Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper is getting all sorts of attention for doing things rarely done by 19-year-old hitters, and rightfully so, but Angels outfielder Mike Trout probably deserves a little more attention for doing things rarely done by 20-year-old hitters.
Trout doubled and drove in two runs against the Yankees last night and is now hitting .303 with a .366 on-base percentage and .521 slugging percentage in 30 games. That includes five homers, seven doubles, and two triples in 119 at-bats, plus eight steals in 10 attempts and some spectacular outfield defense.
Sure, he’s a year older and that’s a big part of the attention gap, but Trout tops Harper in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage while running more and being more valuable with his glove.
Trout’s current .887 OPS would be the highest by any 20-year-old since Alex Rodriguez in 1996 and in the entire history of baseball only Rodriguez, Mel Ott, Ted Williams, Al Kaline, Jimmie Foxx, Frank Robinson, and Mickey Mantle have posted a higher OPS at age 20 while qualifying for the batting title.
Trout has a long way to go to maintain that production for an entire season, but all seven of those guys are either in the Hall of Fame or will be some day. He might not get as much attention as Harper right now, but Trout has played even better and what he’s doing at age 20 is pretty incredible.
With the 2017 World Baseball Classic around the corner, Team Israel has reportedly reached out to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Tournament rules stipulate that a player’s roster eligibility can be achieved in one of several ways: they were born in the country in question or hold citizenship/permanent legal residence there (or are simply capable of qualifying for citizenship), or one of their parents was born in the country or holds citizenship/permanent legal residence there.
For Kipnis, it’s the latter. Kipnis’ father, Mark Kipnis, is Jewish. That gives Kipnis the status he needs to suit up for Team Israel, despite the fact that he is a practicing Roman Catholic. He has yet to confirm or deny his participation in the competition.
Fifteen players have confirmed for Team Israel so far, including Mets’ infielder/outfielder Ty Kelly and free agents Sam Fuld, Nate Freiman, Jason Marquis and Jeremy Bleich. Per MLB.com’s Chad Thornburg, eight minor leaguers will also appear for the team. Like Kipnis, at least three other major leaguers are eligible for Team Israel’s roster but have yet to accept or decline involvement in the WBC: Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson, Mariners infielder/outfielder Danny Valencia and free agent left-hander Craig Breslow.
Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.
Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.
The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.