How secure is Mike Trout as a top fantasy pick?
Based on sheer laws of regression, a duplicate of Trout's for-the-books 2012 won't come in 2013 or ever again. Even with his five-category allure, those making him a top-three pick - and even a first-rounder - this spring are asking an awful lot.
Trout's swift skill set - speed, liners and grounders - projects him to consistently post above-average in-play clips. His favorable free-pass frequency breeds additional opps to attempt swipes, as well.
But a .383 BABIP in his first full season? You must at least try poking holes in such a performance. One prime regression spot downfall rests in his splits to right field. Sure, he laced 25.4 percent of his contact clubbed the other way, but 51.6 percent of that went into the air. His adept opposite-field attacking says his .352 BA and .317 BABIP to that sector could hold up, but that trajectory distribution doesn't support a trend.
Though his promising reverse splits say he won't slump much, his power against righties was probably bloated, so that knocks a few taters off his line.
As noted in this fine breakdown by Jeff Zimmerman at Fangraphs, pitchers adapted by showing him more pitches up and out, along with increasing fastball and cutter deployment. Maybe this was an effort to keep him from putting the ball on the ground and utilizing his biggest weapons. But, as noted here, Trout produced more GBs, which made his late-year homer tear a bit lofty.
If opposing pitchers can exploit his same-field favoritism with high-and-off stuff, they could jeopardize his .300 BA. Not that it's terrible if he bats, say, .280, but it's not what the heavy majority of his drafters will expect.
As Nick points out, Trout's Torii Hunter-ian fielding motor might produce more dents when the adrenaline of a rookie year doesn't kick in ... when it's becoming more like a job. You could see hints of that in Trout's still excellent but slightly down August and September/October samples last year, when a bum knee might've slowed him down a smidge. He also struck out at a rate of 23.0 percent or higher in three month-long windows, so if he gets greedy....
Are you confident in gambling on his one year of first-round elite-ness ahead of the extensive resumes of brilliance held by Ryan Braun and Miguel Cabrera? In the middle or back end of the first round, when you can pair him with another bankable commodity after little draft pause, he's safer.
He's still quite excellent, no doubt, but his fee leaves little room for profit if you make him one of your league's first few selections or pay full auction price.
Unfortunately, that's pretty much how it'll play out in just about every room, so you'll have to wait until 2014 for a chance at a much more rational ROI.
About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in the prestigious LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
He appears frequently, including every Sunday, on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, as well as every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.
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