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Trout, Harper voted Rookies of the Year

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Trout, Harper voted Rookies of the Year

NEW YORK (AP) Mike Trout and Bryce Harper were teammates on the Scottsdale Scorpions last fall. The outfielders arrived in the major leagues on the same April day this year, both played in the All-Star game and they won Rookie of the Year awards a half-hour apart Monday, the vanguard of baseball's next generation.

The 21-year-old Trout was a unanimous pick as the youngest AL rookie winner, and the 20-year-old Harper edged Arizona pitcher Wade Miley 112 points to 105 to become the second-youngest winner of the NL honor.

``It's pretty neat,'' said Trout, the son of former Minnesota minor leaguer Jeff Trout.

For the first time, players learned the voting results when they were announced on television.

``My heart was beating a little bit,'' Harper said.

Trout, who turned 21 on Aug. 7, received all 28 first-place votes from the AL panel of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. The Los Angeles Angels center fielder was the eighth unanimous AL pick and the first since Tampa Bay's Evan Longoria in 2008.

There could be more to come, too. Trout is among five finalists for AL MVP and is considered the chief challenger to Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera for that award, which will be announced Thursday.

``It would just top it off,'' Trout said.

Trout hit .326, second-best in the league to Cabrera's .330, with 30 homers and 83 RBIs, and he led the majors with 129 runs and 49 steals. He joined Ted Williams, Mel Ott and Alex Rodriguez as the only players to hit .320 or higher with 30 or more homers in seasons they started as a 20-year-old.

Trout received the maximum 140 points. Oakland outfielder Yoenis Cespedes was second with 63, followed by Texas pitcher Yu Darvish (46), who joined Trout as the only players listed on every ballot.

Detroit second baseman Lou Whitaker had been the youngest AL winner in 1978, but he was 3 months, 5 days older than Trout on the day he took home the award.

In addition to Trout and Longoria, the only other unanimous AL winners were Nomar Garciaparra, Derek Jeter, Tim Salmon, Sandy Alomar Jr., Mark McGwire and Carlton Fisk.

Trout's father made it to Double-A as an infielder with the Twins in the mid-1980s and watched his son build a career growing up in New Jersey, where the seasons are short and cold.

``He went out and did it and endured it,'' Jeff Trout said.

Added mom Debbie: ``All the hard work paid off.''

Trout, taken by the Angels with the 25th overall pick in the 2009 amateur draft, still lives at home with his parents during the offseason. The award will join others in the family house.

``He gets a lot of good home cooking,'' Jeff Trout said.

Trout spent some time in the majors last year but still retained his rookie status. He began this season in the minors and made his first big league appearance this year on April 28 - the day of Harper's major league debut.

Trout was on a flight from Salt Lake City to Cleveland when he saw on Twitter that Harper was being called up the same day.

Harper turned 20 on Oct. 16 and has been hyped for years. When he was just 16, he appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated with the headline ``CHOSEN ONE.''

``He's been put on the spotlight since he was 15 years old,'' Trout said.

The Washington Nationals outfielder got 16 of 32 first-place votes from the NL panel. Miley was second with 12 first-place votes, followed by Cincinnati slugger Todd Frazier with three firsts and 45 points. Harper appeared on every ballot, and Bill Center of U-T San Diego was the only voter who didn't include Miley.

Harper was the top pick in the 2010 amateur draft and batted .270 with 22 home runs and 59 RBIs as Washington brought postseason play to the nation's capital for the first time since 1933. Only Tony Conigliaro (24) hit more home runs as a teenager.

``Every little kid's dream is to be a big league ballplayer or a doctor or a firefighter or whatever everybody wants to be,'' Harper said. ``That was my dream and I wanted to make that dream come true as quickly as possible.''

At 20 years, 27 days on Monday, he was 24 days older than New York Mets pitcher Dwight Gooden when he won the NL award in 1984.

``This game is unbelievable. I love it with everything I've got,'' Harper said, ``and I'm going to play every single day like it's my last.''

And the admiration of Harper and Trout is mutual, especially after their time together last year with Scottsdale in the Arizona Fall League, for the game's premier prospects.

``He's one of the best players in baseball, if not the best right now,'' Harper said. ``He's pretty impressive every day he plays.''

For now, each has a rookie award. In the future, they may earn MVPs on the same day.

``We play the game the right way,'' Trout said. ``We're always running out balls. He's always hustling, trying to make that big play.''

NOTES: For winning the award, Trout earned a $10,000 bonus on top of his $482,500 salary. ... Harper became the first Nationals player to win a BBWAA award since the franchise moved from Montreal to Washington in 2005. ... Under a new format this year, both league's winners are announced on the same day with the winner revealed on the MLB Network. Manager of the Year voting will be revealed Tuesday, followed by the Cy Young Awards on Wednesday and MVPs the following day.

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Tom Verducci gives more specifics on Bryce Harper's 2016 injury

Tom Verducci gives more specifics on Bryce Harper's 2016 injury

Entering 2016, Bryce Harper was ready to take over the world. After putting forth one of the most impressive offensive seasons in recent memory in 2015, he was rewarded by being named the youngest unanimous MVP in the history of baseball. The following season, he was prepared to take another step forward.

Instead, he slashed .243/.373/.441 with 24 home runs, and questions abounded about why he was struggling.

Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci, one of baseball’s most accomplished reporters, wrote a story late in the season about how Harper had suffered a shoulder injury, according to a source. The Nationals vehemently denied these reports at the time, claiming that their doctors were not aware of any medical issues with Harper’s shoulder. Mike Rizzo said he asked Harper directly if he was hurt and was told no.

At this year’s Winter Meetings, Verducci spoke with NBC Sports Washington, and he doubled down on his reporting.

“2016, of course, that’s when he injured his shoulder. It was a slide in Milwaukee, about one-third of the way into the season, was never quite the same.”

Whereas in 2016 Verducci simply referred to “a source,” it appears this information came from Harper directly.

“As he told me,” Verducci says, “He could not lift weights upper-body wise through the rest of that season, he lost weight, didn’t have the same kind of power. He was compromised even throwing on defense, he had to compromise by playing much more shallow.”

“The numbers in ‘16 really are a function of the injury.”

One concern Nats fans have about signing Harper to a major deal is how his numbers in the post-MVP years have failed to match 2015. According to Baseball-Reference, his combined Wins Above Replacement total from 2016-18 is 7.5. His bWAR in 2015 alone was 10.0. Still, Harper never had an OPS+ below 114 in that stretch. Even his “down” seasons would still be considered quality years for most big league hitters.

Harper is also just now entering his prime, however, so presumably many of his best seasons are still to come. For one MLB insider, at least, there’s no real cause for concern about a long term deal as long as Harper can stay healthy.

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The case for the Phillies as the frontrunner for Bryce Harper, according to Tim Kurkjian

The case for the Phillies as the frontrunner for Bryce Harper, according to Tim Kurkjian

Well, this is not what Nationals fans want to hear. 

There is no bigger buzz at MLB's Winter Meetings in Las Vegas than where free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado will sign. Tim Kurkjian, one of the most respected baseball analysts, believes that Harper will stay in the NL East, but sign with the Philadelphia Phillies, not with the Nationals. 

"I think the most logical landing spot for Bryce Harper is the Phillies," Kurkjian said. "The Phillies have a lot of money and they are willing to spend it. They've made that abundently clear."

The Nationals offered Harper a 10-year, $300 million extension on the last day of the 2018 regular season. As expected, he declined.

Aside from that ability to offer the 26-year-old a very large contract, Kurkjian thinks that Philadelphia makes perfect sense in Harper for purely baseball reasons. Phillies manager Gabe Kapler is also fascinated by what Harper would bring to the table.

"They also have a tremendous need [in the outfield]. They played really well for three or four months last year, but the last two months were not good," Kurkjian said. "That club needs a middle of the order hitter, and they need a star hitter to build around, and Bryce Harper fits that category."

The Phillies have also been rumored to have interest in Machado, but after a recent trade, they may shift their focus more towards Harper.

"[The Phillies] already traded for Jean Segura, a pretty good hitting shortstop," Kurkjian said. "Which means they should, at least to me, be less engaged on Manny Machado and more engaged on Bryce Harper."

Segura hit .304 for the Seattle Mariners in 2018 and was selected to the AL All-Star team.

Of course, Kurkjian is only speculating at this point, as no one will know where Harper ends up until he inks pen to the paper. Each day, there is a new story.

"This story doesn't change by the day, it changes by the hour," Kurkjian said. "But at this hour, I will say, the Phillies look to me to be the best fit for Bryce Harper."

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