One of the biggest questions facing fantasy owners heading into 2013 is what to make of Mike Trout. Never in the history of Major League Baseball have we seen such a historic rookie campaign and in this instance, we saw it from a player who wasn’t old enough to drink until August of his first season in the league.
In case you live under a rock, to recap his 2012 season, Trout’s line looked like .326/30-83-129-49. Missing an entire month of the season Trout still finished the year as the most valuable fantasy commodity in the league. That’s just insane.
First, let’s look at the “negatives” in terms of projecting 2013:
-Trout had a .383 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) in 2012. That’s an incredibly high number. In most instances, you’d expect a batter to be somewhere in the .300-320 range but we have seen players who can maintain more elevated levels over time (e.g. Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera’s career total is .345). It’s only been one season so it’s too early to say Trout is the type of player who can maintain such an elevated level.
-Trout struck out 139 times which represented a rate of 21.8% of the time. Of all the players who had a K-rate of 20% or higher last year (55 players in total) a grand total of 4 had a batting average of .300 or higher. Torii Hunter was closest at .313.
-In his final 37 games, Trout batted a mere .269. Did pitchers figure something out? Was Trout just fatigued after a long season where he faced the highest level of competition ever? Did he simply fade under the spotlight of all the talk of this being a historic season? Only Trout knows the answer to this question.
So, after looking at the “negatives” what should we expect? Where should he appear on your draft list? My answer is simple. The top.
Remember one thing from 2012. Trout missed the first month of the season so he finished with only 559 at-bats. Clearly he’s going to start 2013 with the big club so I don’t think it’s a stretch to say Trout should get 600-620 at-bats this season. Let’s assume there’s a fair amount of regression to the mean in his second season. Let’s get crazy and say that with an extra 40-60 at-bats this year, Trout does ABSOLUTELY NOTHING from a counting stat perspective. That still has him finishing with 30 homers, 83 RBI, 129 runs and 49 stolen bases. Wouldn’t you sign up for that right now if you could? Then let’s assume his average regresses all the way back to .275 (something I don’t think will happen. I’m projecting Trout to hover right around .300). Even if all those things occur, from a value perspective, Trout will provide the most return in all of baseball based on my projections. How many times in your history as a fantasy owner have you been able to get 30 homers and 40 steals from 1 player? It’s a rare feat. How often have you been able to get it from a player so young that it’s fair to estimate he has a high probability of doing it again? Again, it’s a rare feat. Finally, how many times has it happened when MLB has a drug testing procedure in place in order to catch those using PEDs to achieve these outrageous totals? NEVER BEFORE.
Ryan Braun is a close comparison and Miguel Cabrera and his third base eligibility certainly enters the conversation but the reality is Mike Trout is right there. Even his downside is damn good and to think that he’s only 21 and could potentially get better? That makes him top the list.