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Skenes and Holliday reminiscent of a young Trout and Harper

Before Paul Skenes vs. Jackson Holliday, there was Mike Trout vs. Bryce Harper.

OK, fine, it’s not a one-to-one comparison. Trout and Harper are both hitters and didn’t go head to head until 2014, when each was two years removed from winning his league’s Rookie of the Year Award. But the hype surrounding the pair and the constant comparisons of the two early in their careers is very similar to the excitement we saw Thursday when the Pirates and Orioles pitted the 2023 and ‘22 first-overall picks against each other on the first day of MLB’s inaugural Spring Breakout showcase.

• FAQ: Dodgers-Angels Spring Breakout

Skenes, baseball’s top pitching prospect and No. 3 overall, struck out No. 1 overall prospect Holliday on six pitches in the highly anticipated second chapter of their story, which will no doubt continue over the years as they aspire to live up to the almost impossible expectations we as fans put on prospects time and time again.

Further intertwining this parallel, Skenes told MiLB.com on Thursday that he went to the Arizona Fall League when he was 11 and got autographs from both Trout and Harper.

“That’s good stuff. It’s great whenever you can make an impact [on young fans],” Trout said. “I didn’t even realize I did it until he said that. That’s pretty cool. I’m pulling for all those guys.”

The next batch of future Angels stars will get their chance to shine at 4:10 p.m. PT Saturday when Spring Breakout comes to Tempe Diablo Stadium in the form of a seven-inning exhibition game against prospects from the Dodgers’ organization. Trout offered some sage words that apply to any young player.

“Just keep working. The game’s in a good spot right now. There’s a lot of young guys who are making a big splash. Just enjoy it,” he said. “It goes by quick. It seems like just yesterday me and Harper were in the Fall League. Just enjoy it and never take a day for granted. Putting on the uniform, it’s an honor to do that.”

Prospects are exciting, and fans can’t get enough of them. Year after year and list after list, the promise of tomorrow has us drooling for future World Series rings and October glory.

But baseball is hard, and it’s harder still to predict how teenagers and 20-somethings will develop. The story of baseball is littered with “sure thing” prospects who faded too fast or fell short of the sky-high expectations we placed on them.

That’s what makes the legacy of Trout and Harper so amazing. Despite the immense pressure and constant comparisons, they didn’t just live up to expectations, they exceeded them. Both of them.

Mike Trout and Bryce Harper face off in their first series against each other in April 2014 as the Angels meet the Nationals at Nationals Park.AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Harper was literally dubbed “Baseball’s Chosen One” on the cover of Sports Illustrated when he was 16 years old, then he was drafted first overall at 17 in 2010. Trout somehow lasted until 25th overall one year prior, but his historic run to a unanimous 2012 AL Rookie of the Year selection had every team that passed on him kicking itself.

That they both continued those trajectories and lived up to the hype is a miracle worthy of another chapter in Ken Burns’ “Baseball” docuseries.

 

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