Baseball has been blessed with many scenarios in which two young players join a team around the same time and grow into a lethal combination that propels their franchise to greatness over an extended period of time.
If the first half of the 2012 season is any indication, the Los Angeles Angels appear to have one of their own “Dynamic Duos” in the making in outfielders Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout.
Trumbo, in his second season with the team, is once again leading the Angels in home runs and RBI—much like he did his rookie year—and is second in batting with a .306 average. His efforts earned him a well deserved selection to the All-Star team.
All Trout has done since he was called up in late April is be arguably the best player in baseball not named Andrew McCutchen. He, too, is fresh off the first of what is likely to be many trips to the All-Star game.
There’s no question Trout and Trumbo qualify as a “Dynamic Duo” but are they the best in baseball?
To tackle that question we have to decide what criteria we want to use. For me, I asked myself a simple question: Which two teammates would I want on my team? That takes into account age, salary, position, current performance and long-term potential.
To qualify, they had to have both been drafted or acquired by the same organization prior to playing their first full major league season and arrived at the big leagues within two years of each other. They have to be 26 or younger, and they both have to be All-Star capable, too. So you can’t just pick one young superstar and pair him with an average teammate. We’ll call that the Stanton/Morrison Rule.
To that end, here are my top five Dynamic Duos in baseball today:
5. Adam Jones and Matt Wieters, Baltimore
Wieters, also 26, was drafted fifth overall by Baltimore in 2007 and made his major league debut in 2009. Both made the All-Star team this year for the second time, and have been keys to Baltimore’s long-awaited return to playing competitive baseball.
Jones leads the team with 20 HRs and is tied with Wieters for the team lead with 44 RBI. He’s also hitting .289, tops on the Orioles, while playing solid defense out in center field.
Despite his All-Star selection, Wieters is struggling a bit offensively. In addition to his .247 average being the lowest of his young career, Wieters has also had dips in several advanced metrics this season, but is still flashing the kind of power that had scouts drooling when he came out of college.
Once he puts everything together and the team surrounds him with more talent he should be fine. Their four combined All-Star game selections are impressive, but if Wieters played any other position he probably wouldn’t have any.
Taking that into account, and the fact that they are the oldest pair on my list makes them a solid, but not quite dynamic, duo.
4. Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward, Atlanta
Heyward was so impressive in spring training back in 2010 as a 20-year-old that he not only made the Braves’ opening day roster that season, but was named the starting right fielder.
He more than justified that decision, making the All-Star team and finishing second in NL Rookie of the Year voting. The “Sophomore Jinx” got him pretty good though, as his batting average dropped a whopping 50 points from his rookie season of .277, but he has rebounded with a solid 2012 campaign and is on pace to set career highs in every offensive category.
He looks much more comfortable at the plate and his swing is one of the sweetest in the game. If he can stay healthy, he is going to be a force for years to come.
Freeman also made his Braves debut in 2010 as a September call-up and, despite looking overmatched in 20 games, showed enough promise that the team named him their starting first baseman when the 2011 season started.
Like Heyward, Freeman also rewarded the team’s faith in him by hitting .282 with 21 HRs and 76 RBI, while also earning his own runner-up finish in the Rookie of the Year voting.
Although his average is down a bit in 2012, all other signs are trending upward and that is good news for Braves fans.
Led by this almost-dynamic duo, Atlanta should be back to being a playoff contender in no time.
3. Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, Kansas City
Hosmer made his debut last year as a May call-up and proceeded to show the kind of talent that had tagged him as one of the top hitting prospects in all of baseball since he was the 3rd pick in the 2008 draft.
The Royals did not expect to have him up at this level so soon but Hosmer, now 22, forced their hand by absolutely destroying minor league pitching, hitting .439 in AAA prior to being promoted. He stayed hot in the big leagues, hitting .293 with 19 HRs and 78 RBI and finishing 3rd in AL Rookie of the Year voting.
Unfortunately, Hosmer appears to have fallen victim to the dreaded “Sophomore Jinx” this season, as he is currently last among Royals regulars with a .231 average. But that hasn’t dampened anyone’s expectations of his long-term future, and the consensus around the league is that Hosmer is going to be a star for years to come.
Moustakas, 24, was another high draft pick (second overall in 2009), but took the opposite road. He struggled initially after his call-up last season, but is now in the middle of a breakout season for the otherwise struggling Royals, hitting .268 with 15 HRs and 47 RBI; second only to All-Star Billy Butler in the latter two categories.
Give them each one more year of seasoning and they will be one dynamic duo any team would love to have.
2. Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg, Washington
Wow. Talk about your dynamic duos. These two are the standard-bearers.
Their nickname should be “The Firm" because the trio of Harper, Strasburg and Playoffs” pretty much explains where the Nationals are headed not only this year, but for years to come.
There really isn’t much I can say about either player that hasn’t already been said, but one thing I will point out is, statistics aside, the way the play the game is what impresses me the most.
Harper looks like a skinny Pete Rose out there and it would not have shocked me if he had bowled over an American League catcher during Tuesday’s All-Star game if the situation had called for it.
In addition to already boasting one of the best power arms in the game today, coupled with a dazzling array of pitches, Strasburg has that bulldog mentality you want and need from your ace.
To that end, I honestly can’t wait to see the team try (emphasis on “try”) to tell him he won’t be pitching in the playoffs should the Nats make it as expected. They should seriously consider televising that conversation.
This is hands down the best young dynamic duo in all of baseball…
…Not named Trout and Trumbo.
1. Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo, L.A. Angels
I have to give “TNT” the slight nod over "The Firm" because they have the potential to positively impact 162 games, whereas Strasburg gets maybe 30 starts a year and is coming off Tommy John surgery.
The Angels are in playoff contention directly because Trout and Trumbo have been their two best offensive players. This is on a team with Albert Pujols, mind you.
The Nats lead their division definitely because of Strasburg and the rest of its top-rated pitching staff, but Harper is not among his team’s leaders in any offensive category besides batting average, where his .282 is second on the team.
Put it this way, if the Angels offered "TNT" to the Nats straight up for “The Firm”, would Washington take it?
Before you answer, go take a look at Washington’s current starting outfield. If the offer was reversed, the Angels would almost assuredly pass, as they should. They would be a worse team with “The Firm”, while Washington would not only be better but be a juggernaut with the addition of “TNT.” That is why I believe Trout and Trumbo are the No. 1 dynamic duo in all of baseball. Because the Angels wouldn't trade them for anybody...