to predict future results in MLB.

No one could predict the injury that Conigliaro suffered.  No one could predict Mel Ott hitting 42 home runs in his second full season (1929), Al Kaline hitting .340 in his second full season (1955), or Ty Cobb hitting .350 in his second full season (1907) based on their age-19 seasons above.

Courtesy: Wikipedia
Courtesy: Wikipedia

George Davis, whose 1890 season was not very statistically aligned with Harper’s 2012 season due to a lack of power in the dead-ball era, has the greatest Similarity Score, 930, at Baseball Reference, when comparing Harper’s rookie season to any other 19-year-old in MLB history. Mel Ott was second, 928, and his second full season would mean that Harper is about to explode, as Ott posted a .328/.449/.635 with the aforementioned 42 home runs and a whopping 151 RBI for the New York Giants. However, using Similarity Scores for statistics alone and not factoring in age, Harper’s 2012 season was most similar to Bill Howerton, a career .274/.364/.472 hitter over all of four seasons in the majors.

No one could predict the injury that Conigliaro suffered.  No one could predict Mel Ott hitting 42 home runs in his second full season (1929), Al Kaline hitting .340 in his second full season (1955), or Ty Cobb hitting .350 in his second full season (1907) based on their age-19 seasons above. There is no perfect way to determine how great a player will become, but player values are determined through WAR. So, based on their age-19 seasons:

Name Season Fangraphs WAR Baseball Reference WAR
George Davis 1890 1.6 1.6
Ty Cobb 1906 3.0 2.3
Mel Ott 1928 4.6 3.7
Al Kaline 1954 1.7 0.9
Tony Conigliaro 1964 2.8 1.4
Ken Griffey, Jr. 1989 2.8 2.9
Bryce Harper 2012 4.9 5.0

If WAR is truly the greatest way to explain overall player values, then Harper had the best season of any 19-year-old in the history of baseball, and if the careers of any of the players named along with him in this article are an sign of where he may end up, then Bryce Harper is well on his way to becoming one of the greatest players in the history of MLB.



Matt Moore – Remember Him?

How quickly you can be forgotten. With the Rookie of the Year announcements on November 12, the world was, once again, focused on Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. While Yu Darvish, Yoenis Cespedes, Todd Frazier, and Wade Miley got lost in the shuffle, some names seemed to be totally thrown out during the 2012 season.

While Trout had, quite possibly, the greatest season EVER by a rookie, it is understandable that others, specifically in the American League, were overlooked. Darvish and Cespedes were the highlights of voter ballots, but Wei-Lin Chen and Jarrod Parker were the only other players who were put on the ballot by voters.

While Matt Moore didn’t have a tremendous season, could the domination that other rookies had in the 2012 season create a lack of buzz for Moore going into the 2013 season?

Matt Moore turns 24 in June of 2013 and he has a nice resume to this point in his career. Prior to the 2012 season, Moore was rated as the No.2 prospect in baseball by Baseball America – Harper was No.1 and Trout was No.3. In the minor leagues, Moore was a combined 28-21 with a 2.64 ERA and a 700:212 K:BB in 497.1 innings, including a 12-3 record with a 1.92 ERA and 210:46 K:BB in 155 innings in 2011.

Moore arrived in Tampa late in 2011, appearing in three games, when he posted a 15:3 K:BB in just 9.1 innings, including his 11-strikeout start on September 22 against the Yankees (his only start). When the Rays were in the playoffs, Moore started Game One of the ALDS against the Texas Rangers, tossing seven shutout innings. Moore tossed three relief innings in Game Four, allowing one run, as the Rays lost the series in four games to the Rangers, who went on to the World Series and lost to the St. Louis Cardinals.

The 2012 season was not fantastic for Moore, but there is little reason to doubt his ability to become an ace for the Tampa Bay Rays. He was 11-11 with a 3.81 ERA, posting a 175:81 K:BB in 177.1 innings. Moore battled location issues, which increased his WHIP to 1.35 in 2012, something that never seemed to be an issue at any point in his minor league and brief major league career before the 2012 season.

Courtesy: fantasyfurnace.com

Moore had a period when he seemed to put everything together, though, which was a pretty significant time of the season. From June 1 through the end of August, Moore was 9-3 with a 2.89 ERA over 99.2 innings (16 starts) while posting a 94:41 K:BB and 1.25 WHIP. He struggled mightily in September (1-3, 5.48 ERA, 1.45 WHIP), but he may have been tired, as he had reached 156 innings and 26 starts prior to the start of the month.

(While Moore ended up tossing a combined 174.1 innings between the minors and majors in 2011, the dramatic nature of tossing more innings per start and pitching every fifth day for a team fighting for a playoff spot for most of the season may have played a role in his fatigue.)

Regardless, Moore had an up and down season in 2012 with the Rays, but he shouldn’t be an afterthought when talking about the top young players in baseball, especially in the American League. Darvish, Chen, and Cespedes played professionally in their respective countries prior to drawing Rookie of the Year votes in 2012. Though their early success shouldn’t be discounted, the success of actual rookies, like Parker and Moore, shouldn’t be tossed aside, either.

For example…

Once upon a time, there was a pitcher named David Price, who came up in September of 2008 and made a similar impact on the team from Tampa Bay, making five appearances during the season and another five in the playoffs. In his first full season, 2009, Price was 10-7 with a 4.42 ERA and a 102:54 K:BB in 125.1 innings. Price had an ugly WHIP of 1.35 in his 23 starts in 2009.

David Price, a 2012 AL Cy Young finalist, has gone 51-24 with a 2.93 ERA over 644 innings, with a 1.14 WHIP and a 611:201 K:BB in 96 starts since his rookie season.

While his rookie season was underwhelming, David Price was not on the 2009 AL Rookie of the Year ballot, just like Moore. Could Matt Moore have a parallel career  to Price? It looks pretty similar at this point, and the sky is the limit with the young left-hander with dynamic stuff.

Winning the Rookie of the Year is not the be-all-end-all to a baseball career. Just look at the careers of Ben Grieve, Marty Cordova, Pat Listach, and other one year wonders. Matt Moore is on his way to stardom, Rookie of the Year or not.

Greatest Rookie Ever?

Mike Trout just turned 21 years old on August 7. He has given baseball fans plenty of gifts this season with an incredible rookie season, which has led to some speculation that he could win the American League MVP, along with the Rookie of the Year award. His season still has some time to play out, but his .345/.409/.597 line with 21 doubles, five triples, 21 home runs, 60 RBI, and a league leading 36 steals has already left the youngster with a 7.0 WAR. He already ranks among the greatest rookies ever and he could be on his way to becoming the best player in baseball very soon, if he isn’t already.

Looking at his incredible season led me to wonder who had the best rookie year ever. Here are my top ten rookie seasons since the Rookie of the Year was established in 1947:

1) Jackie Robinson, 1947, 5th in MVP Voting

.297/.383/.427, 151 G, 175 H, 31 2B, 5 3B, 12 HR, 48 RBI, 29 SB, 3.0 WAR

Jackie Robinson gets the No.1 spot for more than just his results. Not only did he break the color barrier in MLB, but he posted these numbers with teammates that wouldn’t speak to him and opposing players and fans who slandered him on and off of the field.

2) Fred Lynn, 1975, AL MVP

.331/.401/.566, 145 G, 175 H, 47 2B, 7 3B, 21 HR, 105 RBI, 10 SB, 7.1 WAR

Lynn led the Red Sox to the World Series in his rookie year and was the first rookie to win an MVP, as well. Lynn’s rookie season would have to rate as his second best season in his career, though he never won another MVP while making nine All-Star teams.

3) Ichiro Suzuki, 2001, AL MVP

.350/.381/.457, 157 G, 242 H, 34 2B, 8 3B, 8 HR, 69 RBI, 56 SB, 7.5 WAR

Ichiro was not your typical, young rookie, having arrived in the United States at the age of 27 from Japan. His speed and powerful arm in right field changed the Mariners for years. He would easily have 3,000 hits and would be closing in or beyond 4,000 hits for his career if he had played his whole career in the States, but 2,548 isn’t bad for now! The second Rookie of the Year to win the MVP, Ichiro led the Mariners to 116 wins in 2001 before they lost to the New York Yankees in the ALCS.

4) Frank Robinson, 1956, 7th in MVP Voting

.290/.379/.558, 152 G, 166 H, 27 2B, 6 3B, 38 HR, 83 RBI, 8 SB, 6.2 WAR

The future Hall of Famer came into the league with a bang. He immediately became a force to be wreckoned with in Cincinnati.

5) Albert Pujols, 2001, 4th in MVP Voting

.329/.403/.610, 161 G, 194 H, 47 2B, 4 3B, 37 HR, 130 RBI, 1 SB, 6.3 WAR

Pujols jumped from Low-A Peoria in 2000 to the majors in 2001. He hasn’t had to look back. Pujols has established himself as one of the greatest sluggers in the history of baseball. He struggled at the start of the 2012 season for his new club, the Los Angeles Angels, but he has his stats back to their typically mind-blowing status. He is a three-time MVP, and I may be selling his first season short at No.5.

6) Ryan Braun, 2007, 24th in MVP Voting

.324/.370/.634, 113 G, 146 H, 26 2B, 6 3B, 34 HR, 97 RBI, 15 SB, 1.8 WAR

If Braun wasn’t such an attrocious fielder in his rookie year, his WAR would have been much higher. He had an .895 fielding percentage at third base, which was just a touch lower than the league average of .954. Braun, juicing or not, has established himself as a superstar, and he will be in Milwaukee longer than the Miller Brewing Company with his current contract.

7) Nomar Garciaparra, 1997, 8th in MVP Voting

.306/.342/.534, 153 G, 209 H, 44 2B, 11 3B, 30 HR, 98 RBI, 22 SB, 6.5 WAR

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOMAH!!! The man could fill up a box score in his rookie year, and he was a beloved figure in Boston due to his name being awesome to say with a Boston accent, and his ability. He came into the league around the same time as Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, and Miguel Tejada, and Barry Larkin’s 1995 MVP season made the shortstop position a sexy offensive position. Together with Cal Ripken and the others, Nomar helped change the shortstop position, and his rookie year was statistically magical.

8) Mike Piazza, 1993, 9th in MVP Voting

.318/.370/.561, 149 G, 174 H, 24 2B, 2 3B, 35 HR, 112 RBI, 3 SB, 6.8 WAR

Piazza was selected by the Dodgers as a favor to Tommy LaSorda, his godfather. Sometimes, lightening strikes. Piazza was one of the greatest hitting catchers of all time. His rookie season was outstanding and the 62nd round pick only made 11 All-Star games. Nice find. Great season.

9) Mark McGwire, 1987, 6th in MVP Voting

.289/.370/.618, 151 G, 161 H, 28 2B, 4 3B, 49 HR, 118 RBI, 1 SB, 4.8 WAR

Before the reporters snooped into his locker and before McGwire and Sammy Sosa made baseball cool again after the 1994 player’s strike, “Big Mac” was a skinny, 23-year-old who hit 49 bombs in his rookie year. It is scary to think of the numbers he would have finished with if he wasn’t hurt so often during his career, playing in 1874 games over 16 years (117 games played per year).

10) Fernando Valenzuela, 1981, 5th in MVP Voting and NL Cy Young Winner

13-7, 2.48 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 11 CG, 8 SHO, 192.1 IP, 180:61 K:BB, 4.6 WAR

Fernando-mania! The hefty-lefty took the baseball world by storm in 1981, winning the NL Rookie of the Year and the Cy Young. Eight SHUTOUT! 11 COMPLETE GAMES! Was Dusty Baker the manager of the Dodgers then!? The good ol’ days, where innings and pitch counts were just as overlooked as amphetamene use. Good stuff.

Honorable Mention:

Dustin Pedroia, 2007; Jason Bay, 2004; Scott Rolen, 1997; Derek Jeter, 1996; Raul Mondesi, 1994; Jeff Bagwell, 1991; David Justice, 1990; Vince Coleman, 1985; Dwight Gooden, 1984; Mark Fidrych, 1976; Carlton Fisk, 1972; Johnny Bench, 1968; Tony Oliva, 1964; Willie McCovey, 1959; Orlando Cepeda, 1958; Willie Mays, 1951;

Where do you think Trout ranks among the greatest rookie seasons ever? Share your thoughts on the poll!