The 2012 Rookie of the Year barely missed winning the MVP award—second only to Miguel Cabrera, the first Triple Crown winner in 45 years. In 2013, Trout will not only look to lead the Angels to an AL West title, but also to establish himself as a great player in this league.
But what makes a player great? Cabrera is a dominant hitter, but even he was critiqued for his defensive play at third base.
Trout seems to be the quintessential all-around player, but without a full season under his belt, it remains to be seen what the future holds for this potential prodigy. Here are three reasons why his career will be great.
Pujols will pass the torch to Trout
One of the unforeseen benefits of signing Albert Pujols a year ago was the impact he can have as a mentor.
A former Rookie of the Year himself, Pujols is one of the best hitters in baseball today. His numbers have waned since winning back-to-back MVP awards in 2008 and 2009, but not dramatically—his .285 average in 2012 was the low watermark of his career.
In my opinion, Pujols has the most fluid swing of any hitter in the game. This is especially impressive considering he's never been connected with or accused of using steroids.
Trout is not far behind. He stays balanced at the plate and, like Pujols, does not tend to lunge at pitches. Instead, he stays square and moves his body to the height of the ball, allowing him to maneuver it and hit for average as well as power.
Players have made careers driving the ball for home runs or slapping base hits. Pujols, however, has always had the power to play situational baseball first and drive a big hit second. Trout will do the same.
Trout has the ability to inside-out any pitch
Each of Trout’s 559 at-bats in 2012 came as the No. 1 hitter in the lineup.
Trout’s 30 home runs this season challenge some of the best leadoff hitters in the league. At the same time, his speed keeps him at the top of the lineup rather than in the middle of the order, where he could also hit well.
His ability to hit like a No. 3 makes him comparable to other great players such as Derek Jeter. Throughout his career, Jeter has traditionally been a No. 2 hitter, but he's also seen time in the three-hole and, more recently, at the top of the lineup.
Jeter is a 20-home run hitter at best, but still holds a career batting average of .313 with over 3,000 hits.
2012 may have been an anomaly for Trout in terms of power, as he never demonstrated an aptitude for home runs in the minor leagues. Still if he can produce as Jeter has in his career—with a focus on RBI—the home runs will come.
More importantly, so will the wins.
Trout is as proficient a fielder and baserunner as he is a pure hitter.
Trout may not get dramatically better over the course of his career, but the status quo is already good enough to be ranked among the all-time greats.
His numbers tapered off at the end of the season, but Trout still had to be recalled from Triple-A in April before going on his monumental run. Starting off in the minors, the powers-that-be in Los Angeles would have had to recognize that Trout was major league-ready before bringing him up.
And is he ready? Let’s compare Trout to other greats:
As a rookie, Trout has a better fielding percentage (.990) than Willie Mays (.976) and a better batting average (.326) than Joe DiMaggio (.323).
Among his contemporaries, Trout has more stolen bases (49) than anyone else in 2012.
There is not much a coach can ask Trout to do that he has not already done. Cabrera’s Triple Crown is undoubtedly impressive, but for those who argued for Trout to have won the MVP, there was certainly a case to be made.
Hitting, fielding and base-running: Trout is the best all-around player in baseball.
With that in mind, it is hard for Trout to get better. His 10.4 WAR this season is an aberration and will not likely be replicated, but that is not a fair measure of his impact.
Rather, Trout must mature at the highest level. He is already great and has found his stride, but there is the question as to his durability over 162 games, having not played in April and trailing off in September. To this end, he must be able to compete and meet the expectations he has invited over an entire year.
Pure talent alone will not breed greatness, but instead, consistency. If he stays consistent, Trout will contend for the MVP again in his career.