It was not long ago that Mike Trout was just another prospect. Sure, he had a tremendous set of tools and put up gaudy numbers in the Minors, but plenty of players in the same situation never amount to anything in the Major Leagues. Now, just two seasons into the 22-year-old’s career, the name Trout is synonymous with greatness. While the sample-size is still small, no player has ever accomplished what Mike Trout has in his first two seasons, and if he shows some durability and plays at the same level, he could go down as the best player in the long history of the game.
Trout did not make the Angels’ roster out of spring training in 2012. However, after hitting .403 in 20 games at AAA, he was called up to the Majors at the end of April. He immediately proved his worth, posting a .324/.385/.556 in the month of May with five home runs and eight stolen bases in 27 games. In June, he was even better, as shown by his .372/.419/.531 line. Fans believed that he had reached his peak, but he had a more preposterous July. In 25 games, Trout hit 10 home runs, drove in 23 runs, stole nine bases, and accumulated a .392/.455/.804 slash line. In the span of three months, Mike Trout had gone from being a Minor Leaguer to a legitimate MVP contender in the American League. At the end of the year, in just 139 games, Trout hit 30 home runs, stole 49 bases, scored 129 runs, and posted a .963 OPS. According to Baseball Reference, Trout racked up 10.8 Wins Above Replacement (WAR), meaning that he earned the Angels nearly 11 wins on his own accord. Although he lost the AL MVP to Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout established himself as one of baseball’s best players after just five months in the Majors.
2013 came with much more fanfare for the young outfielder, but he played on the same ridiculous level. In 157 games, Trout posted a .323/.432/.557 line while hitting 27 home runs, stealing 33 bases, and driving in 97 runs. One area of improvement for Trout between 2012 and 2013 was his patience. He walked in 10.5% of his plate appearances in his rookie season while that number jumped to 15.4% in ’13. Somehow, Trout found a way to improve upon his obscene 2012, and even though he finished runner-up to Miguel Cabrera in the MVP race once again, he solidified his place as the best player in baseball. At just 22-years-old, Mike Trout has enjoyed an unprecedented level of success in his first two seasons, and his production in 2014 suggests that he could be considered the best player in baseball’s rich history.
Mike Trout has been incredible in the first month of 2014. According to Fangraphs, his 2.5 WAR is the best in the MLB, just ahead of Troy Tulowitzki’s 2.3 clip. In 27 games, Trout has 16 extra-base hits, 18 RBI, and an OPS of exactly 1.000. Miguel Cabrera had a rough April, so Trout could finally win his long-awaited MVP.
It is hard to believe that any player could be as good as Mike Trout at such a young age. There were claims that Trout’s rookie season was a fluke, but after showing up as the exact same player in 2013, he quieted most doubters. With another MVP-caliber season, Trout will already be considered as one of the best in the long history of the game. The only recent player with a similar career path was Trout’s current teammate, Albert Pujols. In 2001, Pujols burst onto the scene as a 21-year-old and finished fourth place in the NL MVP race. For the next decade, Pujols continued his dominance for the Cardinals, as he finished No. 3 or higher in the MVP race in all but two seasons. Pujols was incredible and consistent, but Mike Trout has already been better than Pujols ever was. If he is able to keep up the same level of production for a decade, Trout will join the immortal ranks of Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, and Willie Mays. Right now, there are no signs that suggest that Trout is slowing down, so get ready, record books.
Commentary by Jough Brasch