The case for Pujols
While it’s hard for some Angels fans to remember, Albert Pujols was Mike Trout before Mike Trout. From 2002 to 2006, he finished either first or second in MVP voting every single year. It was clear who the best player in the game was back then, just like it is today with Trout.
Over his first seven seasons in the majors, Pujols hit 81 more home runs, drove in an extra 300 RBIs, batted nearly 30 points higher, and struck out almost 450 times less than Trout did over his first seven years as a pro.
While Trout has built up an impressive trophy case, Pujols won two significant achievements by the time he was a seventh year player that Trout still hasn’t earned. Pujols won a Gold Glove Award in 2006, and a batting title in 2003.
From 2003 to 2006, Pujols was an absolute machine at the plate, his slugging unmatched by any four-year stretch by Trout. During those four seasons, the first baseman from the Dominican Republic hit 40+ home runs each season, while batting .338 with a .650 slugging percentage.
While the number of their respective postseason appearances is largely out of their control, Pujols has also proven to be a clutch hitter when it matters most. He won the NLCS MVP in 2004 with a .500 batting average and four home runs. He batted over .300 in eight of his first eleven postseason series. Meanwhile, Trout, in his lone playoff appearance in 2014, struggled, going 1-12 in a series loss to the Kansas City Royals.
If you had to choose one player in their prime to start a team, Albert Pujols would give you a prolific hitter, with a golden first base glove, and the ability to put you over the top in a postseason series.