Baseball HQ: Ron Shandler's 12 reasons not to draft Mike Trout

by Ron Shandler on March 7, 2013 @ 13:35:38 PDT


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7. There are some who argue that Trout could maintain - or, God help us - even improve his numbers because he'll have a full six months of at-bats. But last year's five months of amazing performance wasn't even real - it was an amazing three months. He was other-worldly in May, June and July. But he batted just .284 in August and .257 in September, with a similarly declining power trend. His OPS in September was a mortal .835. So it appears the league was already catching up to him. As baseball analysts, we all know that we would never forecast the future based on one season. So we certainly shouldn't do it based on three months.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim OF Mike Trout
2013 won't be all smiles

8. And don't think that opposing teams haven't been spending the off-season reviewing film, scouting reports and trying to uncover a weakness they can exploit. While not nearly at Trout's level, remember how highly we had valued players like Eric Hosmer and Brett Lawrie coming into 2012. They both disappointed as sophomores. Well, this is a game all about adjustments and we have yet to see how Trout adjusts when the league catches up in year #2.

9. Still, most analysts are projecting some regression. The problem is, a season like 2012 - one that is filled with so much noise already - cannot be used as a point of reference. You can't be taken in by the recency bias and project 2013 by regressing Trout 10%, 20% or 30% from last year's numbers. Last year's numbers are faulty. You have to start 2013 as a blank slate and build a projection from the ground up based on better measures of underlying skill. Admittedly, that is tough to do because all we have is 2012 data. But it's bad data. Garbage in, garbage out.

10. And that 2012 season was not only incredible, it was historic. With one additional stolen base, Trout would have become only the third player in the history of Major League Baseball to post a 30-HR, 50-SB season. The only two players to ever accomplish that feat were Barry Bonds and Eric Davis. Projecting a repeat, or near repeat of an historic performance would be unprecedented. Neither Bonds nor Davis were ever able to repeat that 30/50 feat. And what's more, they both did it with several years of experience under their belts, both at age 25.

11. And Trout pulled off his feat at age 21. Nobody has ever put up numbers like he did at that age. One argument is that he can only get better. Is that even physically possible? Is there not some ceiling to statistical performance? Why don't we just project him to post a 50/70 season? If anything, age 21 might be considered more of an obstacle. I don't know about you, but if I had pulled off an historic feat - of any kind - at age 21, I might have gotten a little cocky, a little over-confident. Trout is a young kid thrust into a new season filled with extraordinary expectation. Let's see how he handles that pressure.

12. And yet, given all the above, he is still going off the board at #1 in many drafts. He is still getting bid into the $40s and $50s in auctions. Are there no other players with first round earning potential that are better picks? Players who have more than one year's track record? Trout finished as the #1 player in baseball last year. Over the past decade, only one player has ever repeated at #1 in consecutive seasons - Albert Pujols, in 2008 and 2009, at ages 28 and 29.

When I say not to draft Mike Trout, it's not because he's not talented; he could well have a Hall of Fame career ahead of him. It's because his current market price guarantees that there is no way he will return fair value. Your early round/$40 players are the cornerstones that you build your team around. You cannot afford for them to return less than par value. And there are so many negative variables working against Trout that it is hard to see how he can be a good investment at his current market price.

What do I think he will do? Well, all I have is my subjective opinion because there is not enough valid data to calculate anything more scientific. I think 20 HRs are a reasonable upside, though 15-20 is probably a more likely range. At his current weight, I don't see more than 25 stolen bases. And I'll stick with a .285 batting average. For those who continue to argue that we'll see an extra month of performance this year, I think that point is moot; he'll likely miss at least that much time nursing injuries or on the DL. 

Net-net, this is a 2nd or 3rd round performance, a $25 player. If you can get him there, grab him.

If you own Trout in a keeper league, needless to say, you should protect him. These 12 reasons don't mean he's not valuable to own, and it is a no-brainer at the price he's probably being kept at. This is just a huge red flag when it comes to his short-term potential compared to his exorbitant market price in 2013 redraft leagues.

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