Heading into the 2012 baseball season, Los Angeles Angels outfielder, Mike Trout, was one of the top prospects in fantasy baseball. Scouts and experts were raving about his five tool ability, dubbing him a “Carl Crawford with more power”, and all he had to do to breakout in 2012 was find a way for those talents to click at the MLB level.
Simply put, he did.
Trout took the fantasy baseball world by storm in 2012. In only 139 games, the 20-year-old managed a .326/.399/.564 line with 30 home runs, 83 RBI, and a league leading 49 stolen bases to go along with 129 runs scored. He topped player raters and saber metrics across the nation on route to becoming one of fantasy baseball’s most valuable players. Which raises the question: Should last year’s breakout player be this year’s top pick?
Some people think so. In fact, a lot of people think so.
At only 20 years old, Trout has already shown the kind of talent that could one day make him a 40/40 player, which is why many expect him to beat out Miguel Cabrera and Ryan Braun as the top pick in some 2013 fantasy baseball drafts. However, for those lucky enough to have that coveted first pick, there may be some reasons to be leery of the outfield sensation, because even Trout has kinks in his armor.
First off, Trout bats leadoff, and even though it is in a potent Angels lineup that fact is bittersweet. The runs and stolen bases will come in droves, especially with the likes of Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton batting behind him. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Trout match or exceed last years league leading marks.
However, while the runs and steals will come, the RBI may not. If the young outfielder’s home run total declines at all from last year’s 30, we could see his RBI plummet into the 60’s or 70’s, something anyone with the top pick should keep in mind.
Secondly, while the kid may be among the most complete packages in all of the MLB, his true value rests in his legs. There’s no doubting how impressive 40 steals and 120 runs are, especially when 30 long balls come along with it. However, guys like Rajai Davis, BJ Upton and Coco Crisp have legs that can do that as well, and they are going in the later rounds of drafts, not first overall. To take Trout with the top pick is to gamble that the home runs and RBI will come. If they don’t, those who draft him may regret it.
That leads to the last reason to be leery, which is probably the most important of all.
While Trout may have many MVP seasons in his future, don’t forget about the guys who took those titles in the last two years. One of them is a lot like Trout, only older and more proven. The other just won the Triple Crown.
The greatest reason not to take Trout with the top pick is that doing so means passing up on Cabrera and Braun, and that takes guts. Cabrera is good—Triple Crown good, actually—and aside from runs and stolen bases, the Detroit Tigers third baseman bests Trout easily in every stat category. Braun does the same, only he is also good for 20 to 30 steals and around 120 runs as well. Pairing one or the other with a Davis or an Upton later in the draft may mean missing out on Trout, but it’s probably the way to go.
Overall, there may not be a player in fantasy baseball with as much promise as the 20-year-old Trout. Explosive and fun to watch, he lights up the stat sheet just as much as he does the ballpark on game night. He’s a solid top-five pick, probably top three, and taking him first overall is far from a poor decision. It is, however, a bit of a gamble. And no one wants to gamble with the top pick in a fantasy baseball draft.