We all know how impressive Mike Trout was after joining the Angels in 2012. It was an historic season, and one that has sent him flying into the first round of fantasy drafts. In fact, there as been a lot of talk that he deserves to be the top pick in the draft. However, that is certainly up for debate as one can argue that he isn’t even the best selection among the outfielders…
That’s because, after speculation that his performance would regress after the steroid scandal, Ryan Braun produced as usual in 2012. So, has Trout already done enough to leapfrog him in the rankings? Lets take a look:
Trout – Generally I like to start these discussions looking at the two players batting average, but Trout’s power is going to be tied in there so I felt it was necessary to change the order a little bit. There is no arguing that Trout has some pop in his bat, as he produced 65 extra base hits with the Angels last season (27 doubles, 8 triples, 30 home runs). The thing is, while he does have some power, it is easy to say that the home run total was a bit inflated.
In 1,117 minor league at bats Trout produced 23 home runs. That alone would give us cause for concern, but when coupled with a 21.6% HR/FB, there is enough to make us think that replicating a 30 HR season likely isn’t in the card. That’s not to say that he won’t hit 20+, I just can’t go into the season expecting him to repeat last years success.
Braun – Since breaking into the Majors he has hit 32 HR or more in five of six seasons, including a career best 42 HR n 2012. It’s pretty safe to expect him to pass the mark once again without much analysis.
Advantage – Braun
Trout – His .326 average was impressive, but can he really replicate a .383 BABIP? Yes he has speed, and yes he did have an impressive line drive rate (22.6%), but no matter how you slice it the number is elevated (at least a little bit). If you want to assume he’s going to post a mark in the .350-.360 range I could buy it, but not this type of number once again.
Now, you couple a lower BABIP with more balls actually in play (thanks to fewer HR), as well as a strikeout rate around 20% (he was at 21.8% in 2012) and again a regression is likely. Like with the power, chances are he is still going to be better than most (figure around .300), but not quite where he was last season.
Braun – He’s a career .313 hitter who has been at or above .319 four times and over .300 five times in his career. He couples power with the consistent ability to post a BABIP in the .340-.360 range and, at this point, why would we expect anything different? He’s a virtual lock to hit at least .310.
Advantage – Braun by a hair due to his track record (but expect the two to be incredibly close)
Trout – He hits leadoff, so he is at an extreme disadvantage when comparing him to Braun. That said, he had 83 RBI a year ago and could easily eclipse 75 once again. From a top of the order player, that is a huge boost.
Braun – He’s going to be over 100, and quite possibly over 110. In other words, consider him among the league leaders.
Advantage – Braun overall, though what Trout does from his spot in the order is impressive
Trout – He now has Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton hitting behind him. With his power and ability to get on base, that makes him a virtual lock to score 120 once again, putting him right there among the best options in the league.
Braun – He has scored at least 90 every season and over 100 for four straight. Like Trout wi RBI, what he does from his spot in the order is mpressive and helps to close the gap, but it isn’t close to what Trout can do.
Advantage – Trout
Trout – We are talking 50+ SB potential. How many players can you say that about? He’s had as many as 56 SB in a minor league season and clearly has the green light to run in LA. A stolen base title is a very realistic possibility.
Braun – A consistent 30/30 threat, he’s a near lock to steal 25+ bases (especially with a lesser lineup behind him).
Advantage – Obviously Trout, but like with runs Braun certainly doesn’t hurt you here
The truth is, when you are selecting between these two players you are picking between two of the elite in the game. That said, while I would expect Trout to hit around .300 with 20-25 HR, it’s hard to consider it a lock either. Given the potential downside in the power and BABIP, would it completely shock me if he instead hit .280 with 15 HR? No, it wouldn’t, and that’s part of the problem.
As the old adage goes, you generally don’t win your league in the first round but you can easily lose it. While Trout may have higher upside, in Braun you have a proven commodity who should hit .300+ as well as go 25/25/100/100 with the potential for more. Throw in the ability to find the speed you lose in Trout later in the draft, and it makes the decision even more skewed.
While Trout is a top selection, I couldn’t select him over Braun. It’s close, but the potential downside risk in Trout and the ability to find speed late are the deciding factors.
What are your thoughts on this debate? Would you rather select Braun or Trout? Why?
(Stats come courtesy of Fangraphs)
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