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Mark Trumbo Is What He Is

Remember when Mark Trumbo came up in 2011 and finished second in the Rookie of the Year balloting, thanks largely to things like “29 homers and 87 RBI”, and we all laughed because his .291 OBP made him seem like a one-dimensional slugger who had caveman skills and little else? It seemed he’d be further marginalized in 2012 when Albert Pujols arrived and Kendrys Morales returned, but after a laughable attempt to play third base, Trumbo found a home in the outfield, as well as getting 38 starts at first base and DH. He maintained the power, but increased the OBP to .317, helped by a walk rate that went from an atrocious 4.4% to a still-not-great 6.1%.

Headed into an age-27 season and bolstered by the trade of Morales as well as the health concerns of Pujols, Trumbo looked like he might be in for a big season, but whether you consider his year successful or not really depends on how you perceive such things. From a standard 5×5 fantasy point of view, it was a very good year. Trumbo hit 34 homers, scored 85 runs, and drove in 100 — career highs, all — more than enough to make up for a poor .234 batting average.

But from an advanced stats point of view, it was something of a step backwards. The wOBA that had gone from .328 to .346 sank down to .322, as he struck out in 27.1% of his plate appearances, among the worst marks in baseball. (It had been just 20.9% as a rookie.) He somehow did walk more (now at 8%), and his peripherals were in their usual range, but by some measures it was the worst of his three seasons. The difference in batting average and OBP could partially be explained by a BABIP that was .274 in 2011 and .273 in 2013, but had been .316 in 2012.

As this is a fantasy-focused review, should you care? The answer is, “probably not,” unless you’re in a league that counts OBP.  As you can see in our end of season first base rankings, Trumbo still ranked #12, and you can argue for him as a top-ten first baseman if you prefer to consider Matt Carpenter & Daniel Murphy as second basemen. It’s not especially easy to find home run power like that, and hitting with Mike Trout on base is always a plus. (58 of Trumbo’s RBI came either by driving in Trout or himself.)

Looking ahead to 2014, the Steamer projections aren’t really that creative, but they probably don’t need to be. As you can see, they’re basically projecting him to hit his career averages:

Career average: .250/.299/.469 31.6 HR 72 R 94 RBI
Steamer 2014: .249/.306/.472 31 HR 77 R 90 RBI

Considering his power has been extremely consistent — ISO of .223/.222/.219 in his three years, HR/FB of 17.9%/20.6%/20.9% — there’s not a whole lot here that suggests Trumbo is going to be a substantially different player next year. That makes him perhaps unexciting, but safe; absent an unexpected injury, you know what you’re likely to get, and that’s good power, decent runs and RBI, and a lousy batting average. You can probably suffer the average to get the power, and that makes him a decent mid-round choice. If you count OBP in your league, adjust accordingly.