In a season where he started better than in any of his previous seasons (as if that was something easy to do), Mike Trout has not played in an MLB game since May 17, 2021, and that’s a complete shame.
What makes this so heartbreaking is that he had better numbers in March/April than in any same period before, in OBP, SLG, OPS, ISO, wOBA, wRC+, and AVG. That’s a mouthful of stats to begin the season, and May was almost as good until the moment of the calf injury.
We can compare the beginning of all his seasons in this chart:
All that green in 2021 is a reminder of what could have been but wasn’t, so, we can only imagine what a “best of” season for the best player of his generation could’ve been like.
But, going further, what was the impact (or better said, lack of it) of not having Trout in the lineup of the fantasy team that spent a first-round pick on him? Let’s try to find out.
What Did We Miss?
It’s very hard to get an idea of what Trout would’ve been this season with less than three dozen games played. After all, we might overreact to that incredible start.
One way to do it could be through the eye of the pre-season projections from the major systems. As an example, ATC had him for a line of .284 AVG, 111 R, 43 HR, 109 RBI, and 8 SB. On other hand, Steamer had him for .281 AVG, 116 R, 41 HR, 105 RBI, and 10 SB; Razzball thought he would bat for .278 AVG, 109 R, 41 HR, 109 RBI, and 10 SB.
For the purpose of this exercise, I’m only focusing on the standard 5 x 5 categories.
The three systems were almost equal regarding Trout, so I will use an average of the three of them as a baseline but, going further, I’m boosting the stats (minus the SBs, which I’m downgrading) by 5%, because well, did you see that man’s start in the chart up there?
That way, I settled for the following numbers: 0.295 AVG, 118 R, 44 HR, 113 RBI, and 4 SB; those figures are very close to Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s MVP-caliber-like stats.
While we might disagree on that final line, and if the hot start could’ve been somehow sustainable, I think it is safe to assume that a player posting a bWAR of 9.6 per 162 games during his career is more than capable of those and better numbers.
Impact on a Fantasy Team
If you take the leagues in which the Top-10 overall points leaders in Yahoo! Roto 5×5 are, and average the stats for every rank, from first to last (twelfth) place, this is what those numbers look like:
And the average player, depending on the team’s rank, has the following stats:
A typical average player in a league would have a line of .262 AVG, 78 R, 23 HR, 74 RBI, and 8 SB. For a first-place team, that changes to .272 AVG, 92 R, 28 HR, 86 RBI, and 11 SB.
How would’ve Trout faired against them? It’s easier to see it graphically:
So, duh, Trout would be better than the average player, including first-place teams players, big discovery. Now, what would’ve happened if Trout would’ve played?
For a middle-of-the-pack team, Trout would’ve provided a serious boost, adding 40 R, 21 HR, and 39 RBI, while boosting the average and hurting a little on the SBs.
That could have increased the points in those three stats and moved said team into a top 3 position in its league. That’s what a difference-maker does.
Even if you got lucky and hit jackpot in the waiver wire with Adolis Garcia or some other slugger, you would not fill the hole in your team left by Trout’s absence and their contribution would have not been enough to be that needed booster to your stats.
That nasty calf injury is something we need to be monitoring during the offseason. I believe that it is more serious than we thought it would be but also that the Angels, completely out of contention – as usual, did the right thing in shutting down Trout for the rest of the season to let him heal properly, even to my @TGFBI team’s dismay
If things move swiftly after September, they are going to be good for him next year but here is the catch: I would still not pick him in the first round in 2022.
The thing is Trout could have a huge year in 2022. That’s always a very big possibility. But, since the 2017 season, he missed 20% of the games on average every season (and that’s before including 2021).
Having a lot of options in the first round, with a more probable (but never 100% sure, of course) possibility of a larger volume, is a safer way to go as it would take a very good roster construction and luck to be able to upset the loss of a larger-than-usual period from Trout because, as we saw earlier, he is just not a guy you can replace.
MLB is pretty packed with young great talent these days, a blessing we sometimes take for granted without really appreciating it. Let’s look, for example, at some of the hitters that should be in the first-round pick conversation for next season (classic 5 x 5 AVG roto or H2H, 12 teams leagues):
To be clear, this is not a definitive list and it might have flaws; for example, some of these guys also bring injuries concerns with them (looking at you, Mr. Tatis), just as we are concerned about Trout. But here is the thing, the reward could be higher because of one important aspect: stolen bases.
Mike Trout is an extraordinary, one-of-a-kind player. But Mike Trout stopped stealing bases. And having a serious injury in your legs, like the one he had this year, just doesn’t alleviate this fact, just the opposite.
And if you are going to be selected in the first round, you need to contribute everywhere. For sure, there are a couple of guys who are underachievers in SB, Vladito and Matt Olson for example, but those guys are:
a) Younger than Trout.
b) Playing more time on average than Trout.
c) They are extraordinary hitters, too, as you can see in the previous chart.
You should be willing to minimize risks as much as you can with your first pick (that’s why I don’t draft pitchers in the first round, most of the time, but that’s a different conversation) and in that list, or some other players I left out like Ronald Acuña Jr. and Trevor Story, you will find safer choices in a way that, including the pitcher’s options, there is less and less space for Trout in the first round.
As an anecdotal point, I did a Twitter poll and most of the people answering it, think that he should be drafted around 6-12 (approx. 40%) or in the second round (approx. 30%). Looks like the market has already started a correction.
In case you can’t see the results, just click on an option of your choice and they will be displayed.
Where should we be drafting Mike Trout next year?
12-Teamers, 5 x 5 Roto, AVG.
— Carlos Marcano, Yermín Mercedes Stan (@camarcano) September 23, 2021
Most of those voters also think Bryce Harper should be taken 6-12 in the first round which at this moment looks like a bargain, and would definitely be my choice instead of Trout.
It feels weird and even sad to be fading Mike Trout, especially to me as I have been his admirer for his entire career, but the numbers and the particularities of our game are moving the needle a little, just a little, further from him.
Photo by John Cordes/Icon Sportswire | Design by Michael Packard (@designsbypack on Twitter @ IG)