In just over two major league seasons, Mike Trout has done the unthinkable. He’s exhausted my word bank of superlatives. Excellent, outstanding, fantastic, magnificent, British slang words that make little sense, superior. They were all dumped on Trout after a historic rookie season in 2012. He was the best player in baseball at 20-years-old and only the hype surrounding him matched his performance. The Angels, however, underwhelmed and missed the playoffs. Trout won the AL Rookie of the Year and finished second in the AL MVP voting. Expectations for the 2013 season were high after the Angels added Josh Hamilton to what is clearly Trout’s supporting cast.
How did Trout handle the pressure? He got better. A glance at the back of a baseball card might not suggest that as he hit fewer home runs (30-27) and didn’t steal as many bases (49-33) but he did make a significant improvement. After cutting down on strikeouts (21.8% in 2012 to 19.0% in 2013) and increasing his walk rate (15.4% in 2013 from 10.5% in 2012), he proved he could adjust to life at the top of the majors. The Angels, on the other hand, flirted with a top ten pick in the 2014 draft while missing the playoffs again and costing Trout many AL MVP votes. He’s under team control through 2017 but the price tag just gets higher every year for the Angels to lock him up long term. And there are reasons for that…
He’s the best player in baseball and I’m not sure how close it is. Yes, I owe my girlfriend $1 every time I say Mike Trout is the best player in baseball. We’re so close to affording a beach house on the Jersey Shore! After the CDC clears it for human occupancy. Wins Above Replacement isn’t the law but it is a good place to start and Trout is crushing his MLB brethren. He beat out Robinson Cano and Buster Posey in Fangraph’s WAR last season (10.0 fWAR to a pair of 7.7 fWARs) and Andrew McCutchen (10.4 fWAR to 8.2 fWAR) this season. You don’t like WAR? Fine, Trout is at the top of everything else too except for RBI and pitcher wins.
Anyway, don’t just take the stats or Mike’s mom or my own opinion that Trout is the very best of MLB. ESPN Insider, book, food and boardgame critic, Keith Law would have voted for Trout as AL MVP, the Baseball Prospectus crew had Trout as AL MVP and Baseball America named Trout as their Player of the Year for the second straight year. You can read/download the free BA mag here. But I’ll include a couple of the scouting quotes from the BA article for those of you less-click-through-inclined…
“If you drafted 2009 all over again, I know he’d go one-one.” – Stan Meek, Marlins Scouting Director
“If you re-did that (2009) draft, even with Strasburg, no doubt 30 out of 30 would take Trout one-one every time.” – Gary Hughes, Red Sox Pro Scouting Cosultant
And, just for good measure, I’ll leave you with a few more quotes that I rounded up about the Angels superstar…
“I haven’t seen hands that quick since my Wiffle Ball season in the summer of ’92 *flexes arms like Ravishing Rick Rude*” – me
“I told you, we only have speckled trout.” – Irritated waitress
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, sir. Did Mike Trout steal your cable signal?” – Cox Cable operator
“I refuse to participate in this.” – my girlfriend
“I haven’t seen someone get to first base that quick since I took a blowup doll to prom.” – Mike H