Mickey Mantle. Hank Aaron. Ted Williams. These are not just players that made the Hall of Fame – these are players that were amongst the all time greats in baseball. Mantle was a true power/speed threat, hitting over fifty home runs while stealing bases. Aaron was the all time home run leader. Williams was the last player to bat over .400 in a season, hitting .406 in 1941. These are true icons of the game.
These players, along with other luminaries such as Ken Griffey Jr and Jimmie Foxx, happen to also be listed as the players that Mike Trout is most similar to through age 21 according to baseballreference.com. At this point, with just two major league seasons under his belt, Trout is considered to be most similar to seven Hall of Fame players, with Griffey a virtual lock to make it eight of the top ten.
Just being mentioned in the same breath as those players is certainly high praise, but even more so for Trout. He has been stellar thus far, just missing his second season with thirty home runs and thirty steals by three home runs last season. He has led baseball in Wins Above Replacement in each of those seasons. To make it even more frightening for the opposition, Trout appears to be getting even better. He led the American League in walks last year while cutting down on his strikeouts. Despite hitting fewer home runs last season, his OPS+ improved to 179, up from his mark of 168 last season. It would appear as though the sky is the limit.
It also goes to show how special a player Mike Trout is. At this point, the comparisons paint a picture of a player that is seemingly destined to become a perennial All-Star at worst, and potentially one of the all time greats. Trout, if he continues his career arc, would be a player that we would be telling our grandchildren about, the same way our grandfathers spoke of seeing Mantle and Williams.
Yet, is it fair to entertain such thoughts? Trout is still a very young player, and anything could happen. This may possibly be his peak already, and he could slowly fade into a serviceable major league player, not the superstar that he presently is, much like what happened to Vada Pinson. Or he could be beset by injuries, and unable to reach his potential.
Either way, Mike Trout has already shown that he is a special ballplayer. He would be the cornerstone of any franchise, a player that any team would love to have. It is a joy to watch Trout play the game, as everything seems to come so effortlessly. Although he is facing the best players in the world, he makes baseball seem easy in every facet of the game.
Right now, it is far to early to be comparing Mike Trout to the likes of Mantle, Williams and Aaron. However, when his career is over, he may well find himself as a member of that elite company.