Much of the baseball focus over the past few months has been on the slowly developing free agent landscape. With pitchers and catchers set to report in just a couple of weeks, focus will return to the players donning uniforms.
Fans will be excited to see young players in their first full year of action, like Braves second baseman Ozzie Albies. Similarly, heralded prospects like Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna are expected to make their debuts during the 2018 season. Some players, like Giancarlo Stanton, switched uniforms and it’ll be exciting to see how they perform in their new digs. Others, like Aaron Judge, are looking to build off of a breakout performance in 2017. Still others, like Mark Trumbo and Maikel Franco, are looking to bounce back from disappointing campaigns last year.
The player no one is really talking about going into the 2018 season is Angels outfielder Mike Trout. Rest assured, however, we certainly will be talking about him throughout the season and again when it’s time to vote on and hand out awards. Trout is so consistently good that it’s become rote. He was on his way to his third AL MVP Award last season until he suffered a torn UCL in his left thumb, forcing him to undergo surgery that kept him out until mid-July. It seems like acts of god are the only thing that can hold Trout back.
How good is Trout? Accomplishments through his age-25 season:
- 2012 AL Rookie of the Year Award winner
- 2014 and ’16 AL Most Valuable Player Award winner
- Six consecutive All-Star nominations (2012-17)
- Five consecutive Silver Slugger Awards (2012-16)
- Five consecutive top-two finishes in AL MVP Award balloting (2012-16), finished fourth in injury-shortened 2017
- In fewer than 1,000 career games: 201 HR, 569 RBI, 692 runs, 165 stolen bases, .976 OPS (172 OPS+)
- Led majors in runs (2012, ‘14, ’16), stolen bases (’12), walks (’16), on-base percentage (’16), and OPS (’17)
- Led AL in runs (’13), RBI (’14), walks (’13), OBP (’17), slugging percentage (’15, ’17), and OPS (’15)
- Led majors in WAR in 2012-14 and ’16 according to both B-R and FanGraphs WAR
55.2 career WAR (Baseball Reference) is more than 2018 Hall of Fame inductees Trevor Hoffman (28.0) and Jack Morris (43.8), and nearly greater than that of Vladimir Guerrero (59.3).
Among the 213 position players already enshrined in the Hall of Fame, Trout would rank 86th in WAR (B-R).
Trout is one of three position players to accrue 50 or more WAR (B-R) through his age-25 season. The others: Ty Cobb (55.8) and Mickey Mantle (52.2).
If Trout averages 5 WAR (B-R) per season over the next four years (he has averaged 9.1 in his six full seasons thus far), he’ll be over 75 WAR, which would place him 37th all-time among Hall of Fame position players. If he averages 4 WAR per season through his age-35 season, he would have approximately 95 WAR which would rank him 22nd all-time among position players. That’s just behind Cal Ripken, Jr. (95.5) and Roberto Clemente (94.5). Only 17 Hall of Fame position players have 100-plus WAR. Trout needs to only modestly beat the rather conservative averages I’ve presented to become No. 18.
Trout has had four seasons in which he has accrued 9 or more WAR (B-R). He’s one of 14 players to accomplish the feat. The only players to have done it more often are Babe Ruth (10 times), Barry Bonds (eight), Willie Mays (eight), Rogers Hornsby (eight), Ted Williams (six), Cobb (six), and Lou Gehrig (five).
With 201 career home runs, Trout is one of eight players to rack up 200 or more home runs through his age-25 season. The others: Alex Rodriguez (241), Eddie Mathews (222), Jimmie Foxx (222), Mel Ott (211), Mantle (207), Frank Robinson (202), and Albert Pujols (201).
Trout and Rodriguez are the only players to hit at least 150 home runs and steal at least 150 bases through his age-25 season. If we lower the threshold to 125/125, only Vada Pinson and Darryl Strawberry join the list. 100/100 has 10 total players, including Trout.
Since 1980, the only players to have led the league in OPS at least once by the end of their age-25 season (min. 500 PA) are Trout (’15, ’17), Bryce Harper (2015), Paul Goldschmidt (’13), John Olerud (1993), Frank Thomas (’91-92), Bonds (’90), Fred McGriff (’89), and Don Mattingly (’86).
Trout (571) is one of seven players to draw at least 500 walks through his age-25 season. The others are Mantle (670), Ott (622), Eddie Yost (620), Mathews (561), Foxx (556), and Rickey Henderson (520).
The 2018 season will bring us many opportunities, but chief among them is the chance to watch Trout, one of the greatest baseball players of all time in the midst of a first-ballot Hall of Fame career. If he can stay healthy, he’s money in the bank for another top-two finish in AL MVP Award balloting and he’ll almost certainly earn his seventh consecutive All-Star nomination. Not too shabby for a guy entering his seventh full season in the majors.