Mike Trout: The Purloined Draft Pick

Jared Wickerham

If you were searching for a regression candidate in 2013, where do you think he would be hidden? How about in plain sight.? With apologies to Poe, this Dupin looks at some players that should be drafted before Mike Trout, and an alternative strategy, those passing on him, can live with next year.

I knew it had to be there. I'd looked all afternoon, but to no avail. Every year I lose to Linda in the league, but not this year. I'd find her first round plans and use the knowledge to my advantage. I didn't have much time. I had to think. If I wanted to hide my first round draft strategy, where would I hide it. I needed to sit down and rest for five minutes. Clear my head. It was then I noticed a plain brown envelope on the coffee table, marked TOP SECRET. How could I have missed that? Then I noticed the lettering was not perfectly centered. She knew my weakness, but had not counted on my tired state. I carefully opened it and spread out the contents. Miggy. That's a given. Braun. OK. Trout. Mike Trout? No way. Sure he had a great rookie season. I can't remember a better rookie season. But there's no way she'd fall for those flashy freshman stats. He's a great ball player, and last year's fantasy-hero. He'll have first round value again, but not in 2013.

Player development. She knows this game. She's going to buy linear player development? No way. Baseball isn't played in a vacuum. Freshman phenom lights it up; pitchers adjust; he adjusts. Once it all works itself out, Trout will be a first rounder, but how long will that take? A season? Even if the adjustment takes less time, will his stats catch up by the end of the season, to make him worth the first round pick? It took Pujols two months to adjust to a new home and a new league last year. All of a sudden she thinks Trout can adjust faster than Pujols? And regression. She knows regression. She couldn't have forgotten Ellsbury.

I have to think this through. Where do I start? Speed. He has crazy speed. And he makes the most of his opportunities. He makes decent contact. Not great, but not bad. And he'll take a base on balls. Last year he walked over 10% of the time. That's great plate patience for someone so young. But is he going to hit .326 again? Maybe. Probably. But I don't think he will next year. What happens when the pitching adjusts? Does he press at the plate? I don't know. We haven't seen him go through adversity; just the dream-season. She's going to draft that uncertainty in the first round?

And the power? Where did that come from? Where in his minor league history is there anything to support another 30 home run season? The most he hit in the minors was 17 in 2011. Gotta regress. I'll buy 12 or 14; tops.

Put it all together. I'm all in on the speed. But what about the opportunities? I can't believe anyone who struck out 21+% last year, even with the speed and plate patience, going against pitchers who have a whole off-season to make adjustments, will bat .326 again. When everything is all said and done, I'll go .285; maybe .290. He'll bat .300 again, but I can't believe it will be next year. And what will that do to his stolen base opportunities? They have to go down. 40? 45? He'll score plenty of runs in that lineup, but the stolen base logic applies here, too. Less chances means less runs. 90+? OK. But not much more. And all of these projections are based on less than a season of experience, so who knows how reliable these, or any, will be, by the end of 2013?

So where does that put Trout in 2013 drafts? All the hype is going to put him in the first round. Probably top three. But not for Linda. I'm not buying it. In the outfield there's Braun, CarGo, and McCutchen. She'll take all of them before Trout. I'll even throw Hamilton and maybe even Kemp coming off an injury, in that group. She wants me to believe she's going to draft four months of stats over the steadiness of those guys? And speaking of steady, what about Holliday or Jones? They may not end up with the stats that Trout will, but I would have to think awfully hard about picking the upside of Trout over the proven abilities of those two. Granderson? The batting average is tough to live with. Trout will top that by 40 points, but the counting stats are worth a look. Draft Granderson, take the sure counting stats, and draft a Prado later. She was probably going to draft Prado, anyway. Would be just like her. She knows I love Prado.

And those were just the outfielders. Votto, Fielder, Pujols, Cano, Cabrera, Wright, Reyes. All proven. All quality. Even coming off injuries, Tulo and Bautista need to be considered. She'd be giving up some proven power hitters to take Trout that early. Quality power, not the kind that comes with a .220 batting average, is tough to find, and nearly impossible to trade for. Speed? I can get speed later in the draft, and trade power for speed, in-season. What about pitchers? Verlander, Kershaw, Weaver. All first round possibilities. She knows how important it is to get it right in the first round. There are too many questions that will not be answered until the end of 2013, to draft Trout over so many proven commodities. Round two in a fifteen team mixed league? OK. I'll bite. But not round one.

Then it hit me. What if this was all a ruse? What if she intended for that envelope to be found? Did I fall into a carefully laid trap? Come into my parlor said the fantasy draftess. All of a sudden, my mind was racing. I needed time to think. I had to get out of there, but I had to be careful not to leave any traces of my visit. I carefully replaced the contents in the envelope and then wrote "This was not opened" across the back, to fool her. She'll never know I, or anyone, was here. I needed coffee. I needed to think. (To be continued)

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