Fantasy Baseball Roundtable: Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, or ... ?

by Todd Zola, on June 6, 2012 @ 16:25:14 PDT


Forrest Gump would be a fan of the Knights of the Round Table, because, like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get. And, like the sweet confectionary treats, it is usually some good stuff.

This week, I posed a question with the intent on seeing where their early replies went and then steer the discussion into whatever emanates. As usual, the Knights did not disappoint.

You just lost Jered Weaver, Roy Halladay, Troy Tulowitzki and Matt Kemp. Your once sure thing championship is down the tubes. Someone offers you Mike Trout or Bryce Harper for two guys that aren't keepers.

Which do you take?

Nick Minnix goes fishing:

I'd take Trout, primarily because Harper is a max-effort player, and I'd be a little more concerned that his style of play will lead to injuries down the road. Trout is already an outstanding defender, but that's not much of a tiebreaker. Not worried about anything to do with their abilities and how they'll play in the bigs in the long run.

Lawr Michaels has a question of his own:

Well, my first question is what the hell kind of league possibly could let anyone have all those guys? What were they doing during the draft or making trades to allow the formation of such a dominant team? And, well, like the struggling Angels, just 'cause you have all the pieces, does not mean it will work, right?

And, I take Harper. Not any offense to Trout, who is a fine prospect, but I think Harper has that Josh Hamilton kind of potential greatness in him. Trout seems to just have potential very, very goodness in him.

Lord Zola with a rare cameo:

For what it's worth, I indeed own Kemp, Tulo and Weaver in a keeper league, but not Doc. Though, I do have Jayson Werth as well. In mixed keeper leagues, it is not uncommon to put together a keeper base of this nature.

Ryan Carey with his take:

Well, I'm on the Trout bandwagon. If I had to choose one today, he's the guy I would want, although it is pretty close I have to admit. The edge for me is speed, as Trout's a five-category stud and Harper, in spite on decent wheels himself, isn't. Trout is the one who will be flirting with 30-30 seasons down the road and as we all know, in fantasy those stolen bases add LOTS of value to the equation. It doesn't hurt that I just like Trout better as a fan - more character, in my opinion, and as such less off the field distractions.

Ironic that Lawr mentions Hamilton. Good comp, but does that comp include the injuries? I think Nick makes a valid point regarding Harper's style of play leading to injury, and I think you can add the fact that the brashness Harper brings to the table could itself lead to injury. We have already see him thrown at by opposing pitchers, and that only figures to increase as time goes by and he rubs a few more hurlers the wrong way. It's not purely scientific, but sometimes in fantasy you are allowed to go with your heart and your gut as a tiebreaker. For me, that means advantage Mike Trout.

I also humbly disagree with Lawr; I see potential greatness in both players.

Greg Morgan sees it both ways:

As a pure hitter, Harper is better, but Trout has speed, is 14 months older, and has more minor league seasoning. That gives Trout a slight edge if I'm looking for production this year and possibly next. If they each have 3-year contracts that expire at the end of 2014 and if I feel that I can work some magic on the waiver wire to still make a run and finish in the money, that may tip the scales towards Trout. However if my ship is truly sunk and I'm only looking to the future, and both are offered with minor-league contracts that don't burn a 1-30 round draft pick and they can keep that minor league status indefinitely until I choose to activate them, then I'd probably take Harper.

Perry Van Hook is adamant:

Well I will just assume a 5x5 mixed keeper league and say that I would take Trout and be VERY HAPPY. Both Trout and Harper are fantasy franchise players for the next N years, but I think Trout will consistently have the higher batting average, more stolen bases and likely score more runs. Harper will likely be stronger in the power categories, winning batting average and in some years home runs but the potential feast/famine for Harper's swing means that some years Trout will win that category as well.

Nick clarifies:

Yeah, I wouldn't have selected Trout if I didn't agree with Ryan. I think that Trout trails Harper by very, very little (assuming that he does) in terms of their ceilings for annual fantasy contributions. I just think that, given the quality of these practically fungible assets, I'd be inclined to choose the one that doesn't do nearly as much for me in less tangible areas. Could be wrong about Trout, too, maybe he ends up flying into outfield walls just as often as Torii Hunter did. This is my answer after watching each for a bit. No one really knows, of course. No one could say that any of us is wrong either way.

Tim Heaney is agreeable:

Have to concur with the notion of Trout's fantasy value likely being higher than Harper's, at least for the next few years, thanks to his speed. If you're rebuilding for a down-the-road stud team, Harper is an understandable target. Trout has the better shot at helping if you aim to win in the next few years.

Nick is back:

I think if we're talking only the next few years, in a limited-contract league or whatever, it's closer, to me, and I'm not sure which way I'd go. Kinda leaning Harper. Harper has shown the ability to make adjustments more quickly than Trout has, especially considering that Harper is younger. And the injury concerns I had are less likely to come up within the next few years.
I just like Trout more in the long term, not assuming any league parameters or what have you.

Ryan is candid:

I'll admit, I don't play in as many keeper leagues as some of you obviously do, so I don't think I've got as good a read on managing contracts, etc. I guess in that situation I see the case for Harper, and can't really say that I disagree with it.

Lord Zola sees a way to take this is a different direction:

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim OF Mike Trout
Fishing for Trout?

OK, let's throw a little twist into this.

The goal is to predict the #1 pick by ADP for the 2017 fantasy baseball season.

You can either

1. Take Harper and Trout

2. Pick 10 players OTHER than Harper and Trout

3. Take the field, less those 12 players

Would anyone say Harper or Trout will be the #1 pick in five years? Who would want to choose 10 other players? Who wants the field?

Nick is quick with the response:

Field, with almost no hesitation. It's five years from now, and so much will change by then. The 10 players someone would pick are practically crapshoots.

Greg concurs:

Agreed. The field is the high percentage play.

Lawr inquires:

OK, where does Yoenis Cespedes fit in the equation? And Yu Darvish, and Stephen Strasburg?

What about Brett Lawrie? Eric Hosmer? Matt Moore? Carlos Santana?

Ryan continues:

I think Lawrie and Hosmer are in the equation. So are Starlin Castro, Giancarlo Stanton, Justin Upton and even Jason Heyward (who we forget is still just 22).

Lord Zola asks:

OK, so does that mean you guys want to pick 10 or take the field?

Lawr takes the challenge:

Yes, assuming I get Trout and Harper as well

My top 10 others, in no particular order:

  1. Stanton
  2. Darvish
  3. Upton
  4. Cespedes
  5. Moore
  6. Lawrie
  7. Hosmer
  8. Santana
  9. Strasburg
  10. Freeman

I actually like Freeman better than Heyward at this juncture (though I will never forget Heyward hitting an opposite field homer at AT&T off Tim Lincecum into a 20 mph headwind). But, Heyward is in his third season. He should be seriously getting the hang now.

And, Castro is talented, to be sure, but I was working the Giants-Cubs game yesterday and he cost them the game, essentially (well, it was shake and bake, and Carlos Marmol helped). I think he is not as focused. I would take Elvis Andrus over him in a heartbeat.

Lord Zola is having some fun now:

What about guys like Ryan Braun, Kemp, Evan Longoria, Jacoby Ellsbury and Hanley Ramirez - they'll all still be right around 33 years old.

What if we further loosen the constraints and say "you win" if your group has a player in the top-5?

GROUP A: Harper and Trout

GROUP B: Pick 10 others

GROUP C: The rest of the field

Nick is known for playing the field:

Guys like those, plus the 50 or 75 or 100 or 150 or 200 other players who could be in that group, from Jay Bruce to Joey Votto to Cole Hamels to Danny Hultzen to Jurickson Profar to Jorge Soler, is why I'll take the field.

Lawr is always prospecting:

I want some Dylan Bundy. His Delmarva numbers this year are as impressive as Matt Moore's K/IP numbers. Swear. Guy looks wicked.

Lord Zola's Wrap Up:

So what did we learn? Trout's steals make him a safer choice, but Harper has the chance to be something special (not that Trout doesn't).

But here is what we really learned. There are a lot of good players in baseball. As Nick suggests, nothing is guaranteed. It is real fun to own Harper or Trout (or Hosmer, Lawrie, Moore, Darvish, etc.). But you know what is more fun? Winning - winning is more fun. And if trading Trout or Harper helps your chance to win this season ... DO IT!

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About Todd Zola,

Focusing primarily on the science of player valuation and game theory starting in 1997, Todd Zola and Mastersball carved out an important niche in the fantasy industry. In 2006, Todd became the Research Director for, and in 2009, he relaunched Mastersball and is now a managing partner.

Todd competes in Tout Wars and the XFL, and has been a multiple-time league champion in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship. He has been a contributor to the fantasy content at and, is a frequent guest on Sirius/XM and Blog Talk Radio and is an annual speaker at the spring and fall First Pitch Forum symposiums. Fantasy Baseball

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