We didn’t ask Mike Trout to help select this year’s SN50 — he’s pretty busy being awesome in the heat of a playoff race at the moment — but we’re pretty sure he approves of our goal of shining a spotlight on baseball’s best young players.
See, Sporting News chatted with Trout earlier this season, and he loved nothing more than talking about baseball’s crop of young stars.
“Oh yeah. It’s great for the game,” Trout told SN. “There are a lot of guys in this league who are going to be here for a while, putting up great numbers. It’s great to see guys come in the league and not just succeed their first year, but to follow up with their second year. They’re very exciting players, for me as a baseball fan. I enjoy watching them, though obviously not against us some days.”
He kept going …
“You see (Francisco) Lindor, the shortstop for the Indians, and he’s unbelievable. Kris Bryant, last year winning the MVP. And Bryce (Harper), always hitting homers and doing big things for the Nationals. It’s good for the game.”
And going …
“I’m just a fan of baseball. Like I said, the young talent in this league is pretty special. It’s fun to watch. And obviously (Carlos) Correa and (Jose) Altuve up the middle with the Astros. I get to see them play all the time. It’s fun to watch, but when they beat up on us, it’s not too fun. There’s just so many guys. I’m probably leaving out a few, not to take anything away from them.”
Yeah, we’re pretty excited, too.
But if you’ve scrolled this far through the SN50, you know about those other young stars. Here, let’s talk about Trout. He’s not just the best young player in baseball. He’s the best player in baseball.
Baseball has rarely seen a young player like Trout, who made his MLB debut at 19 and just turned 26 on Aug. 7. His Baseball-Reference WAR through the first five full seasons of his career — 47.8 — is the highest total in baseball history (for a cumulative stat like WAR, we’re not counting his 40-game debut in 2011, of course).
Look at the guys he’s ahead of: Ted Williams (45.1), Mickey Mantle (39.5), Alex Rodriguez (38.6), Tris Speaker (38.4), Albert Pujols (37.5), Rogers Hornsby (36.5), Ty Cobb (35.8) and Jackie Robinson (35.2). That’s one hell of a list.
And even though he missed a month-and-a-half with a thumb injury this year, he stil finished eighth among all position players with a 6.7 WAR. That’s kind of insane. If not for that injury, Trout might have posted the best season of his career, which is really saying something.
In 114 games this year, Trout posted career highs in almost every non-cumulative rate category, both traditional and advanced statistics: on-base percentage (.442), slugging (.629), OPS (1.071), OPS+ (187), ISO (.323), wOBA (.437) and wRC+ (181). Oh, and his plate discipline is better than ever, too. He’s swinging at just 19.7 percent of pitches outside the strike zone, which is the lowest percentage of his career.
Somehow, he just keeps getting better .
Back in 2014, when he won his first MVP award, Trout struck out 101 times more than he walked — 184 strikeouts to 83 walks. This year? He had 90 strikeouts and 94 walks. And he finished the season with 33 homers, 22 stolen bases, 92 runs scored and 72 RBIs.
Basically, he’s going to finish top-five in the AL MVP voting again, despite finishing with roughly 40 fewer games played than the other MVP contenders. That’s nearly unheard of.
Let’s finish with one more quote from this future Hall of Fame lock: “All the young guys in the league, it’s pretty fascinating.”
We couldn’t agree more.