Amid recent allegations of performance enhancing drug use by some of the leagues' best players, it feels necessary to lighten the mood with some talk of the leagues bright young stars. Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Manny Machado, and Yasiel Puig have all taken the league by storm over the past two years, but who is the best of them all? Generally, baseball players are judged on 5 basic fundamentals, or tools. According to various sources, the 5 tools of baseball are: hitting for power, hitting for average, base running, throwing, and fielding.
By the Numbers:
LF Bryce Harper 6-2 230
Fielding: 440/11/.975 13 outfield assists.
CF Mike Trout 6-2 230
Fielding: 668/8/.988 3 outfield assists.
3B Manny Machado 6-2 180
Fielding: 476/11/.977 1 amazing throw.
RF Yasiel Puig 6-3 245
Fielding: 86/3/.965 4 outfield assists.
Hitting for Power
Slugging percentage (Total Bases/At Bats) is the best measurement of power hitting. The league average is .400, but each of these players is hitting above that number. Harper, while known for having outstanding power, comes in behind Yasiel Puig and Mike Trout in his stat, with Machado bringing up the rear.
However, we have to take into account that Puig has been in the majors for less than 2 months, and Harper is only 20 years old. At this point, Machado does not have the power to hit home runs on a consistent basis, which limits his power. Harper has the weakest line-up around him, so pitchers do not have to give him anything to hit. Mike Trout has Trumbo, Hamilton, and Pujols behind him, which means he gets good looks in every plate appearance. The same goes for Puig, playing with Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez, and Adrian Gonzalez.
The best power hitter out of this bunch has to be Bryce Harper. At his best, Harper commands the plate better than any of these other players. His plate vision is far superior to Puig, and his power is better than the others.
Hitting for Average
Batting Average (At Bats/Hits) is the most commonly used statistic in baseball, and quite honestly the most important for all non-pitchers. Mike Trout and Manny Machado seem to be the better players at hitting for average at this point. Yasiel Puig has come back to Earth since his initial burst onto the scene, and is hitting .269 in July as opposed to the earth-shattering .436 that he hit in June.
Between Trout and Machado, Trout has to be the choice. In each of the past two seasons, Trout has been 2nd in the American League in batting average, only bested by the Triple Crown winner, Miguel Cabrera.
Stolen Bases/Caught Stealing/Stolen Base Percentage are an underrated aspect of the game, but the main components of base running. often At first glance, all of these players look like outstanding athletes, and possess a considerable amount of speed. Puig is built like a horse and draws comparisons to Bo Jackson, Machado is tall and slim with an athletic build a la a young A-Rod, minus the power. Bryce Harper goes 110 percent every play, and dives into bags headfirst like the great 'Charlie Hustle', Pete Rose. Mike Trout, the shortest and stockiest of the bunch, has become known as somewhat of a speed demon, and is being compared to the Mick.
However, base-running is not all about speed, it is also about picking and choosing your spots, and running efficiently. Puig and Harper both have reputations as aggressive base-runners, sometimes to a fault, but Mike Trout is far and away the top guy in this category. With 49 stolen bases last year, Trout was the major league leader.
Assists are the true measurement of an outfielder's ability to throw out advancing runners. Bryce Harper's arm has been heralded since high school, allegedly throwing a 96 mph fastball. Puig's rise has included a number of powerful throws as well, although he has to learn to use the cutoff sometimes. Machado's throw from foul territory is a perfect representation of his ability to unleash the ball, but he does not get enough chances to show off his arm.
For Trout, throwing is one part of his game that critics mock. Although he is a respectable outfielder, base runners do not fear him the way that they do Harper and Puig. Because of the raw ability that goes along with an outfielder throwing fastballs in the mid 90s, this category has to go to Bryce Harper.
Fielding is the lost art of Baseball. Routine plays are never noticed, only the spectacular grabs and the errors. Yesterday during the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network broadcast of the Washington Nationals vs. Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game, color commentator F.P Santangelo said it perfectly, "Most major league players can make the spectacular plays, its those that make those plays look easy that are the truly great ones." Harper and this right field wall definitely have some hashing out to do on this topic.
For Puig, its a different story. Trout has had his share of highlight catches as well, most notably some home-run robbing leaps. Machado's highlight reel extends beyond just the one throw, as he also has this outstanding display of wit. I have to give the edge here to Mike Trout. He has played the most games out of all these players, and has the highest fielding percentage as well.
This is a tough call, because each of these players brings something different to the game. Bryce Harper is a lefty with tremendous power and a laser rocket arm that balances himself with the plate discipline of a veteran. Yasiel Puig a big righty that takes a hack at every pitch he sees and pushes the limit in every aspect of the game.
Manny Machado is a double machine that is making a name for himself as a shortstop playing third base. Mike Trout is a bonafied superstar that proved over the past two seasons that he can do it all. Each of these young phenoms is a 5-tool player with the potential to be a Hall-of-Famer when their career is all said and done.
The Decision: Mike Trout. He has flat out been better than the other players to this point, in fact, his numbers are arguably better than anybody in the Major Leagues besides Miguel Cabrera and Chris Davis. I expect him to be a League MVP within the next few years, I can't necessarily say the same about these other players.