What If Mike Trout Stumbles?

TroutMike 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)

Trout1One 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.

But…what if this is the peak? What if something happens to hold back his career? An injury, like Tony Conigliaro? A failure to live up to his own hype, like Fred Lynn?

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:

Year Age G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1975 23 145 528 103 175 47 7 21 105 10 62 90 .331 .401 .566 .967
1976 24 132 507 76 159 32 8 10 65 14 48 67 .314 .367 .467 .835
1977 25 129 497 81 129 29 5 18 76 2 51 63 .260 .327 .447 .774
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/13/2013.

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.

Trout2Ryan 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.

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5 Comments

MLB BABIP average may be .300, but for great players that number is always much higher. Trout’s BABIP has been higher at every level, I’m thinking it’s more him than other factors. Probably drops to .340ish which will still leave his BA in the .300s.

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.420 in Low-A in 2010, .346 in High-A, .390 in Double-A in 2011, .476 in Triple-A in 2012…
If it weren’t for the .247 he had in his 135 plate appearances with the Angels in 2011, he has never had a slip in his #’s.
Still, if he slips in AVG and increases his power numbers, he could pull some Eric Davis-like #’s with 30 HR/50 SB…COULD!!!

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As the guys above me stated Trout has always had a pretty high BABIP so based on the evidence you can’t assume he will regress to the mean because based on his body of work in the Minors and Majors. He will probably regress to a .340-.350 range which although that is much lower than his 2012 .383 it easily leaves enough room for him the be a low .300 hitter with a regression.

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