Mike Trout had, possibly, the greatest season that any rookie could have ever had in 2012. Taking into consideration that Trout didn’t play in his first game with the Los Angeles Angels until April 28 and he only played in 139 games while compiling:
- 129 Runs (1st in MLB)
- 49 Stolen Bases (1st in MLB)
- 10.7 WAR (1st in MLB)
- .326 Batting Average (2nd in the AL)
- .564 Slugging Percentage (3rd in the AL)
- .399 On-Base Percentage (3rd in the AL)
- .963 OPS (2nd in the AL)
- 171 OPS+ (1st in the AL)
- 315 Total Bases (6th in the AL)
One All-Star Game, One Silver Slugger, One Rookie of the Year, and finishing 2nd in the AL MVP voting, if only because Miguel Cabrera won the first Triple Crown in 45 years, were just icing on the cake for Trout.
When you look at player ratings all over the internet, whether it’s ESPN, CBS Sports, or Sports Illustrated, Mike Trout is right at the top. Is he really a top five player in fantasy baseball? In “real” baseball?
Clearly, it was hard to see many flaws in the 2012 season that Trout completed, but consider this:
- Trout’s BABIP was .383. Considering that the “normal” BABIP is .300, this figure is highly inflated.
- Trout’s strikeout rate was 21.8 percent. When you look at Albert Pujols and his career 9.6 percent career rate, Ryan Braun and his 17.9 percent career rate, Miguel Cabrera and his 17.1 percent career rate, or Josh Hamilton and his 19.7 percent career rate, and you have to wonder if Trout can maintain success if he isn’t getting lucky with where the ball lands (see his inflated BABIP) and he isn’t making contact.
- Can his speed last a full season and can he stay healthy in a full season, based on how everyone has seen him play? Trout managed 22 infield hits in 2012. If you take those away, due to a leg or foot injury, Trout would have hit .286.
It seems very unrealistic to expect that Trout will only improve on his numbers from 2012 going forward. The last Rookie of the Year to win the MVP, Fred Lynn, had some struggles in his career. Take a look at his first three seasons:
Lynn was a tremendous talent, returning to glory in 1979, when he posted a .333/.423/.637 line, with 42 doubles, 39 home runs, and 122 RBI for Boston, but prior to that, he regressed significantly from his rookie year production.
Fred Lynn never lived up to the hype that he created in his dynamic rookie season, despite being a very productive player, being eliminated from the Hall of Fame ballot after his second year of eligibility, after receiving just 4.7 percent of the vote in 1997.
Calling Mike Trout the next Fred Lynn is not an insult, as anyone who plays 17 seasons and is a part of nine All-Star games is a fantastic player. The issue is that Mike Trout has unrealistic expectations being placed on him going into the 2013 season. Bill James has Trout going:
.325/.402/.564 with 122 runs, 30 home runs, 87 RBI, and 53 stolen bases, while maintaining an inflated .379 BABIP.
Ryan Braun, Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, Josh Hamilton, Derek Jeter, and Robinson Cano should be expected to maintain their career norms, but fantasy baseball players could be making a huge mistake by taking Trout 1st overall in 2013. While the skills and tools are there for the 21-year-old to continue thriving and become a future Hall of Famer, he will need to repeat his 2012 numbers for several seasons before being labeled the top player in baseball.
Is he the most exciting player in baseball…absolutely. Should everyone subscribe to MLB.TV to have an opportunity to tune in a few times per season…definitely. Are we asking too much for a 21-year-old to become the face of an entire league…without question.