Mike Trout is off to a great start. In just 129 plate appearances this season, the 20-year-old outfielder is hitting .304/.364/.522. Combine that with his spectacular defense, and it looks like Trout is well on his way to becoming one of the best players in baseball. Although Trout has been great this season, Bryce Harper has overshadowed his performance. And while Dave Cameron recently told us that Harper could be on his way to a historic season, Mike Trout isn’t that far behind.
Using the same methodology that Dave used in his Harper article, Trout’s current performance puts him in some pretty good company. Using wRC+, Trout is currently tied for the 14th best season by a 20-year-old.
|1915||Babe Ruth||Red Sox||42||103||0.315||0.376||0.576||0.448||181|
|1939||Ted Williams||Red Sox||149||677||0.327||0.436||0.609||0.464||158|
There are some pretty exceptional names on that list. Though Trout isn’t performing as well as Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb or Alex Rodriguez, he’s matching the production of many hall-of-fame players. In fact, only three players on this list — Abner Dalrymple, Greg Luzinski and Gregg Jefferies — aren’t in the Hall of Fame. Alex Rodriguez is still active — and there will likely be some debate over his hall-of-fame merits based on his past steroid usage — but he clearly has a deserving resume.
Trout has shown he has abilities as a hitter, but he’s also regarded as an elite defender. Trout has managed to rack up a 4.9 UZR so far this season. And while UZR isn’t entirely dependable in a small sample, this is a case where the scouts and the stats agree. Mike Trout is — and will continue to be — a phenomenal defense player.
And because of that, Trout should be able to put up a strong WAR if he continues to hit at this level. He’s already been worth 1.7 wins this season, but he’s accumulated that total in fewer than 200 plate appearances. To determine how the rest of the season might shake out, we can look at Trout’s ZiPS projection. Trout’s Rest of Season ZiPS projection expects that Trout will post a .339 wOBA going forward. It also projects that Trout to be worth about three more wins this season — which would bring his season total to 4.8 WAR.
If Trout managed to finish the season with that win total, it would rate as the 16th best season by a 20-year-old. And if that weren’t impressive enough, there’s a chance that ZiPs is being conservative with its projection of Trout’s defense. In the 430 plate appearances ZiPS projects going forward, Trout is expected to produce a 3.3 UZR. He’s already accumulated 4.9 in just 129 plate appearances, so there’s a good chance he’ll exceed his UZR projection.
But if ZiPS is 100% accurate, and Trout does finish the season with a 4.8 WAR, that would still be incredibly impressive. Trout’s performance would put him on par with Johnny Bench, Jimmie Foxx, Willie Mays and Jason Heyward. Three of those players are in the Hall of Fame. And some pretty flattering things were written during Heyward’s rookie season.
Mike Trout may be a year older than Bryce Harper — and he may have slightly more experience in the big leagues — but what he’s doing at 20 years old is almost equally as impressive. If anyone is going to challenge Harper for the title of the game’s best player five years from now, it’s almost certainly going to be Trout.
Chris is a blogger for CBSSports.com. He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.