By Richard Cuicchi | March 26, 2017 at 11:18 PM EDT | No Comments
There hasn’t been a start of a Major League Baseball career like Mike Trout’s since Albert Pujols’ debut in 2001. After Pujols’ first few seasons, he was being compared to legendary New York Yankee first baseman Lou Gehrig. Based on Trout’s first six seasons, the 24-year-old is now drawing comparisons to another Yankee legend, Mickey Mantle.
With both players roaming centerfield, Trout and Mantle are strikingly similar in their athleticism, power, and speed. They were both 19 years old when they made their debuts. However, one difference is Mantle was a switch-hitter, maybe the best of all-time.
Trout, who plays for the Los Angeles Angels, has amazingly finished in the top two of the American League MVP voting in each of his first five full seasons, including first-place finishes in 2014 and 2016. No one has ever done that before. Trout just keeps getting better each season, showing no signs of approaching his peak yet. MLB Network analyst Ron Darling may have best described him when he said, “Trout makes the MLB look like Little League.”
Trout is able to beat teams in many ways. His versatility is evidenced by his leading the American League in numerous offensive categories over his brief career. These include the leader in runs scored for four seasons, as well as leading the American League in stolen bases (49) in 2012, while averaging 34 a season. He has led the league circuit in RBI (111) in 2014, while averaging 99 per season. He has averaged 30 HR per season and has an on-base percentage of .405 for his career. Plus, he’s one of the best defenders in centerfield.
Trout has become the poster child for the recently popular WAR (Wins Above Replacement) metric, where he has been the overall leader in the American League for five seasons. One recent WAR analysis has Trout on a trajectory to eventually surpass Babe Ruth, the current all-time record-holder in that statistic.
Mantle played his first major-league season in 1951 and immediately became the heir apparent for the centerfield job of the Yankees, following another Yankee immortal, Joe DiMaggio.
“The Mick” had the luxury of playing for some proficient Yankee teams that won the American League pennant every year during the 1950s, except in 1954 and 1959. Of course, Mantle was one of the main reasons for their success in winning five World Series during that decade. Among his accomplishments were two MVP Awards in 1956 and 1957 and a Triple Crown in 1956 which included 52 HR, 130 RBI, and a .353 batting average. Except for his first season, he was named to the American League All-Star team every season during the decade.
Mantle had four additional stellar seasons during the first half of the 1960s, which included another MVP Award honor, three years as the runner-up for the award, and two more Yankees World Series titles. He was then beset with a variety of injuries that hampered him the rest of his career that ended at age 36 in 1968. Mantle was voted to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 1974.
Trout hasn’t been as fortunate as Mantle in terms of playing for post-season teams. He has appeared in only one playoff series with the Los Angeles Angels who won the AL West Division in 2014, but the team has finished in either 3rd or 4th place in Trout’s other full seasons.
He is in the second year of a five-year deal worth over $138 million, with each of his last three years bringing him a healthy $34M. Since he will still only be 28 years old in his last contract year, there’s a good chance he could see a change in scenery at that point, particularly if the Angels remain non-competitive in their division.
If Trout can remain healthy for the better part of his career, he could wind up being one of the all-time greats in the game and take his rightful place alongside Mantle in the hallowed Hall in Cooperstown.