Clearly, Mike Trout hasn't gotten enough press for my liking.
With that aside, this post is not concerned with the keeper value of Mike Trout (clearly it's off-the-charts) or whether he's going to be worthy of a first round draft pick as early as 2013 (too early to tell right now, but leaning towards yes). We're going to focus instead on where his value is for the remainder of the 2012 season.
In case you've been living under a rock which sits directly under a much bigger rock, here are Mike Trout's 2012 numbers projected out for a 150-game season (through Sunday's games, like all stats in this post):
.350 avg, 19 HR, 92 RBI, 127 R, 50 SB
Just drink that in for a minute. If you got those numbers out of Carl Crawford in his prime, you'd be beyond thrilled. If you got those numbers out of Jacoby Ellsbury this year, you'd be ecstatic. And for those of you who want to see a more "realistic" and "computer-generated" interpretation of Mike Trout's season, here is Mike Trout's ZIPS projection on that same 150-game time horizon, which takes into account the stats he's already accumulated:
.301 avg, 16 HR, 77 RBI, 115 R, 43 SB
Personally, I think that's light and we'll get into why. Stay tuned for more failed wet blanket moments after the jump..
A cursory look at his underlying stats will show some interesting quirks, especially for a rookie - but let's start with the number that will jump off the page to all of the boys who cry regression. We all know that a .410 BABIP should not be a sustainable feat. Yet, before we jump to the conclusion that we're really looking at a .270-.280 hitter, rather than the .350 hitter we've seen, let's check one more thing out first. Here are Trout's BABIP's in the minor leagues (.423, .444, .420, .346, .390, .476). Now I freely admit that minor league BABIP's are not particularly useful on their own, but Trout does have a .402 BABIP in 1,117 minor league at-bats. Some of that is because of his crazy speed. Some of that is from his ability to barrel the ball extremely well. And some of that is from luck. Last year, Matt Kemp tied for the major league lead in BABIP at .380 and has a .353 mark for his career. Mike Trout can not only do this, but has upside for slightly more as he's a faster runner than Kemp. So while this doesn't mean he'll hit .350 for his career, I see no reason he should not hit over .300, and now.
You'd also expect a rookie to struggle against major-league quality pitching at first, right? Well, for starters, Trout has a swinging strike rate of 5.5% in 2012, which is well below the MLB average of 8.8%. He's also swinging at only 25.6% of pitches outside the strike zone, compared to the MLB average of 29.9%. On top of that, he's improving as the season has gone on. In May, Trout struck out 28 times in 122 plate appearances, good for a 23.0% clip. So far in June, Trout only has 4 strikeouts in 43 plate appearances, which is good for a 9.3% clip. Obviously, this is a small sample (especially since we're just shy of two weeks into June), but it's a note in his growing file.
Right now, Trout is the 22nd overall player on the ESPN player rater and he didn't make his debut until April 28th. If you take his counting stats (batting average excluded) and pro-rate them out to see where he would be if he had been with the club from the start the season, he'd be the 6th most valuable fantasy player. The only players who would rank ahead of him would be Josh Hamilton, CarGo, Ryan Braun, Adam Jones and Jason Kipnis. And bear in mind, this assumes that Trout would have had a league average batting average (~.258) for the additional 25 games that he did not play in, not his current .350 average.
The big money question is where should he be ranked right now. Here is the full list of guys I would want ahead of Mike Trout for the rest of 2012 ONLY: Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols, Matt Kemp, Ryan Braun, Josh Hamilton, Carlos Gonzalez, Adam Jones, Andrew McCutchen and Joey Votto. Which if you do that math right, means that I have him ranked 10th in all of fantasy the rest of the way. Notable names that I'd rather have Trout than would include Justin Upton, Jose Bautista, Troy Tulowitski, Robinson Cano, David Wright, and any pitcher (but you already knew I'd say that).
At Baseball Prospectus, Kevin Goldstein puts a "Fantasy Impact" sentence for each of the prospects he writes up as part of his Top 11's and the sentence for Trout's scouting report was a simple one. "He's a potential first overall pick," said Goldstein. Right now, we are all watching his development towards that. And damn if that's not exciting.
(Editor's Note: After completing this article, Trout went on to go 2-4 with a HR, 2 RBI, 2 R and 2 SB last night against the Dodgers. This monster game now makes him the 12th most valuable fantasy player overall (up from 22nd the previous day) and moves his pro-rated rank from 6th to 2nd, just behind Josh Hamilton. Ridiculous.)
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