At just 22 years old, Mike Trout is already arguably the best player in baseball. In two full seasons he has won the Rookie of the Year Award, and has come in second for MVP voting, twice. If the Angels would have had a more competitive team, he could possibly have been a two time MVP.
Over two seasons and a late call-up in a third, Trout has proven he is a five tool talent showcasing speed, average, and power. He currently has a lifetime .314 batting average with 62 homeruns while driving in 196. He has 86 stolen bases and even led the league in steals during the 2012 season. When he is on base he is a run scoring machine and last season his improved plate discipline helped him to lead the league in walks. With his glove, he possesses excellent range and is able to make highlight-reel plays each night.
His outstanding abilities are hard to match. Here is how his start stacks up against some of the league’s best outfielders of all time.
Trout and Mantle’s debuts are very comparable. Both players were 19 when they were first called-up and they came in with high expectations. Mantle was to be the eventual replacement for Joe DiMaggio, while Trout was rated as a one of the top five prospects in the country by every media outlet. While Trout may be the fastest player in the game today, Mantle might be the fastest in history before later injuries hampered his speed. Mantle’s 3.1 seconds from home to first is the fastest time ever recorded. But, while Mantle had this blazing speed he was never a big threat on the bases. In his career, he never had more than 21 stolen bases in a season and he only had 20 in his first two and a half seasons.
Mantle had an impressive start to his legendary career hitting 57 homeruns and leading the league in OPS (on base plus slugging) during his first full big league season. The downside to his game, which he battled his whole career was strikeouts. He led the league in 1952 with 111 strikeouts (numbers that would be nowhere near the top these days). But, even with this great start, Trout tops Mantle in almost every major offensive category.
Willie Mays entered the league at the age of 21 and took the league by storm. He won the rookie of the year award after batting .275 with 20 homeruns and 68 RBIs. After missing most of the next two seasons due to the Korean War, Mays came back swinging in 1954. He led the league that season in triples, batting average, OBP (on base percentage), and OPS on his way to his first MVP award and only World Series Title. During this season, Mays also made “the Catch” and showed that he is one of the greatest centerfielders to ever play the game.
While Trout hit more doubles during his start, Mays has more triples. In his first three seasons, Mays hit 65 homeruns, stole 19 bases, and drove in 201 runs. All but stolen base numbers surpass Trout.
Early in his career, Aaron was not a stolen base threat. He stole only five bases during his first two seasons. But, he was a definite slugger. During his first two full seasons, Aaron led the league once in doubles. His power allowed for 40 homeruns during this time and his ability to find the gap helped him to drive in 106 runs during the 1955 season.
Although he had two full seasons right away, Aaron’s third was even better. During this season he led the league in doubles, hits, and won a batting title. Their early careers are very comparable.
Ted Williams like Aaron was ready to play every day so only his first two seasons are compared. During his rookie season, Williams hit 31 homeruns and drove in a league leading 145 RBIs. His batting average was an outstanding .335 during this time. Williams never a burner on the bases stole only six bases in these seasons, but he drove in 258 runs and slugged 54 homeruns.
Ted Williams may be the greatest hitter that ever lived, but adding Trout’s defense and base-running skills give him an edge in many other areas.
Ken Griffey Jr.
Ken Griffey Jr. much like Trout was a five tool player. Griffey could do everything well on a baseball field. He followed in his father’s footsteps by playing a game he was born to play. He stepped into play from day one and was very successful. During his first two seasons, Griffey was an all-star and even won a Gold Glove. In his first two seasons: he stole 16 bases per year, slugged a combined 38 homeruns, and drove in 141 runs.
Looking at these numbers, Mike Trout’s start is even more remarkable. To be compared with these hall of fame players is something special. If Trout can continue at his stellar pace, he will surely be able to mark his place in Cooperstown.
Statistics Provided by Baseball Reference