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Predicting MLB's Top 25 Players 5 Years from Now

Joel ReuterFeatured ColumnistApril 29, 2014

Predicting MLB's Top 25 Players 5 Years from Now

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Baseball is a very tough sport to predict on a long-term basis, as so much can change in a year. Injuries, unexpected steps forward and backward by established players and the yearly influx of rookies leave the MLB landscape looking significantly different on a year-in and year-out basis.

    With that being said, what follows is my attempt to predict who will be the 25 best players in MLB when the 2019 season rolls around five years from now.

    It's important to realize that the 25 best players represent the top 3.3 percent of players in baseball, so you can be a very, very good player and still not be included in this list.

    As a result, a lot of guys who are going to be awfully good five years from now are not included for the simple reason that only 25 slots are available.

    Still think I clearly overlooked someone? I encourage your feedback in the comments below. I ask only that you also recommend a player to be removed from my list in favor of him, for the sake of argument.

SP Martin Perez, Texas Rangers

2 of 26

    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Age in 2019: 28

     

    Career Stats

    G/GSW-LERAWHIPBBKIPWAR
    37/3115-103.551.31361132200.13.3

     

    Player Overview

    It's hard to ignore what Martin Perez has done over the first month of the season this year, as he's thrown back-to-back complete-game shutouts and has hurled 26 consecutive scoreless innings dating back to his third start of the year.

    Signed out of Venezuela as a 17-year-old back in 2008, Perez moved somewhat slowly through the team's farm system, finally joining the rotation full time last year.

    He wound up sixth in AL Rookie of the Year voting, going 10-6 with a 3.62 ERA, and he has stepped up huge this year, with the Rangers rotation hit hard by injuries this spring. The best may yet be ahead for Perez, and with him and Yu Darvish, the team looks to have a dangerous one-two punch for the foreseeable future.

SS Andrelton Simmons, Atlanta Braves

3 of 26

    Carlos Osorio

    Age in 2019: 29

     

    Career Stats

    GBA/OBP/SLGHXBH (HR)RBIRSBWAR
    228.261/.304/.40922371 (23)85100710.5

     

    Player Overview

    Andrelton Simmons won his first of what figures to be many, many Gold Glove awards in 2013. He was far and away the best defensive shortstop in the game and is arguably the best defensive player in baseball.

    The impact he makes in the field alone is enough to make him a star, but he surprised more than a few people last year by adding 27 doubles and 17 home runs at the plate.

    His offensive game is still a work in progress, but the worst-case scenario is that he looks like Omar Vizquel with 15-20 home run power. The potential is there for far more, though, given his ability to make consistent contact and avoid strikeouts.

SP Yordano Ventura, Kansas City Royals

4 of 26

    Sarah Glenn/Getty Images

    Age in 2019: 28

     

    Career Stats

    G/GSW-LERAWHIPBBKIPWAR
    7/72-22.451.165153840.11.0

     

    Player Overview

    With a fastball that regularly hits triple digits and a solid curveball/changeup combination to complement it, there is no ignoring the stuff that Yordano Ventura brings to the mound, and it has been on full display in 2014.

    Through four starts so far this season, he's 2-1 with a 1.80 ERA and 27 strikeouts in 25 innings of work, helping to ease the loss of Ervin Santana in the Kansas City Royals rotation.

    There was originally some question as to whether or not he would stick as a starter or end up at the back of the bullpen, but he has shown enough in the early going that his future looks bright atop the Royals' staff.

RF Oscar Taveras, St. Louis Cardinals

5 of 26

    USA TODAY Sports

    Age in 2019: 27

     

    Career Stats (minor leagues)

    GBA/OBP/SLGHXBH (HR)RBIRSBWAR
    396.320/.376/.521487182 (50)29025034N/A

     

    Player Overview

    Oscar Taveras made his full-season debut for Single-A Quad Cities in 2011 as a 19-year-old, hitting .386/.444/.584 over 308 at-bats.

    That was enough for the team to jump him over the High-A level to Double-A the following season, where he more than held his own with a .321/.380/.572 line that included 37 doubles and 23 home runs over 477 at-bats.

    An ankle injury limited him to just 47 games last season, or he likely would have made his big league debut. While he opened the season in Triple-A, it may not be long before he's patrolling right field for a very good Cardinals team. From there, he has a real chance to be a perennial batting title contender with plus power.

SP Sonny Gray, Oakland Athletics

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Age in 2019: 29

     

    Career Stats

    G/GSW-LERAWHIPBBKIPWAR
    18/169-42.311.146341041052.8

     

    Player Overview

    The No. 18 pick in the 2011 draft after a fantastic career at Vanderbilt University, Sonny Gray made his big league debut last July and wound up providing the Oakland Athletics with a huge boost down the stretch and into the postseason.

    He took the ball in Game 2 of the ALDS, squaring off against a red-hot Justin Verlander, and threw eight innings of four-hit, shutout ball while striking out nine. He ended up with a no-decision but showed he was capable of stepping up on the biggest of stages.

    With just 12 games (10 starts) under his belt heading into 2014, he earned the nod as the Athletics' Opening Day starter after Jarrod Parker went down with a season-ending injury in the spring, and he has looked the part of a staff ace in the early going of what is his first full big league season.

C Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Age in 2019: 29

     

    Career Stats

    GBA/OBP/SLGHXBH (HR)RBIRSBWAR
    276.296/.329/.44430290 (28)14511019.2

     

    Player Overview

    Signed out of Venezuela as a 17-year-old, Salvador Perez flew through the Kansas City Royals farm system, making his big league debut down the stretch in 2011 as a 21-year-old.

    The team saw enough out of him in a 39-game audition that year to sign him to a five-year, $7 million extension that includes another $14.75 million over three option years and could keep him in Kansas City through the 2019 season.

    After dealing with some knee problems in 2012, he took a huge step forward last year, hitting .292/.323/.433 with 13 home runs and 79 RBI while winning the Gold Glove and earning his first All-Star nod. Given his complete game, he looks like the clear heir to Yadier Molina for the title of best all-around catcher.

SP Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals

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    Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

    Age in 2019: 30

     

    Career Stats

    G/GSW-LERAWHIPBBKIPWAR
    81/8131-213.061.098135557468.18.3

     

    Player Overview

    Stephen Strasburg was hyped as a potential once-in-a-generation talent when the Washington Nationals took him with the No. 1 pick in the 2009 draft.

    He burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2010 but saw his season cut short by arm troubles and eventually Tommy John surgery. The right-hander returned quicker than most, and he's posted back-to-back plus seasons the past two years.

    He has yet to put together the monster season that he is capable of, but the 25-year-old still has plenty of time to establish himself as one of the game's elite arms over the next five years.

SS Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Age in 2019: 26

     

    Career Stats

    GBA/OBP/SLGHXBH (HR)RBIRSBWAR
    42.275/.368/.3823610 (2)101720.6

     

    Player Overview

    Xander Bogaerts played a grand total of 30 big league games last season, with 18 during the regular season and another 12 during the playoffs. That was enough for him to enter the season with a tremendous amount of hype as the early favorite to win AL Rookie of the Year honors.

    His numbers are not quite on par with White Sox rookie Jose Abreu so far, but there's nothing wrong with a .287/.392/.391 line from a 21-year-old rookie shortstop. All the tools are there for him to make a serious impact this season and be a bona fide superstar down the line.

    He hit .297/.388/.477 with 23 doubles and 15 home runs over 444 at-bats between Double-A and Triple-A before being called up last season, and he has the potential to have a .300-plus batting average and hit 20-plus home runs within the next couple of years.

SP Archie Bradley, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

    Age in 2019: 26

     

    Career Stats (minor leagues)

    G/GSW-LERAWHIPBBKIPWAR
    60/5927-152.951.253165341314.1N/A

     

    Player Overview

    It was a toss-up between Archie Bradley and Seattle Mariners right-hander Taijuan Walker for the title of top pitching prospect in baseball entering the season.

    While neither is off to a great start this year, with Walker sidelined by an arm injury and Bradley posting a 5.18 ERA over five Triple-A starts, the future still looks bright for both young hurlers.

    My money is on Bradley at this point, as he has the polish, build and stuff to be the best pitcher on the Arizona Diamondbacks roster as soon as he is called up, although that is admittedly not saying much this season. Expect him to be the prototypical workhorse staff ace and a perennial NL Cy Young candidate once he arrives for good.

3B Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Age in 2019: 27

     

    Career Stats (minor leagues)

    GBA/OBP/SLGHXBH (HR)RBIRSBWAR
    60.321/.406/.6426838 (14)44396N/A

     

    Player Overview

    Despite a clear need for pitching, the Chicago Cubs could not pass on taking third baseman Kris Bryant with the No. 2 pick in last year's draft, and that has looked like a terrific decision so far.

    After hitting .329/.493/.820 with an NCAA-high 31 home runs and 62 RBI in 62 games and out-homering a number of entire teams, he continued to rake in the low minors after signing.

    He followed up that impressive campaign by winning Arizona Fall League honors in the offseason and opened the 2014 season at the Double-A level, where he has 13 extra-base hits (five HR) in his first 84 at-bats. He'll move as quickly as his bat allows and could be an immediate 30-HR, 100-RBI threat once he arrives in Chicago.

RF Wil Myers, Tampa Bay Rays

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    Mike Carlson

    Age in 2019: 28

     

    Career Stats

    GBA/OBP/SLGHXBH (HR)RBIRSBWAR
    112.279/.343/.44712042 (15)646252.0

     

    Player Overview

    Though he did not make his big league debut until June 18 last season, Wil Myers still managed to walk away with AL Rookie of the Year honors, hitting .293/.354/.478 with 23 doubles and 13 home runs in 335 at-bats.

    That was exactly the type of immediate impact the Rays were looking for when they shipped James Shields to the Kansas City Royals to acquire Myers prior to last season.

    He's off to a slow start this season, but the tremendous power potential and solid all-around offensive game are still there for the 23-year-old. That should make him a star hitter alongside Evan Longoria in Tampa Bay's lineup, as the team finally has the second power bat that has been missing for the past few seasons.

SP Julio Teheran, Atlanta Braves

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Age in 2019: 28

     

    Career Stats

    G/GSW-LERAWHIPBBKIPWAR
    43/4017-103.111.15163211254.24.0

     

    Player Overview

    Julio Teheran emerged as one of the top pitching prospects in baseball following a 2011 season when he went 15-3 with a 2.55 ERA as a 20-year-old in Triple-A.

    The right-hander took a big step backward from there though, spending another season at the Triple-A level and going 7-9 with a 5.08 ERA. He found himself on the roster bubble heading into spring training last year.

    A big spring won him a rotation spot, and after a shaky first three starts of recording a 7.31 ERA, he settled in to go 14-8 with a 2.81 ERA the rest of the way and finish fifth in NL Rookie of the Year voting. Injuries opened the door for him to be the Opening Day starter this year, and he has thrived in the role of staff ace—a role he will likely fill for the foreseeable future.

SP Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants

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    Jeff Chiu

    Age in 2019: 29

     

    Career Stats

    G/GSW-LERAWHIPBBKIPWAR
    124/12151-423.111.17319971476911.0

     

    Player Overview

    The No. 10 pick in the 2007 draft out of high school, Madison Bumgarner made his big league debut just two years later as a 20-year-old, and he was a regular in the Giants rotation the following season.

    At the age of 21, he threw an absolute gem against the Texas Rangers in Game 4 of the World Series, allowing just three hits in eight shutouts innings, and he has continued to get better each season since entering the league.

    He was 13-9 with a 2.77 ERA and 199 strikeouts in 201.1 innings last season, as he reached 13-plus wins, 200-plus innings and 190-plus strikeouts for the third straight season. He's the clear ace of San Francisco's staff right now and is just entering the prime of his career. An NL Cy Young or two is not out of the question.

3B Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles

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    Gene J. Puskar

    Age in 2019: 25

     

    Career Stats

    GBA/OBP/SLGHXBH (HR)RBIRSBWAR
    207.279/.309/.43523986 (21)9711288.0

     

    Player Overview

    Though there will be questions about his game until he proves he is completely recovered from a gruesome knee injury and the subsequent surgery, it's hard to envision Manny Machado being anything but a superstar in this league five years down the road.

    Looking to solidify a playoff spot, the Baltimore Orioles promoted him as a 20-year-old down the stretch in 2012. They moved him to third base and started him in the final 51 games, and he held his own with a .262/.294/.445 line and 18 extra-base hits in 191 at-bats.

    His plate discipline still needs work (29/113 BB/K in 2013), but he took a step forward offensively last year, hitting .283/.314/.432 with an AL-high 51 doubles and 14 home runs. He made perhaps a bigger contribution with the glove though, posting a 4.3 dWAR and winning Gold Glove honors. Now in his age-21 season, the sky is the limit as far as his potential is concerned.

SP Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Age in 2019: 30

     

    Career Stats

    G/GSW-LERAWHIPBBKIPWAR
    143/6335-252.931.08914155852817.5

     

    Player Overview

    Selected with the No. 13 pick in the 2010 draft, Chris Sale joined the Chicago White Sox bullpen later that summer, making 21 appearances and posting a 1.93 ERA and 12.3 K/9 in 23.1 innings of work.

    He returned to the bullpen the following season before finally making the jump to the rotation in 2012, when he immediately become one of the best pitchers in the American League. He finished the year 17-8 with a 3.05 ERA and 192 strikeouts in 192 innings.

    Though he was just 11-14 last year, he put up similarly impressive peripheral numbers and finished fifth in AL Cy Young voting. He's dealing with some arm issues, and his funky mechanics could lead to some injury problems down the road, but until that happens, he's earned his spot among the game's best young players.

RF Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins

17 of 26

    Jeff Roberson

    Age in 2019: 29

     

    Career Stats

    GBA/OBP/SLGHXBH (HR)RBIRSBWAR
    514.266/.353/.536491245 (124)3232781915.9

     

    Player Overview

    It's hard to believe that Giancarlo Stanton won't be 25 years old until after the 2014 MLB season wraps up, since he was a regular in the Marlins lineup by the age of 20 and already has some impressive numbers under his belt.

    His 124 career home runs rank 22nd among players prior to their age-25 season, and he has a chance to climb into the top 10 of that list if he can stay healthy this season.

    Health has been the question for Stanton to this point in his career, as he has topped 450 at-bats just once in four big league seasons. However, if he can stay on the field, he has the most raw power of any player in the league. He is a serious threat to make a run at a 50-plus homer season while also posting a solid on-base percentage and flashing a rocket for an arm.

SP Michael Wacha, St. Louis Cardinals

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Age in 2019: 27

     

    Career Stats

    G/GSW-LERAWHIPBBKIPWAR
    21/156-32.671.109291091012.3

     

    Player Overview

    After an eye-opening spring training performance and a handful of spot starts and relief appearances, Michael Wacha finally joined the St. Louis Cardinals rotation full time on September 3 last season.

    He went 2-1 with a 1.72 ERA in five starts down the stretch, earning a spot in the postseason rotation by throwing 8.2 innings of one-hit ball in his final start of the year. The impressive starts just kept coming in the playoffs, as he outdueled Clayton Kershaw twice in the NLCS to claim MVP honors before finally running into trouble in the World Series.

    His 64.2 innings pitched last season leave him just over the rookie eligibility requirement this season, but either way he is undoubtedly one of the best young pitchers in the game and should follow in the footsteps of Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright in becoming the leader of St. Louis' staff.

1B Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    David Zalubowski

    Age in 2019: 31

     

    Career Stats

    GBA/OBP/SLGHXBH (HR)RBIRSBWAR
    382.292/.375/.516405171 (67)2502333911.6

     

    Player Overview

    Paul Goldschmidt got a later start to his career than a lot of the guys on this list, as he was not an everyday player until his age-24 season. He will also be older than any of the other guys come 2019, as he'll be 31 years old, but there's every reason to think he'll still be one of the most feared hitters in the league.

    After a solid first full season that saw him post a .850 OPS with 20 home runs, 82 RBI and 18 stolen bases, he took a huge step forward last year to become perhaps the best all-around hitter in the National League.

    He lost NL MVP honors to Andrew McCutchen, due in large part to the fact that the Diamondbacks finished the year 81-81, but he led the NL with 36 home runs and 125 RBI while hitting .302/.401/.551. There should be plenty more .300-BA, 30-HR, 100-RBI seasons ahead for Goldschmidt.

SP Matt Harvey, New York Mets

20 of 26

    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Age in 2019: 29

     

    Career Stats

    G/GSW-LERAWHIPBBKIPWAR
    36/3612-102.390.98557261237.26.9

     

    Player Overview

    Matt Harvey will miss the entire 2014 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, but provided he has no further injury problems, he should be one of the game's elite arms in 2015 and beyond.

    After an impressive 10-start debut in 2012, Harvey took the league by storm last year, going 9-5 with a 2.27 ERA and 191 strikeouts in 178.1 innings before being shut down in late August. Even with just 26 starts under his belt, he still managed to finish fourth in NL Cy Young voting.

    Alongside Zack Wheeler, Dillon Gee and top prospect Noah Syndergaard (who received serious consideration for this list as well), Harvey will front what could potentially be a very good Mets rotation for years to come when he returns next season.

1B Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves

21 of 26

    john bazemore

    Age in 2019: 29

     

    Career Stats

    GBA/OBP/SLGHXBH (HR)RBIRSBWAR
    495.288/.362/.474513178 (74)297267710.3

     

    Player Overview

    After running out the likes of Casey Kotchman and Troy Glaus the previous two seasons, the Atlanta Braves handed the everyday first base job to a 21-year-old Freddie Freeman in 2011, and he has not looked back since.

    He hit .282/.346/.448 with 21 home runs and 76 RBI as a rookie to finish second to teammate Craig Kimbrel in NL Rookie of the Year voting and followed that up with similar numbers during his sophomore season.

    He broke through as a legitimate superstar last season though, hitting .319/.396/.501 with 23 home runs and 109 RBI, raising his OPS 101 points over the previous season and finishing fifth in NL MVP voting. He may never be a 40-HR guy, but he should be a perennial .300 hitter and consistent run producer in the middle of the Braves lineup.

SP Gerrit Cole, Pittsburgh Pirates

22 of 26

    Gene J. Puskar

    Age in 2019: 28

     

    Career Stats

    G/GSW-LERAWHIPBBKIPWAR
    24/2412-93.211.18939126151.11.6

     

    Player Overview

    The Pittsburgh Pirates took Gerrit Cole with the No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft, ahead of three other guys who crack this list in Archie Bradley, Jose Fernandez and Sonny Gray. Fernandez is obviously a stud, but so far it looks like the Pirates made a good call nonetheless.

    He was taken more for his upside and raw stuff than he was for his college production, as he was not nearly as polished as UCLA teammate Trevor Bauer (taken No. 3) or a handful of others on the board like Danny Hultzen and Taylor Jungmann.

    After steadily climbing the ladder, he made his big league debut June 11 of last season, and he gave the Pirates rotation a huge boost in the second half. Francisco Liriano remains the ace of the staff for now, but it will be the burly Cole who anchors their rotation long term. He has a chance to be great.

LF Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Age in 2019: 26

     

    Career Stats

    GBA/OBP/SLGHXBH (HR)RBIRSBWAR
    279.273/.353/.476284111 (43)126177308.9

     

    Player Overview

    "Bryce Harper is the most overrated player in baseball."

    It's been said time and again over the past three seasons. Heck, his peers even agreed in a recent poll, which saw him receive 24 percent of the vote among his fellow players for the title of "most overrated."

    Call him overrated if you like, and at this point in his career you may very well be right, but how do you not get excited about the future of a guy who hits .270/.340/.477 with 22 home runs and 18 steals as a 19-year-old?

    You can count on one hand the number of guys who have played better prior to their age-20 season, and while he will need to prove he can avoid injuries moving forward, the tools are there for him to be a perennial MVP candidate and one of the game's elite talents five years from now.

SP Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

24 of 26

    Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

    Age in 2019: 31

     

    Career Stats

    G/GSW-LERAWHIPBBKIPWAR
    185/18378-462.591.0913941,2131,186.232.5

     

    Player Overview

    He will be 31 years old five seasons from now, and he is dealing with the first significant injury of his career, but there is no reason to think Clayton Kershaw won't still be a stud when the 2019 season rolls around.

    He's sitting on a streak of three straight NL ERA titles and has won a pair of NL Cy Young awards in that time. His 2013 campaign was the best of his career, as he went 16-9 with a 1.83 ERA and 232 strikeouts.

    Kershaw signed a record seven-year, $215 million extension in the offseason, and it's worth noting that he will be eligible to opt out of that deal after the 2018 season, so 2019 could very well be a turning point in his career.

SP Jose Fernandez, Miami Marlins

25 of 26

    USA TODAY Sports

    Age in 2019: 26

     

    Career Stats

    G/GSW-LERAWHIPBBKIPWAR
    33/3315-72.160.96964234204.17.3

     

    Player Overview

    Fresh off of a dazzling start against the Atlanta Braves where he allowed just three hits over eight shutouts innings while striking out a career-high 14, it's hard to envision Jose Fernandez being anything but the best pitcher in baseball five years from now.

    He was an absolute stud as a rookie last season, going 12-6 with a 2.19 ERA, 0.979 WHIP and 187 strikeouts in 172.2 innings of work. If not for a pair of injuries late in the spring, he probably would have spent a good deal of the year pitching in Double-A.

    His numbers are better across the board so far this season, and with Clayton Kershaw on the shelf, you can already make a strong case for him being the best pitcher in baseball right now. Five years from now, he'll still be just 26 years old and entering the prime of what could be a Hall of Fame career.

CF Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

26 of 26

    Kelvin Kuo

    Age in 2019: 27

     

    Career Stats

    GBA/OBP/SLGHXBH (HR)RBIRSBWAR
    360.314/.403/.547431165 (68)2112768922.2

     

    Player Overview

    Who else but Mike Trout would claim the top spot on this list? Let's try putting the 10.8 WAR he posted as a rookie into perspective for a second.

    In 1920, Babe Ruth hit 54 home runs, which was more than 14 of the 16 MLB teams at that time and 35 more than the second-highest total. He also hit .376/.532/.847 in the process, as he drove in 135 runs and scored 158. That was good for an 11.9 WAR—or one win more valuable than Trout was as a rookie.

    That scary thing is, while his WAR slipped to a meager 8.9 in his second season, Trout actually showed drastic signs of improvement at the plate, raising his on-base percentage from .399 to .432 as he drew 43 more walks than the previous season.

    Only 12 times in big league history has a player hit .300/.400/.500 with 30 home runs and 30 steals. Trout has not done it yet, but there's no reason to think he can't at least approach those numbers on a yearly basis for the next decade.

     

    All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference, unless otherwise noted.

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