Mike Trout: Historical Comparison Projection

Mike Trout exceeded all expectations in 2012 and produced one of the greatest seasons ever. The hardest part of getting an idea of a reasonable projection for him is that there is basically no one to compare to the 21-year-old. I will give it an attempt today.

Just for reference, here are Mike Trout‘s 2012 stats:

Age: 20
PA: 639
HR: 30
Runs: 129
RBI: 83
SB: 49
Triple Slash: .326/.399/.564

The first reference available here at FanGraphs is the Bill James projection of Trout.

PA: 679
HR: 30
Runs: 122
RBI: 87
SB: 53
Triple Slash: .326/.402/.564

Bill James always has “unique” projections and this projection is another one. He has Trout getting 40 more PA with the same triple slash values. I would expect his counting stats to go up some, but they are almost all the same.

I looked for comparable players in baseball’s history to see how young players performed after a great season. But there is a problem. Barely anyone exists who had a comparable season to Trout’s at such a young age. I wanted at least 20 players to compare. I expanded the parameters until I had 20 seasons (*). With this list of greats, I looked at how they produced from the great season to the next one (I will get to stolen bases in a bit).

An OBP greater than .355 and a SLG greater than .525 age 19 to 21, (min 400 PA)

Stat Average Median
AVG -0.007 -0.016
OBP -0.010 -0.009
SLG -0.020 -0.027
HR -1.8 -2.5
Runs+RBI -16 -25
PA -22 -22
Each Season Rated 600 PA
HR -0.3 -1.1
Runs + RBI -8 -13
Runs -5 -4
RBI -3 -4

All of the stats I looked at dropped. The one that surprised me the most was the plate appearance drop of 22. I figured the players were younger and would likely see more playing time after their talent level was known. Instead, I bet the drop in PA is from teams moving the players down in the lineup so they could be RBI machines. For each position dropped in a lineup, a player will see 18 less PA over the course of a complete season. This possible lineup re-positioning could help to explain the Run drop being larger than the RBI drop.

Using the above numbers, here are his 2013 projected stats by using the average and median values. He is expected to see a decline in PA. I will bet that he will be closer to his 2012 value because he was only in 139 games, so I kept the PA value the same.

Stat 2012 Regular Season 2013 Projected (median) 2014 Projected (average)
PA 639 639 639
HR 30 28 28
Runs 129 121 117
RBI 83 75 71
AVG 0.326 0.319 0.311
OBP 0.399 0.389 0.390
SLG 0.564 0.545 0.538
ISO 0.238 0.226 0.227

Using historic examples, he looks to drop off more than what Bill James projects. It still looks to be a good fantasy season.

Another problem with looking at Trout is his great base running ability. I had to create a second player pool containing some speedsters (**). Again, I got the 10 players’ average and median change

Between 33 and 67 SB from age 19 to 21

2012 total: 49 SB
Average change: +0.4 SB
Average change (w/o Rickey Henderson‘s +67 increase): -3.2 SB
Median change: -3.5 SB

Rickey Henderson really skewed the average. In all, I expect a small decrease in stolen bases. One possible cause for a drop in Trout’s SB numbers is if he is moved off of the lead off spot and down in the lineup. He batted lead off in all his games in 2012. I expect his numbers will decline if he is on base with heart of the lineup at bat. If he is able to stay at the top of the lineup, I expect to see him around 46 SB.

Projecting Mike Trout‘s 2013 performance is tough since there are few comparable players. Bill James projections have him producing nearly the same as he did in 2012. By looking at how other similar-ish players performed, he looks to regress some, but not a lot. He should be a top three pick in 2013.

* Jimmie Foxx (x2), Eddie Mathews, Mel Ott (x2), Cesar Cedeno, Al Kaline (x2), Mickey Mantle, Alex Rodriguez, Ted Williams (x2), Albert Pujols, Ken Griffey, Hal Trosky, Frank Robinson, Giancarlo Stanton, Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, Justin Upton

** Cesar Cedeno, Barry Bonds, Jose Cardenal, Claudell Washington (x2), Roberto Alomar, Tris Speaker, Elvis Andrus, Sherry Magee, Carl Crawford, Ty Cobb (x2), Sherry Magee, Delino DeShields, Frankie Frisch, Edgar Renteria, Sonny Jackson, Rickey Henderson,Willie Randolph, Donie Bush

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Jeff writes for FanGraphs, The Hardball Times and Royals Review, as well as his own website, Baseball Heat Maps with his brother Darrell. In tandem with Bill Petti, he won the 2013 SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

11 Responses to “Mike Trout: Historical Comparison Projection”

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  1. Menthol says:

    I expect his output to drop slightly also, but he is a top 3 pick, I think, in fantasy. Really, I think it’s between him and Braun. Maybe Cabrera.

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  2. Kiss my Go Nats says:

    I had Trout last season in fantasy. My league fought over Harper and ignored Trout they day they arrived, so I got Trout with the last waiver claim spot. Man was I lucky there.

    I won my H2H by 36 games over second place. We had a 12 team league.

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  3. philosofool says:

    I would understand the point of this article if you replaced “Trout” with “Machado” or even “Harper”, but Trout is a top 3 pick and there’s not really any reason to worry that you’re over drafting him, unlike the other two.

    Seriously, just use his Marcel projection and then adjust for the fact he will probably hit third. There’s no reason to look for comps or to think that comps get you more reliability.

    That basically means: HR down, K same, BB same, H – HR down, SB/CS down, SB opportunities down, RBI up, R down. And he’s still a top three player.

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  4. Ray says:

    No mention of his inflated BABIP? Look at ARod at age 20/21, he hit .358 with a 141 36 123 15 line, that dipped to 100 23 84 29 .300 with a closer-to-career .328 BABIP. I don’t disagree that Trout will be a monster fantasy performer during his career, and the 40+ SB’s annually will prop up anything that drops off. But just going by a few comps who may have nothing in common with the player in question (I mean, Ted Williams and Al Kaline are both 2X comps in this analysis) seems to miss the boat.

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  5. Jim says:

    I have to give major respect to any article that mentions two of my favorite players ever (Hal Trosky and Sherry Magee), two of the most worth players not enshrined in the Hall of Fame (granted, Trosky fell off completely before WWII, but before then he was 90% of Joe DiMaggio).

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  6. jcxy says:

    interesting take on the PA.

    i admit, i’m a bit less tumescent than seemingly everyone re: his 2013 fantasy profile. i think people are overestimating the power floor. if he hits 3rd in the lineup, 50 steals might be ambitious. plus, his xbabip was .366 this year– still amazing obviously — but only a .310 average.

    sign me up for the 2030 cooperstown induction, but in auction formats, i’m going to be nominating him early and hope people go crazy and give me a discount on braun/miggy.

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  7. Jack says:

    Trout’s numbers were incredible last year. However, it is very difficult to confidently project his 2013 production based on one year of perfromance. His 30 HR’s were 16 more than any year in the minors & his 120+AB with the Angels in 2011 were not very good.
    I will approach him as a High Risk/Reward pick in 2013. When comparing his projections to Braun’s or Cabrera’s, I will have far more confidence in their projections. Logically, you have to expect some regression for Trout.
    My first round pick is one that I try to remove as much risk as possible & save it for later.
    I probably will be hoping that I do not have any Number 1 overall pick for my fantasy teams next year & let someone else make that call. It will be hard to pass-up the 50 SB.

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  8. Matt says:

    Regression to the mean. If you pick out a bunch of great seasons, the average of the following seasons won’t be as good.

    I am a dynasty Trout owner so I’m biased, but I still think we’ll see a drop (hopefully not too big) in power and average. The guy is so ridiculously fast that there has got to be room to grow in the SB department. He’s got the talent to steal 60+, but if he hits in front of Pujols all year that’s probably not happening.

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  9. duder says:

    Trout definitely used PEDs

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