He’s one of the most special players baseball has seen in years.
According to Tristan Cockroft of ESPN, Angels star Mike Trout holds two of the three 25-25 seasons that any player age 21 or younger has ever had in MLB history. After perhaps the greatest rookie campaign of all time, Trout silenced any sophomore slump critics, posting an average of .323, hitting 27 home runs, 97 RBI, 33 stolen bases and 109 runs. No player in baseball provides the peripheral stats that Trout does, possessing the ability to bat for average, hit 30 home runs, steal 40 bases, score 100 runs, you name it. The guy can do it all, and is it crazy to believe that he could even get better? In 2013, Trout slashed his strikeout rate almost three percent from his rookie campaign, and his walk rate improved from 10.5 to 15.4 percent. Because of that, Trout went on to lead the American League in walks (109), sporting an insane on-base percentage of .432. His contact rate also saw an uptick, and crazy as it is to think about it, at age 22, Trout is still a few years away from hitting his prime. He’s fantasy’s clear cut number one pick, and deserves to open up this column.
Oh, you want the rest of the Los Angeles Angels? Fine.
Outside of Trout, Josh Hamilton is the most intriguing player in this Angels lineup to me. He saw a massive decline in 2013, sporting a slash line of .250/.307/.432. He hit 21 home runs, his fewest since 2009 and 79 RBI, also his fewest since that year. The move to Angels stadium wasn’t great for him, and as long as he remains there, I won’t be huge on him. Last year, he batted just .236 with nine home runs at Angel Stadium and during his final year in Texas, batted an awful .143 with zero homers in LA. It remains a very pitcher friendly park, and until Hamilton improves on his plate discipline, I won’t be a fan. Sure, he improved his chase rate last year, but the fact remains that he still swung at 41.2 percent of pitches outside of the strike zone. The power is still there, and he could flirt with 30 home runs, but I don’t see it. Expect around a .260 average with 23-25 long balls this year.
Apparently, I’m just not high on many Angels other than the elite Trout. Albert Pujols isn’t the one of old. At age 34 years old, he is coming off a nagging foot injury that kept him in and out of the lineup. Strike one. Then, you consider that his on-base percentage and home runs have declined in each of the last four seasons, and he is chasing more pitches, you become concerned. In 2008, his chase percentage was just 21.6, but over the last two seasons, it’s climbed to 34.4 and 34.3. Finally, he isn’t walking as much, slashing his walk rate in half compared to what it was back in 2010. First base is entirely too deep with young talent, so there is no need to chase the Pujols of old.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.