Mike Trout and Bryce Harper were teammates in the Arizona Fall League a year ago. Now they’re Major League Baseball’s Rookie of the Year award winners.
Trout, the Los Angeles Angels’ outfielder who turned 21 in August, yesterday became the youngest American League Rookie of the Year after a season in which he became the only first-year player to hit 30 home runs and steal 40 bases. He was the eighth unanimous selection in AL history.
Harper, the Washington Nationals’ outfielder who turned 20 last month, won the National League award after living up to the hype that’s followed him since he was on the cover of “Sports Illustrated” magazine while in high school. The second youngest NL winner, Harper hit 22 home runs and scored 98 runs for a Nationals team that had baseball’s best record.
“Both of us had the same intentions coming into the league,” Trout, who last November played alongside Harper with the Scottsdale Scorpions, said in a media conference call. “We knew what we were capable of and we both got the opportunity to play. Pushing each other to be the best is the way to do it.”
Trout and Harper both made their 2012 season debut on April 28 after starting the year in the minor leagues.
Trout was called up to the majors with the Angels at 6-14 and in last place in the AL West. The team went 83-59 after his arrival and finished four games out in the wild-card race.
Immediately inserted into the leadoff spot in the batting order, Trout led the AL with 129 runs scored and 49 stolen bases. He batted .326, hit 30 home runs and drove in 83 runs, playing center field well enough to be named the AL’s Defensive Player of the Year by Wilson sporting goods, which uses statistical metrics to measure who had the best season.
“The power numbers definitely surprised me a little bit,” said Trout, a native of Millville, New Jersey. “I knew my power was there, I just didn’t know it would come so quick. Probably some of it was the adrenaline rush, playing in that atmosphere every night and having fun. I enjoyed myself.”
Trout, received all 28 first place votes and a perfect 140 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Points were awarded on a 5-3-1 basis. Oakland Athletics outfielder Yoenis Cespedes finished second with 63 points and Texas Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish had 46 points.
Trout is the first Angels’ player named AL Rookie of the Year since Tim Salmon in 1993 and the first unanimous winner since the Tampa Bay Rays’ Evan Longoria in 2008. Salmon, Nomar Garciaparra, Derek Jeter, Roberto Alomar, Mark McGwire and Carlton Fisk were also unanimous AL winners.
Harper was the first overall pick in the 2010 draft and featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine as a high-school sophomore alongside the headline “Baseball’s Chosen One.”
He finished his rookie season with a .270 batting average, 22 home runs, 59 runs batted in, 98 runs scored and 18 stolen bases as the Nationals won the NL Eastern Division title and made the playoffs for the first time.
“This year was a lot of fun and I had a great group of guys around me,” Harper said on a conference call. “I was just trying to be that guy who played the game hard, played the game the right way and get the fans in D.C. excited.”
Harper, the first Washington player to get the honor, was named on 16 first-place ballots and received 112 points, seven more than Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Wade Miley, who got 12 first-place votes. Cincinnati Reds infielder Todd Frazier finished third with 45 points.
The rest of the BBWAA’s annual awards will be announced this week, starting with AL and NL Managers of the Year today. Trout is also a finalist for AL Most Valuable Player award, which will be announced on Nov. 15.
“I’m definitely anxious and there’s been a debate since the end of the season about me and Cabrera,” Trout said, referring to the Detroit Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera, who became the first Triple Crown winner since 1967. “It’s going to be fun to watch and I’m just incredibly honored to be in the discussion.”