Is Mike Trout the Best Young Player in MLB History?
On Friday, Los Angeles Angels star Mike Trout turned 24 years old. You won't find a single baseball analyst who doesn't agree that he is the best all-around player in baseball, and he has been pretty much since his first full season in 2012 when he was just 20 years old.
Trout is once again having a ridiculous season, perhaps the best of his already incredible career.
Offensively, Trout's weighted runs created (wRC+) of 180 is a career high, meaning this is the best he's ever done as a run producer. His slugging percentage of .611 is also a career high, and he's on pace to hit 50 home runs this season (I'm slightly rounding up here), which would obliterate his career best of 36, set last year.
And while his defense has slipped a bit over the last few years, most defensive metrics have him as at least an average defender, with the capability of making a huge play.
We've gotten used to this. We've come to expect this type of performance from Trout, which is why I don't write about him all that much. It's more interesting to write about players who are having career seasons, or rookies who have made a big splash, or veterans who are struggling. Those stories are more compelling.
But as the Angels' slugger celebrates his 24th birthday Friday, it's a good time to stop, take it all in for a moment, and ask ourselves whether Trout is the very best young player who has ever played the game.
Below are the top 20 of all Major League players in history through their age-23 season. And keep in mind, Trout still has about seven weeks to continue accumulating stats (even though he's now officially 24, this entire season counts as his age-23 season, according to MLB).
According to Baseball Reference, Trout's 34.8 WAR as of right now is second only to Ty Cobb's 36.0, but remember, Trout still has another month-and-a-half to increase that number. It seems likely he'll surpass Cobb by the end of the regular season.
Trout's 130 home runs rank sixth among all players through their age-23 season. His 449 runs scored is ninth, and his .955 OPS ranks 13th. His 130 doubles are 16th, his 375 RBI are 18th, and his 28 triples are tied for 23rd. And he's one of the very few players to rank that high in all those categories at the same time.
Many of these players are in the top-25 in two or three categories. Trout has seven categories in which he's at least that high.
The bottom line is, Mike Trout is insanely good, and he is probably the best young baseball player this game has ever seen.
And that, my friends, is interesting.