Tha Sports Junkies 101

Angel or Baseball God? Mike Trout May Be Both

Mike Trout Jentoo2011/Via


Mike Trout

Mike Trout is the greatest player in baseball, but he doesn’t get nearly enough appreciation for it.

Mark Teixeira announced that he will retire from baseball at the end of the season just days ago.  The Yankees received solid value from Teixeira’s contract that started in 2009.  They signed him after his stint in Los Angeles with the Angels, who received a compensation draft pick for losing the all-star first baseman.  If the Yankees could do it all over again though, you can bet that they would like that draft pick back.

With the 25th pick in the 2009 MLB Amateur Draft, the Los Angeles Angels selected outfielder Mike Trout from Millville, NJ.  Trout had a college commitment to East Carolina, but he signed with Los Angeles instead.  Just one pick earlier, the Angels had taken Randal Grichuk, another high school outfielder, with their first selection in the draft.  Seven years later, it’s pretty obvious that Mike Trout shouldn’t have just been the Angels’ first pick; he should have been the first pick overall.

Since his brief, unimpressive stint at the big league level in 2011, Trout has produced legendary numbers.  In 2012, his age-20 season, Trout put up a ridiculous slash line of .326/.399/.564.  He slugged 30 home runs and led the league in runs scored and stolen bases.  Trout also led the league in WAR (Wins Above Replacement) with 10.8.  In the history of baseball, that 10.8 WAR ranks 22nd all-time in a single-season.  Trout is the only player ever to produce a 10 WAR season before turning 22.  He would have captured the MVP in his rookie season if not for Miguel Cabrera‘s Triple Crown campaign.

Going into 2013 with monstrous expectations, Trout easily could’ve fallen victim to the infamous sophomore slump.  But Trout didn’t miss a beat.  His power output was pretty similar to his rookie year- 27 longballs and a .557 slugging percentage.  Trout stole 33 bags and led the league in runs for the second straight season.  He was named to his second all-star team, and again finished second in the MVP voting to (you guessed it) Miguel Cabrera. Falling short of his mythical WAR from 2012, the Millville Meteor settled for 9.3 Wins Above Replacement.

Miguel Cabrera couldn’t be the ultimate offensive juggernaut forever.  In 2014, Trout finally won the Most Valuable Player Award that had eluded him for years.  Oddly enough, you could make a very reasonable argument that 2014 has been Trout’s worst full season with the Angels.  Despite setting career bests in home runs and runs batted in, Trout’s average dropped to .287 and he struck out quite often- 184 punchouts in 157 games.  Nonetheless, Trout deservedly won his first MVP award.  It’s pretty remarkable when a player can hit 36 home runs and drive in 111, yet it was his worst overall season in the big leagues.

Before I get into the 2015 season, I need to dive into the Harper-Trout debate that has been a back and forth argument for years and years.  For those of you who have been sleeping under a rock, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper have been compared since they both emerged as top prospects in 2011. ranked Trout as the best prospect ahead of Harper, while Baseball America pegged Harper as the top minor-leaguer in baseball.  They played side-by-side for Team USA in the 2011 Futures’ Game, and the comparisons were flowing like fine wine.  Harper came up in 2012 and matched Trout by winning the National League Rookie of the Year.  But Harper could never get over the mountain that Mike Trout had climbed on multiple occasions.  Harper started losing intrigue, and Trout kept gaining popularity.  But in 2015, that all changed with one monster season.

In 2015, Bryce Harper finally escaped the shadow of Mike Trout.  Harper produced one of the greatest offensive seasons in the last 50 years on his way to becoming the unanimous National League Most Valuable Player.  After years and years of falling short of Mike Trout, Harper finally had a case that he was the best player in baseball.  The battle for baseball supremacy was just getting started.  It was supposed to be Major League Baseball‘s version of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.  That didn’t last too long.

Mike Trout has put to bed any argument that Bryce Harper is the better player in 2016.  Or maybe Harper did that himself.  So far in 2016, the performances of each former MVP haven’t matched up.  Trout has 21 home runs and 74 RBI’s.  He is hitting at a .316 clip and is getting on base as well as anyone in the American League.  The New Jersey native already has a WAR over 7 with about two months left to play.  Bryce Harper hasn’t followed up his historic season the way many people expected.  Harper has 20 home runs, but he is hitting just .233 for the Nationals.  His 1.5 WAR doesn’t even sniff Trout’s.  2015 may have been merely a mirage as to the player Harper is.  Mike Trout has four full seasons, five if you include this year, that display his consistent dominance in baseball.

It’s pretty obvious that Trout is the best player in baseball today.  And although we never can predict the future, I feel confident in saying that Mike Trout is the best player of his generation.  In fact, he may be the best player in quite some time.  With all due respect to Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, and Albert Pujols, Mike Trout has a pretty solid case that he is the best man to play Major League Baseball in over twenty years.  Through Griffey’s first four full seasons, he accumulated 21.3 WAR.  Rodriguez was worth 28.2 Wins Above Replacement.  Pujols leads the three greats with 29.2.  However, Trout blows them away with his 37.4 WAR from 2012-2015.  Trout might be the best baseball player since Willie Mays.  Yeah, you read that right.

The term five-tool player gets tossed around so much today that it has lost a ton of value.  Mike Trout is truly a five-tool player.  He has a career .306 batting average.  He has a 162 game average of 34 home runs.  He has 130 career stolen bases.  He has made some of the most breathtaking defensive plays in center field, and he has an absolute hose to go along with his flashy leather.

Trout isn’t just a great player on the field, though.  He seemingly never gets into any incidents off of the diamond.  He does charity work and he interacts with his hundreds of thousands of fans.  With all of that being said, it’s hard to put into words just how great Mike Trout really is.  As my title indicates, he is a Baseball God.  But does he really receive the appreciation he deserves?  No, but there is a good reason for that.

Mike Trout plays for the Los Angeles Angels as I mentioned earlier.  Quite frankly, the Angels are not a good baseball team.  They are currently 13 games under .500 this year, even though Mike Trout continues to play at an other-worldly level.  Trout can be the greatest player ever, but nobody will ever see it that way if he doesn’t do what essentially every great athlete eventually does.  Win.

The Angels looked like a real threat to win the 2014 World Series, but then the Kansas City Royals swept them away, totally neutralizing Mike Trout in the process.  Unlike many sports, baseball players cannot produce any results without sufficient performances from teammates.  Mike Trout has always done his part for the Angels, but he can’t go throw a complete-game shutout and hit three home runs too.  He needs a talented supporting cast to succeed.  The issue is that the Los Angeles Angels have a depleted farm system and a lot of money tied up in contracts for aging veterans like Albert Pujols.  So it begs the question, what does Mike Trout’s future hold?

Mike Trout is under contract through the 2020 season.  When he hits the open market as a free agent, the bidding war that will ensue will surpass every contract in the history of Major League Baseball.  Mike Trout is extremely desirable on a multitude of levels.  Forget the fact the he’s the face of baseball.  He is a marketable role-model who is worth the price of admission to any game.  He will sell a ton of jerseys.  He is extremely durable as a ballplayer.  There really isn’t anything not to like about Mike Trout.

The main bidders would be the typical teams that bid on high-priced free agents.  The San Francisco Giants, the Boston Red Sox, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the New York Yankees, and his current club, the Angels, will all be pouring in offers to acquire the legend in the making.  But if I was going to attempt to predict the future, I would say that Mike Trout wants to be somewhere that may not come to the front of your mind.  Mike Trout wants to become the center fielder for the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Phillies may be a dismal team fro right now, but by the time Mike Trout’s contract expires, expect Philadelphia to be back to its winning ways.  Headed by top prospect J.P. Crawford, the Phillies have a deep, highly-ranked farm system.  They also have a nice young core of current big leaguers like Odubel Herrera, Maikel Franco, and Aaron Nola.  In 2020, expect the Phillies to win around 90 games.  As a team that is ready to win, Philadelphia will entice Trout on the basis of team success.

Trout would also be able to continue producing elite offensive numbers as a member of the Phillies.  Trout has raked in Angels Stadium, which has a reputation as a ballpark that favors pitchers.  Citizens Bank Park is the complete opposite.  As Ryan Howard can attest, hitting in Philly has its perks, and Trout’s home runs numbers could climb to a new level.  With sustained power in a smaller stadium, Trout would have a better chance at eclipsing the 600 home run mark, which only seven players have surpassed.

Maybe most importantly, Philadelphia can offer Mike Trout what no other team can; home.  Sure, any team can throw Mike Trout in some big hilltop mansion or a ranch that stretches as far as the eye can see.  But that isn’t Mike Trout’s style.  Trout is a man who values family and a relationship to his roots.  Growing up in southern New Jersey, Trout would only be 40 miles from home.  He openly maintains a very healthy relationship with his family, and a move to Philadelphia would only improve the family interaction.

Right now, it is crazy to imagine Mike Trout in any uniform other than the one he wears in 2016.  The Angels won’t trade Mike Trout.  So for the time being, you shouldn’t picture Mike Trout in another uniform.  He’s an Angel for the foreseeable future.  Come 2020 though, Mike Trout may be looking for a change of scenery.  With a winning culture, a talented nucleus, and a location that no other team can match, Philadelphia is in Mike Trout’s future.