How good is rookie Bryce Harper and fellow rookie Mike Trout?

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Answered by: Lyell, An Expert in the Baseball - General Category
It didn’t take long for most of the nation to fall in love with Washington Nationals rookie Bryce Harper. Even Philadelphia Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels, who plunked the 19 year-old phenom in the square of the back during their first encounter, admitted he too cast a vote for Harper to be on the National League All-Star Team in July. After initially saying his wayward fastball was intended to “welcome” Harper to the big leagues, Hamels in now more than happy to welcome Harper as a teammate after seeing firsthand what everyone else was talking about.

What the scouts, coaches and opposing players who come across Harper are talking about is a rare blend of tools that hasn’t been seen in a long time at the major league level. That, along with a raging internal fire that accompanies his talent, demanding the best out of every at-bat of every game. It’s not just the unprecedented bat speed that threatens the bindings of baseballs or the cannon attached to his right shoulder that he calls an arm—it’s the incredible passion and respect Harper has for the game at such a young age that has those around baseball wondering how high this kid’s ceiling really is.

While Harper’s statistics aren’t as unbelievable as his talent just yet, another promising centerfielder has taken major league pitching by storm and is already drawing comparisons to some of the game's greatest to play the position. Hitting at a clip of .338 entering Tuesday’s game, Angel’s centerfielder Mike Trout is quite possibly the runaway favorite for Rookie of the Year and seems to just be getting comfortable.

With seven home runs, 29 RBIs and 21 stolen bases in 51 games, projecting Trout’s numbers over a full season at that rate reveals a little bit about why the baseball world is abuzz about not just one, but two immensely talented centerfielders who are gracing the game at the same time. What's really impressive about their talents is that Trout and fellow rookie Bryce Harper couldn't even legally walk into a bar together for at least another year--but both have already hit multiple home runs in the major leagues and appear to have many more still to come.

It’s not often baseball can offer two rookies at the same position in the same year that boast the talent of Harper and Trout, but there is a duo who is more than willing to challenge them. You have to go all the way back to 1951, a year that saw a duo of rookie centerfielders that would change the game forever and be spoken of as much more than mere mortals now. It was a year where a young farm boy from Oklahoma was asked to replace a legend named DiMaggio for the Yankees, and a talented centerfielder from Alabama got a chance with the Giants. We know them now as Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays, but at that time they themselves weren’t even sure what that would mean more than 60 years later.

Two first-ballot Hall of Famers at the same position, playing their first year of major league baseball doesn’t happen often. In fact, there hasn’t been a single duo of rookie centerfielders since 1951 that ended up in the Hall of Fame. But if 2012 is a year where baseball historians look back at this rare alignment of talent, you can bet Harper and Trout will be major reasons why.

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