Nobody said it was going to be easy.
In life, we are forced to make decisions every single day. What am I going to eat for breakfast? What am I going to wear? How many hours of NBA 2K14 am I going to play. All important, scratch that. All crucial. However, does any everyday life decision come even remotely close to the magnitude of a choice regarding fantasy sports?
The answer to that riddle is no, folks.
In most games, there’s a debate between two players for the number one spot in fantasy drafts. Fantasy football saw Adrian Peterson as the unanimous number one pick for a few years, but fantasy baseball has been more of a toss up lately. Should owners use the number one pick on the young gun, the ever-exciting Mike Trout? Or the proven veteran, the purest hitter in baseball, Miguel Cabrera. Of course, both of these guys are studs, so there is really no wrong answer.
But is there a right one?
Look, when selecting at the number on spot in fantasy drafts, or even in the first round, you want to target the combination of safety and upside. Both of these guys fall in both of those categories, and if it was a few seasons ago, I’d probably lean Miggy, striclty based on position scarcity and the fact that he’s done it longer than Trout. We weren’t sure if Trout was going to replicate his success, and after a stellar sophomore campaign, Trout silenced any of those doubts in a hurry.
According to Tristan Cockroft, Trout became just the 15th player in MLB history to to post consecutive 25 HR/30 SB seasons. Of course, over the past two seasons, Miggy has arguably been the best player in baseball in his own right, ranking 1st in batting average, 1st in home runs and RBI and second in runs. However, the stolen base department is where he falters, swiping just seven bags during that span, ranking him 202nd in baseball. Trout, meanwhile, has stolen a whopping 82 bags in his first two season, the second-most in baseball during that span. That is where this decision could be made– steals.
Steals are still a relatively rare category in baseball, and when you find a guy who can provide you with upwards to 40 of them, you hang onto them. And on ESPN’s Player Rater, they are crucial, as a guy like Billy Hamilton found himself inside the top-50 among outfielders during a 30-game span last year, despite seeing just 20 plate appearances. Of course, when you are a pure hitter like Miggy, you don’t need steals to cement yourself at the top of the fantasy circle, but when you consider Trout is a great hitter in his own right, you may side with the young gun.
Trout through first 2 seasons
2012: .326 BA (2nd), 30 HR (13th), 83 RBI (23rd), 182 hits (9th), 129 runs (1st)
2013: .323 BA (3rd), 27 HR (14th), 97 RBI (9th), 190 hits (4th), 109 runs (1st)
Those are already incredible numbers, but could he still be improving as a hitter?
In Trout’s rookie year, he sported a strikeout rate of 21.8 percent, but cut it down to 19.0 during year two. He also improved his walk rate from 10.5% to a strong 15.4%. A guy who has already lead the league in runs the last two seasons, Trout continues to get on base even more, which is absolutely terrifying to think about.
He’s also improving on his plate discipline, which is impressive for a guy who is still just 22-years old. Last year, he swung at less pitches landing outside of the strike zone, but simply swung at about three percent pitches fewer, meaning he is waiting for his pitch and working the count more. He also made strides with his contact rate from his rookie campaign, and if he continues to become a more disciplined batter, there’s no reason he won’t lead the majors in steals for years to come, which, again, gives him the edge over Cabrera for fantasy purposes.
It’s hard to go against a guy like Cabrera, but Trout has two things in his favor. One, he is vastly younger, as Cabrera will turn 31-years old during the 2014 season. And, while not all aging players immediately decline, you know it’s going to happen sooner or later, while Trout, as we’ve pointed out, should only get better. I’m not so sure that Cabrera can get any better than he is right now, which certainly isn’t a bad thing, but it gives Trout the edge.
Don’t stress over the two, but enjoy watching them.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.