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Is Mike Trout the #1 pick in 2015?

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Seems like a silly question, but a recent article written by Tony Blengino offers some concerns with the best player in baseball.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

That seems like a silly question to consider as Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the best player in the game and the slam dunk #1 pick in fantasy drafts in 2015. Easy. He's coming off his third straight MV…..wait…..his FIRST MVP season in 2014, where he hit .287-.377-.561 with 37 home runs, 115 runs scored, 111 RBI and 16 stolen bases. No hitter had a better season than Trout did in 2014, so he will probably be selected as the #1 pick in at least 99% of drafts in a few months.

No reason to question that, right?

Well, if you read Tony Blengino's article over at ESPN a few days ago, there are some concerns in his underlying stats that don't bode well for Trout. Blengino opines Trout could be in for an "off" season if he doesn't change his approach at the plate.

Here is how Blengino opened his piece:

Just how good is Mike Trout? Well, he finally got around to winning his first AL MVP award in 2014 ... in what was clearly the "worst" season of his career. As great as his 2014 was -- a .287/.377/.561 slash line and 7.8 WAR while playing a position at the deep end of the defensive spectrum, etc. -- Trout changed quite a bit as a hitter in the process. Not all of it was for the better, as he became a much riskier, even an "older" offensive player.

Blengino goes on to show how great Trout has been in his first three seasons in MLB, but then gets into some of his concerns, starting with this table:

Player

2013 OPS+

'14 OPS+

Chris Davis

168

98

Brandon Moss

136

119

Evan Longoria

133

107

Colby Rasmus

127

104

Daniel Nava

127

100

Raul Ibanez

123

57

Jed Lowrie

119

93

Jarrod Saltalamacchia

118

89

Nick Swisher

115

74

Justin Smoak

113

77

Chris Carter

112

122

Kelly Johnson

99

86

Asdrubal Cabrera

96

96

A.J. Pierzynski

95

75

Brian Roberts

92

87

Average

118

92

This table shows the list of players who more fly balls than ground balls in 2013 along with their 2014 OPS+. He shows that 13 of the 15 players who hit more fly balls than ground balls in 2013 saw their OPS+ drop by an average of 22% in 2014. Not a good trend since Trout hit 47% of his batted balls in the air last year compared to 34% on the ground.

He goes on to show that Trout is one of 16 American League players who hit more fly balls than ground balls, including six Oakland Athletics, three of whom will be wearing a different uniform in 2015.

Player

2014 OPS+

Mike Trout

167

Steve Pearce

160

Chris Carter

122

Yan Gomes

122

Brandon Moss

119

John Jaso

117

Josh Reddick

115

Adam Dunn

113

Stephen Vogt

112

Yoenis Cespedes

110

Brian McCann

94

Nick Castellanos

93

Jed Lowrie

93

Mike Zunino

88

Brian Roberts

87

Logan Forsythe

77

Average

111

If Trout's OPS+ drops in 2015, as Blengino implies it could, his OPS+ would drop to around the 130 range. Good, but not great. Trout would become normal. How weird would that be?

Blengino adds the following before concluding his piece:

Is this the only reason to be somewhat concerned about Trout moving forward? Well, no. A number of his rate stats moved in a troubling direction in 2014. His strikeout rate spiked from 19.0 percent to 26.1 percent, and his popup rate almost doubled from 5.0 percent to 9.5 percent. Expressed in percentile-rank terms, Trout hadn't ranked above the 20th percentile in popup rate in 2012-13, but ranked in the 70th percentile last season.

Listen, I am not saying that Trout is not the #1 pick in drafts in 2015, but to think that he will continue to be the best hitter in the game every year is a bit of a reach. A few years ago, Miguel Cabrera was the best hitter in the game, and he is coming off his worst power seasons in about a decade. It happens. Pitchers catch up to hitters, expose a weakness, and the next thing you know Trout is a bust at the #1 overall pick in fantasy drafts.

Could this happen? Sure. But the question is, will it happen. There are no guarantees, but it pays to look on the good and the bad in every hitter and pitcher and come to your own conclusions.