Compiled by Matt Eddy, John Manuel and J.J. Cooper
Angels center fielder Mike Trout may be the most decorated player in the history of Baseball America—and he only turned 22 in August.
He won Minor League Player of the Year honors while at Double-A Arkansas in 2011, the same year he made his big league debut. An incendiary rookie season for the Angels in 2012—he led the American League with 49 steals and 129 runs scored despite spending April in Triple-A—earned him the nod as both our Rookie and Major League Player of the Year.
What could he possibly have in store for an encore?
According to the Baseball-Reference advanced metric Wins Above Replacement, Trout was nearly as valuable in 2013 (9.2 WAR) as he had been in 2012 (10.9). He nearly matched his batting and slugging averages, while boosting his on-base percentage by some 30 points in 2013. He again led the AL in runs (109) while also drawing the most walks (110) and batting .323/.432/.557 with 27 homers, 39 doubles, nine triples and 33 steals.
For his all-around blend of excellence, we once again bestow Major League Player of the Year honors on Trout. He edges out worthy challengers such as Dodgers lefthander Clayton Kershaw, the major league ERA champion in each of the past three seasons, and Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera, the three-years-running AL batting champ who actually improved on his 2012 Triple Crown showing this season.
While Trout may be the most talented position player in the majors today, he famously fell to the 25th pick in the 2009 draft as teams struggled to get good looks at the Millville, N.J., prep phenom. Here, in their own words, prominent members of the scouting community reflect on Trout’s rise to prominence.
Marlins Vice President of Scouting
“I went and saw him as an amateur, and when I saw him he looked like the same guy physically we see now, but he just has gone out and gotten better and better. That’s the most amazing part about him. He’s just exciting in everything he does, just a really special player.
“Of course our area guy was screaming for him, but when I saw him, and I saw him four or five times I want to say, he just mis-hit a lot of balls, even in batting practice. There were times his swing would look a little stiff, and his swing wasn’t quite what it is now. He could always really run and was always impressive with his makeup.
“If you drafted 2009 all over again, I know he’d go one-one. I mean look at 2011, the way things fell, everyone thought (Dylan) Bundy and (Archie) Bradley were the top high school pitchers, but we got Jose Fernandez where we got him (No. 14), so sometimes that’s just how things go.”
Red Sox Pro Scouting Consultant
“The kid has played two wonderful years. I hate to put too much on him—that’s probably not fair—to think what he could do for 15 years. It’s probably not good to compare him to people like (Mickey) Mantle or (Willie) Mays yet until he’s done it for 10-15 years.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
|2012||Mike Trout, of, Angels|
|2011||Matt Kemp, of, Dodgers|
|2010||Roy Halladay, rhp, Phillies|
|2009||Joe Mauer, c, Twins|
|2008||C.C. Sabathia, lhp, Indians/Brewers|
|2007||Alex Rodriguez, 3b, Yankees|
|2006||Johan Santana, lhp, Twins|
|2005||Albert Pujols, 1b, Cardinals|
|2004||Barry Bonds, of, Giants|
|2003||Barry Bonds, of, Giants|
|2002||Alex Rodriguez, ss, Rangers|
|2001||Barry Bonds, of, Giants|
|2000||Alex Rodriguez, ss, Mariners|
|1999||Pedro Martinez, rhp, Red Sox|
|1998||Mark McGwire, 1b, Cardinals|
“I only saw him once in high school (while scouting for the Cubs), but when I did, I saw him run over the catcher. I thought to myself, ‘This guy is risking a lot!’
“Everyone knew he was a first-round pick. His tools, I mean the speed was obvious, but it was more the aggressive play and the work he put into it. He was really exciting to watch even then.
“If you re-did that (2009) draft, even with (Stephen) Strasburg, no doubt 30 out of 30 would take Trout one-one every time.
“(His power is) not a surprise, but I am surprised that it has come along to the extent that it has. It’s not like he plays in a small park. But after the last two years of seeing that package of tools, nothing should surprise us.
“Ken Griffey Jr. is probably the highest OFP (overall future potential grade) I’ve ever had. The game was just so easy for him, and he was just the best kid I’ve seen at that age. Alex Rodriguez had to be pretty high—he was a man against boys in high school.
“I still think it’s unfair to (Trout) to put him on the mountain yet. Mays is the best player I saw. I’ve been doing this 48 years, and no, he doesn’t remind me of Mays. Mays’ instincts were better than anybody who ever played.
“That WAR thing, maybe somebody will sit down and explain it to me, because it sounds complicated. But if it says Trout is the best ballplayer in the big leagues, then there’s something to it.”
Cubs Special Assistant to the General Manager
“I can’t compare him to Mays or Mantle, because I was just a kid. But he has such physicality, I think it dulls the viewer’s perspective. He just overpowers everything. And that’s true of his instincts, too. I think his instincts are decent, but he’s just so physical, that’s what dominates the picture. I see solid instincts, pretty good first-step quickness, and his baserunning is pretty good. It’s hard to knock the instincts.
“Some baseball people will tell you that you can’t learn instincts, but to me there’s two kinds of instincts, the natural, which he’s got plenty, and the other kind that comes through experience and time. These guys do learn stuff. That’s what he can do.
“We nitpick. It’s what we do in my profession. He’s so good, we have to nitpick things. The old adage of course is that power is the last to come, and I think we thought that would be the case with (Trout). But about the only guy who’s hit more than him at a similar age is Tony (Conigliaro). You have to go to the all-time greats though to find people who have done what he has done.”
Diamondbacks Special Assistant and Major League Scout
“He’s not built like him, but (Trout’s) as close to Mickey Mantle as anyone I’ve ever seen.
“I saw Mickey at the end of his career. Mickey could run, throw, hit for power—but Trout’s bigger than Mickey.
“Mickey, they say, was one of the fastest. Trout’s the fastest guy in the big leagues and he’s a big strong guy. He gets to first base in under four seconds flat from the right side, and he’s got big raw power. His best years are still ahead of him.
“Great job by the Angels scouting him.”
|POWER, SPEED & PATIENCE|
|Few players have combined extra-base power, stolen-base volume and plate discipline like Mike Trout did in 2013. He became the 10th member of an exclusive group of players to accumulate 70 extra-base hits, 30 stolen bases and 100 walks in the same season. The complete list, in chronological order:|
|THE BEST YOUNG HITTER EVER?|
|Mike Trout made his big league debut as a 19-year-old on July 8, 2011, and while he hit just .220 over 40 games as a first-year player, his youth has been the most remarkable aspect of his excellence in 2012 and ’13. In fact, baseball has not seen a batter race to such a fast start through his age-21 season since the dawn of the game’s Integration Era in 1947. Trout has produced more runs batting than the average player—Rbat being the offensive component of Baseball-Reference’s WAR metric—than any member of his peer group in the past 67 seasons, dramatically out-producing even the best Hall of Famers who debuted at early ages, such as Mickey Mantle, Al Kaline and Frank Robinson.|
|7||Ken Griffey Jr.||1989-91||Mariners||19-21||.299||.367||.479||62|
|8||Tony Conigliaro||1964-66||Red Sox||19-21||.273||.339||.508||56|