"If [Mike Trout] is not the best player in the game by the end of this season," said the evaluator, "he will be by the end of next." -- Buster Olney
You don't need to be a very serious baseball fan to recognize Mike Trout's talent: the Angels young outfielder is big (6'1 220), really fast and hits the ball really hard.
At only 20 years old, he's been putting up historic numbers in his first 130 at-bats this season: .303/.366./.521 with 5 HR's and 16 RBI's. There have been only 14 players in MLB history who have matched Trout's performance so far at the age of 20; 10 are in the Hall of Fame and the 11th is Alex Rodriguez.
He showed Rangers fans what he could in the Angels 4-2 victory on Friday night.
First, with Texas up 2-0 and Colby Lewis throwing a one-hitter coming in the bottom of the 6th inning, he ripped a line-drive down right-center into a sliding triple that drove in LA's first run and just beat Josh Hamilton's throw. The extra base proved important, as he ended up scoring on a sacrifice fly.
The next inning, with the bases loaded, Trout drove in the winning runs on a bloop single to center.
The comparisons with Bryce Harper, MLB's other rookie phenom, are inevitable. For a sense of how highly the two are regarded, check out the last line of this Fangraphs article:
If anyone is going to challenge Harper for the title of the game's best player five years from now, it's almost certainly going to be Trout.
In the grand scheme of things, one victory in a 162 game season doesn't mean all that much, and it's far too soon to tell how much of a difference Trout's emergence will have in the AL West race. Maybe his hot start will ultimately prove to be a small sample size mirage or maybe the rest of the league will figure out a hole in his swing over the next five months.
However, it's always exciting to watch a young player with Hall-of-Fame level talent, regardless of what ends up happening to him in his career.
For now, it appears that the Rangers biggest competitor in the AL West has a five-tool center-fielder who isn't eligible for arbitration for another six years.