This edition of Baseball Profiles appeared on Episode 16 (7.20.15) of the A Foot In The Box Podcast.
Mike Trout was born on August 7, 1991 and grew up in Millville, New Jersey. In less than five seasons in the major leagues, Trout has become the best player in baseball. At just 24 years old, he could be one of the best players of all time.
Mike’s father, Jeff Trout, was a great baseball player himself. Playing at the University of Delaware, Jeff had a phenomenal college career. During his senior season in 1983, Trout had arguably the best college baseball season of all time, hitting .519 in 189 at bats with 14 home runs, 20 doubles, and 17 steals. These numbers were especially impressive for the elder Trout because he played second base, a position not known for its offense. The Twins drafted Jeff in the 5th round of the 1983 draft. He played four seasons in the Twins minor league system. Despite hitting .303 and slugging .425 in those four seasons, Jeff Trout walked away from baseball for good right before the 1987 season, never making it past Double A.
Four years later, Mike was born. Jeff and his wife, Debbie, raised Mike along with one older sister and one older brother in Millville, a small town in New Jersey about an hour away from Atlantic City. Mike displayed the same baseball abilities as his father. As a senior in high school, Trout had an average of .531 and hit 18 home runs in just 81 at bats. Growing up, Trout played pitcher and shortstop while wearing the number "2" jersey to honor his childhood hero, Derek Jeter. Before his senior season, Mike switched to center field.
Despite the impressive numbers Trout put up, a majority of pro scouts remained skeptical about his abilities. Research had shown that high school players drafted from cold weather states perform well below those from warm weather states. Trout, coming from New Jersey, fell in the cold weather camp. However, two teams still had Trout ranked as high as 2nd on their 2009 draft boards behind the consensus number one player, Stephen Strasburg: the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angels. The Angels picked first among these teams and drafted Trout with the 25th pick. This pick was acquired as a compensation pick from the Yankees for the signing of first baseman Mark Teixeira. The Angles scout responsible for drafting Trout, Greg Morhardt, was a teammate of Jeff Trout in the minors.
Mike Trout would soon prove the skeptics wrong. In the 44 games he played in 2009 after being drafted, Mike hit .352 while swiping 13 bags. The power he flashed in high school was absent though, as he only hit one home run. Before the 2010 season, Trout was ranked the 85th best prospect by Baseball America and 53rd by Baseball Prospectus. His 2010 season would be his breakout year. After hitting 10 home runs with a .341 average (.428 OBP) and recording 56 steals while registering just one error in center field, Trout was the number one ranked prospect in baseball by both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus at the age of 19.
Trout’s dominance in the minor leagues continued in 2011, as he hit 9 home runs and stole 28 bases in 75 games. Without playing a single game at Triple A, Mike Trout was promoted to the Los Angeles Angels on July 8, 2011. At that time, the Angels were in the thick of the playoff race, just one game behind Texas in the AL West. Trout was unable to adjust as quickly as he had in the minor leagues. After hitting just .163 with the Angels, Mike was sent back down to Double A on August 1, six days before his 20th birthday. 18 days later, Trout was called back up on August 19. On that date, he hit his first major league home run. However, he never hit his stride, finishing the year with a .220 average, 5 home runs, and 4 steals.
After a mysterious illness in spring training that kept him off the field, Trout started the 2012 season at Triple A. In 20 games, Mike hit .403 and slugged a ridiculous .623. The Angels called him up again in late April and this time it would be for good. Since his call-up in 2012, Mike Trout has dominated baseball. In 2012, Trout became the youngest player ever to join the 30-30 club. Even more impressive, Trout became the first player in baseball history to hit 30 home runs, steal 45 bases, and score 125 runs in one season. His Wins Above Replacement (WAR) of 10.8 was the highest in baseball by over two wins. It was the first time since Barry Bonds in 2004 that someone had a WAR of more than 10. Despite these numbers, Trout received just 6 of the 28 votes for American League MVP, losing out to Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera. The Angels also missed the playoffs. Trout ended 2012 with 30 home runs, 49 steals, a batting average of .326, an OBP of .399, and a slugging percentage of .564. He was the unanimous pick for the AL Rookie of the Year Award.
In 2013, Trout lived up to the hype by hitting 27 home runs and drawing an AL-leading 110 walks, resulting in an OBP of .432. Trout made his second All Star Game, this time as a starter. His WAR of 9.3 was again tops in baseball, but he would come in second place again in the AL MVP voting behind Miguel Cabrera. With a record of 78-84, the Angels missed the playoffs again.
2014 was a breakthrough year for Mike in a few different ways. First, he won his first MVP trophy, receiving every first place vote. He also won the All-Star Game MVP, joining Cal Ripken Jr. as the only other player to win both awards in the same season. Second, the Angels made the playoffs for the first time in his career with a record of 98-64, the best mark in baseball. They would lose in the American League Division Series to the Royals, getting swept in 3 games. Lastly, Trout signed a 6 year, $144 million contract extension in March.
So far this season, Trout is on pace for yet another MVP-caliber season. As of August 15, he has 33 home runs with a .398 OBP and a would-be career best SLG of .603. He also played in his fourth All-Star game, hitting a home run to lead off the game. He became the first player ever to win consecutive All-Star Game MVP awards.
At just 24 years old, Mike Trout has 131 home runs, 112 steals, 698 hits, and a career WAR of 35.8.