Sportress of Blogitude

Bryce Harper: ‘I still believe (Mike) Trout is the best player in the game’

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Bryce Harper is enjoying an absolutely torrid month of May at the plate. So scorching-hot is the Washington Nationals outfielder that a teammate jokingly acted as if he was afraid to touch him, lest they get burned.

But to hear it from the 22-year-old who seemingly is taking the next step in a career destined for greatness, Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout nevertheless remains the top player in the game.

Harper praised his fellow young superstar when discussing the nature of the game and how he enjoys following the careers of some of his fellow colleagues.

“Baseball is always, ‘What have you done for me lately?'” Harper, a noted admirer of the game’s history, said, per a report from ESPN.com Senior MLB writer Jerry Crasnick. “That’s just how the game works. I still believe Trout is the best player in the game, hands down. It’s not about taking a backseat to anybody. I love seeing Stanton hit homers or Kris Bryant do the things he does. I love watching Matt Harvey or Gerrit Cole or Noah Syndergaard come up and throw 100 mph. I cheer for guys. I’ve always been that way.”

Harper, a notoriously cocky player known for rubbing folks the wrong way — even his own manager, Matt Williams — with his brash personality, can’t be faulted for being diplomatic with his assertion that Trout is the baseball’s best all-around player. But if Harper continues to tear the cover off the ball in the manner he has over the first quarter of the season, Trout won’t be the easy answer in the longstanding debate over who deserves the title as the best young player in the game.

An interesting statistical note on Harper’s career from Crasnick’s piece: He will be 22 years old at season’s end, nine months younger than Chicago Cubs young star Kris Bryant, one of the early favorites for National League Rookie of the Year. But Harper, who won the same award in 2012, is in his fourth season in the big leagues.

Perhaps his uneven development during his first handful of seasons — he was voted baseball’s most overrated player by his peers — is more attributable to his relative youth than immaturity or inability. And the way he’s playing this spring certainly indicates that just might be the case.