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, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first two seasons in Tout Wars, he's won the H2H league and mixed auction league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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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.