By David Heck, Special to CBS Local Sports
CBS Local Sports will be profiling one young player from each Major League Baseball team every day for the next 30 days as part of our “30 Players 30 Days” spring training feature.
Mike Trout, Outfielder, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
2012 season: 139 G, 559 AB, .326 BA, 30 HR, 83 RBI, 129 R, 49 SB, .963 OPS
Heading into the 2012 season, many pundits had Mike Trout ranked as the top prospect in baseball – even ahead of Bryce Harper, a player who’s been getting hype since he was an adolescent. But even the most bullish analysts never would have predicted the level at which Trout performed last year.
Simply put, Trout was the best player in the game in 2012. He hit for average, he hit for power, he took a good number of walks, he ran the bases exceedingly well and he played strong defense. Everybody knew there was power potential there, but the thought that he would hit 30 homers as a 20-year-old was beyond most. Everybody knew he was incredibly fast, too, but 49 steals in 54 attempts is something that few would have dared to predict.
Coming off such an impressive season at such a young age, it’s fair to ask what Trout will do – and what he possibly could do – as an encore. On the one hand, it seems that the sky is the limit. He makes contact at a pretty high rate (81.6% last year) and is so fast that it’s easy to project him hitting around .300 again. His speed likely isn’t going to diminish at such a young age, so one could expect strong defense and baserunning numbers again. He’s young and still putting on muscle, so if anything, one might argue that his home run total will only increase.
That, of course, is a pretty optimistic view. It’s not unreasonable, though, which is what makes Trout so special.
Still, it’s more than possible that Trout won’t be able to put up the numbers that he did last year – not because he’s not good, but just because that season was so good. Any time someone puts up numbers of that caliber, there’s reason to be skeptical that it will happen again. Trout had never hit more than 17 longballs in a season before, so his power might fall off a bit this year. Teams also have full scouting reports on him now and are very aware of his game, which means he probably won’t be quite as successful on the basepaths.
Even if Trout regressed in those areas, though, he’d still be in the conversation as one of the best players in baseball. He brings so much to the table and is a threat in so many ways that it’s hard to see him dropping off much of a cliff. He put up MVP numbers last year but didn’t win because Miguel Cabrera hit for the first Triple Crown since 1967. That probably won’t happen again this year. At season’s end, look for Trout to be taking home some serious hardware: an All-Star appearance, a possible MVP award and – with Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton on his team – maybe even a World Series trophy.
Next up on March 12: Texas Rangers