Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Mike Trout, Check Him Out

Bryce Harper is only 19 years old, making what he's accomplishing this season very impressive. After all, not many players make it to the big leagues in their teen years. You don't have to go back very far to find the last teenage Major League player though, because the Angels' Mike Trout did it last year. Trout is 20 now, which by my quick calculations means he is a full decade older than Harper. Maybe that's why no one is talking much about Trout, he's just another twenty-something baseball player and there are hundreds and hundreds of those around the big leagues. He's put together a great season so far though, even better than Harper.

In a game last night, Trout had four hits, which made me wonder how common it is for someone so young to collect that many hits. Looking at the last 20 years, here are the youngest players with four (or more) hits in a single game:

      Player Age Date Team  AB    R    H   2B   3B  HR   Position
1   Andruw Jones 19.152    1996-09-22    ATL 5 1 4 2 0 0      RF
2   Edgar Renteria 19.308    1996-06-10    FLA 5 1 4 0 0 0      SS
5   Adrian Beltre 20.022    1999-04-29    LAD 5 0 4 1 0 0      3B
7   Miguel Cabrera 20.074    2003-07-01    FLA 6 4 4 2 0 2    3B,LF
8   Starlin Castro 20.133    2010-08-04    CHC 5 2 4 1 1 0      SS
11   Elvis Andrus 20.269    2009-05-22    TEX 5 2 4 0 0 1      SS
12   Giancarlo Stanton 20.276    2010-08-11    FLA 5 2 5 2 0 1      RF
13   Vernon Wells 20.288    1999-09-22    TOR 5 1 4 0 0 0      CF
14   Mike Trout 20.302    2012-06-04    LAA 4 1 4 1 0 0      CF
15   Alex Rodriguez   20.304    1996-05-26    SEA 4 2 4 1 0 1      SS

                                      Provided by Baseball-Reference.com

It's worth noting that Renteria actually had 4 four-hit games before his 21st birthday, Castro and Rodriguez each had 3, and Andrus has 2. Trout has two months to try and join that even more select group.

Now one game does not a star make, but looking at the other names on that list, it's an impressive bunch. That's largely a result of it being awfully hard to get called up to the Majors at such a young age; generally speaking, only highly touted prospects will be in a position to get four hits before their 21st birthday, and highly touted prospects have better odds at becoming great players.

Last night's game isn't what will be remembered about Trout this year, but it's an entry point for observing how well he's playing. His slash line is .338/.388/.559, giving him an OPS of .947. He's a few games away from having enough plate appearances to qualify, but if he did, his batting average would rank 3rd in the American League, his on-base and slugging percentages would also be among the top ten. His OPS would be 7th. He's also 7th in the league in stolen bases and playing great defense in center field.

By the Baseball-Reference version of WAR (as a reminder, WAR is an attempt to put all of a player's contributions, his hitting, his fielding, his running, etc. into one number) Trout is already at 2.0, which puts him in a tie for 12th place among all American League position players, and that's after not getting called up until April 28th, for the Angels 21st game of the year. Trout has played in just 34 games so far; if he stays healthy, he could play in another 100 to 105. It isn't wise to expect him to put up identical numbers over the rest of the season, but just for fun, let's multiply what he's done so far by four, to get a projection for what his end of year numbers might look like:

* .338/.388/.559, an OPS of .947 (which would rank 5th all time for a player 20 or younger)
* 184 hits (8th)
* 36 doubles (9th)
* 12 triples (8th)
* 20 HR (14th)
* 96 runs (15th)
* 88 RBI (9th)
* 36 SB (8th)
* 304 total bases (8th)
* 8.0 WAR (2nd)

By the way, here are the top five age-20 season by WAR (again, the B-R version):

Alex Rodriguez   9.2
Al Kaline            8.0
Mel Ott              7.3
Ted Williams      6.6
Ty Cobb            6.6

Yeah, those are five of the forty or so greatest players in baseball history.

Mike Trout will almost certainly fall short of just about all those season projections, but if he hits even a couple of them, he'll be among historically elite company. You should be keeping a close eye on Trout this summer.

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