When Mike Trout came up to the big leagues, he was the most talked about prospect from the Los Angeles Angels' minor league system since Jered Weaver. His numbers in the minor leagues were video game-like. He was and still is on the verge of being universally recognized as one of the best players of all time.
There is no question in anyone’s mind about that. The numbers have begun to dip the past few years. The main factors all come down to Trout seeing more pitches, his ability to let the ball travel in the zone, and his ability to produce at a high level, all without needing to be in the middle of the order.
Look back to your Little League days. Who always led off for your team? Ok, don’t say the “coach’s son,” which is sometimes true, but it usually was your best overall hitter. I didn’t say your best power hitter. Mike Trout wasn’t known for his power. His power came when he hit the ball consistently and hit the ball hard the other way.
In 2013, Trout had 110 walks. In 2015, he hit 14 home runs to the opposite field, occasionally in a home ballpark with a massive right field fence. Last year, he hit four with a shorter fence, and walked only 45 times. True, in 2015 he had Albert Pujols behind him, but last year, he had Shohei Ohtani, so protection can’t be the problem. The protection improved. So, what is the problem?
Angels need to let Mike Trout be Mike Trout
I believe it comes down to hitting the ball where it’s pitched. In his early years, he wasn’t expected to hit home runs. His approach was always to get on base, however he could. He wanted to produce, and producing wasn’t always about hitting the ball out of the ballpark. Mike Trout was on the verge of having over 200 strikeouts in a season for the first time in 2023 until he got hurt. The injury might have been a blessing in disguise. He was the face of the United States National Team in the World Baseball Classic last year. When Trout is put in those kind of situations for the first time, he’s proven he needs time to adjust. The problem with that now is that baseball wants home runs, the shock and awe of it all. Torii Hunter and Albert Pujols weren’t as talented as Shohei Ohtani, but Trout learned much more from them than he did from Ohtani.
As a fan, I'd rather him get on base in big situations, especially now that Ron Washington is the Angels manager. Washington believes in the fundamentals. Trout just needs to step back, relax, do what he did when he was younger, and learn from others, even if their talent might be inferior to his. Be you and don't try to appease everyone!
We will see if he returns to true, Mike Trout form in 2024, and if he is used in a way that is best for the club as a whole. Can he step up to that leadership role? Can he stay healthy?