We all know Trout as a guy with freakish athleticism and one of the most explosive blends of power and speed the league has ever seen. On Thursday, however, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reported that the Trout who stands before us all today is not the same Trout we saw in 2012:
Mike DiGiovanna @MikeDiGiovanna
Last season, #Angels OF Mike Trout looked like an NFL RB. He looks more like a FB now, after gaining 10-15 lbs. He reported at 240 lbs.2/14/2013, 8:58:00 PM
For the record, Trout probably won't be at 240 pounds by the time Opening Day rolls around. In a full report, DiGiovanna wrote that Trout said he expects to lose weight during spring training.
"I'll lose five to 10 pounds during spring training, so I felt coming in heavier would help for where I need to be throughout the year," said Trout. "I feel great."
If so, he'll be at 235 or 230 pounds rather than 240. That's still a not-insignificant jump from where Trout was in 2012. He's listed on MLB.com and on Baseball-Reference.com at 210 pounds. As Hardball Talk's D.J. Short noted, Trout gained some weight during the season, but not to a point where he ballooned up to 230 pounds.
Thus, the big question: Will 2013 Mike Trout be anything like 2012 Mike Trout, or will he be a new Mike Trout?
The biggest change could be seen in Trout's ability to hit for power. It's something he was good at to begin with, and now he's going to have a little extra girth to put behind his swing.
The 230-pound range is a pretty good weight for a slugger to be at. There were 26 players who hit at least 30 home runs in 2012, and Baseball-Reference.com shows that 12 of them weighed at least 230 pounds. Three of the league's top sluggers—Miguel Cabrera, Josh Hamilton and Edwin Encarnacion—weighed between 230 and 240 pounds.
Encarnacion is a good comparison for what Trout could be like as a slugger with his added weight. The Toronto Blue Jays star got his weight in the 230-pound range last season and hit for more power than ever before, ultimately finishing with a career-high 42 home runs.
Encarnacion is relatively short at 6'2", and he uses a quick, compact stroke from the right side of the plate. Trout is 6'1", and he also uses a short, compact stroke at the plate. Neither he nor Encarnacion really needs to wind up to really drive the ball.
Asking Trout to follow in Encarnacion's footsteps and hit upward of 40 home runs is asking too much. Unlike Encarnacion, Trout plays half his games at a ballpark that is not a haven for right-handed power hitters. He's also a leadoff hitter until further notice, so his job is still to get on base more than it is to hit for power.
But if Trout can hit 30 home runs in five months at 220-ish pounds, then surely he can hit 35 home runs over a full six-month season at 230-ish pounds. It's going to be a shocker if the extra weight doesn't translate to more power.
The bigger question marks have to do with how Trout's weight gain is going to impact the other two major areas where he can provide value: baserunning and defense. For those things, he needs speed.
Trout was already bigger than your average base stealer to begin with, as he was the only player listed at 210 pounds to steal more than 40 bases last season. The only players in the 230 to 240 range to even steal more than 20 bases were Jason Heyward and Hanley Ramirez, who both stole 21. Ramirez is the better comparison for Trout because he's only an inch taller than him.
Ramirez was a big-time base stealer earlier in his career, stealing a total of 102 bases in his first two seasons in the league in 2006 and 2007.
However, he probably didn't weigh 230 pounds in those days, as Baseball America (subscription required) had him listed at 195 pounds when he was a prospect. He's added weight as his career has gone on, and he's become less of a stolen base threat and more of a traditional power threat along the way.
A similar trend could await Trout if he stays in the 230-pound range, and it could start to manifest itself as soon as this season. Instead of flirting with 50 stolen bases, maybe Trout will only approach 40.
The Angels won't complain so long as the tradeoff is more power. After all, a double is just as good as a single/walk/HBP and a stolen base. You're on second base and in scoring position either way.
As for how Trout's defense will be impacted, it may scare you Angels fans out there that the best size comparison for Trout right now is Vernon Wells. He's listed at 6'1" and 230 pounds, precisely the size Trout is going to be at by Opening Day.
But don't fret. Trout is just a wee bit younger than Wells, and he should still have enough juice in his legs to handle the position he'll be playing.
And remember, that's not center field anymore. Trout is going to be playing left field. That means he won't have to cover as much ground, and he'll have to cover even less ground playing next to Peter Bourjos.
Given the smaller field and Bourjos' range, Trout really isn't going to have that much ground to cover in the outfield in 2013. With a smaller area to cover, he should have more than enough speed at his disposal to be an above-average defensive left fielder even with the extra weight.
So, to recap, Trout's weight gain could mean a) more power b) a decrease in speed that probably won't matter and c) a very minimal impact on his defensive prowess.
The short version is that Trout hasn't risked his all-around awesomeness by putting on the weight, and I'm assuming he knew this was going to be the case when he moved ahead with the decision to put it on.
The only legitimate concern I have is whether the extra weight might impact Trout's health. He's certainly put on the good kind of weight—as opposed to the bad kind of weight made popular by guys like Delmon Young—but even muscle weight can become problematic.
Case in point, there may be no player in the league as muscled out as Matt Holliday, but there may also be no other player in the league who deals with as many nagging injuries in a season as he does. Words like "strain," "tightness" and "soreness" are quite common for him.
These words might be more common for Trout in 2013 than they were in 2012, when he was a picture of health outside of a minor knee issue and a finger sprain. He'll have to be mindful of not overexerting himself knowing that he's carrying more weight than he's used to.
Beyond that, Trout avoiding injury comes down to the baseball gods choosing not to smite him for some reason or another, and I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that they'd prefer not to smite him if they can help it.
After all, the baseball gods probably enjoy watching Trout play ball just as much as the rest of us.
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