One Reason Not to Pick Mike Trout for AL MVP Again: Lindor!

Matthew Jordan

Tuesday, March 28, 2017 10:00 PM UTC

Tuesday, Mar. 28, 2017 10:00 PM UTC

I have been tasked with writing an American League MVP preview with the 2017 season starting Sunday. Mike Trout is the best player in baseball by a wide margin and a two-time MVP winner. So is there any smart reason to pick someone else?

Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout isn’t just the best player in Major League Baseball – he’s the best of all-time. At least if you go by a player’s first five seasons, he is. Trout debuted as a rookie in 2012 and finished second in the AL MVP voting his first two seasons to Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera. In 2014, Trout won his first MVP Award. He was second in 2015 to Toronto’s Josh Donaldson.

Last season, Trout added another MVP even though his Angels finished at 74-88. Trout hit .315/.441/.550 with 173 hits, 32 doubles, five triples, 29 home runs, 100 RBIs, 123 runs and 30 stolen bases. His OBP, runs scored, 116 walks, 174 OPS+ and 10.6 WAR (wins above replacement) were all No. 1 in the majors. Many MVP voters don’t like to cast their ballots for a guy on a losing team, but who is better than Trout? His career WAR through his age 24 season is 48.5. That’s the best of any player in big-league history through that age. The next four on the list: Ty Cobb (46.7), Mickey Mantle (40.9), Alex Rodriguez (38.0) and Ken Griffey Jr. (37.0). Three first-ballot Hall of Famers and one – Rodriguez – who would be in five years if not for his repeated steroid use.

Statisticians say one WAR is worth about $8 million on the open market. That means Trout was worth around $85 million last season, making him hugely underpaid at $15.25 million. He will go up to $19.25 million in 2017 and then is set to earn $33.25 million from 2018-20. There are still some who believe the Angels could trade him because they stink with Trout and could receive the greatest prospect haul in MLB history for him.

Naturally, Trout is a +125 favorite on BetOnline MLB odds to win another MVP. ZiPS projects Trout to hit .292 with 35 homers, 104 RBIs, 115 runs, 24 steals and a WAR of 8.0.

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Tons Of Young Talent Chasing Trout

Boston outfielder Mookie Betts finished second to Trout last season and is the 2017 third-favorite at +750. Betts, in his second full season, hit .318/.363/.534 with 214 hits, 42 doubles, 31 homers, 113 RBIs, 122 runs and 26 stolen bases. He led the majors with 359 total bases. He became only the second 23-year-old ever to record at least 200 hits, 40 doubles, 25 home runs and 25 stolen bases. Betts had a WAR of 9.6. The only 23-year-olds with a higher WAR in a season were Hall of Famers Willie Mays (10.6 in 1954), Ted Williams (10.6 in 1942), Cobb (10.5 in 1910), Eddie Collins (10.5 in 1910) and Cal Ripken Jr. (10.0 in 1984).

So, yeah, if not for Trout then Betts wins the MVP in most every other season in baseball history. Betts also has the advantage over Trout in playing in a better hitter’s park (Fenway) for half his games and being much better protected in the lineup. The Red Sox are stacked everywhere. The Angels have little around Trout.

Orioles third baseman Manny Machado and the Blue Jays’ Donaldson are both +650 second-favorite on MLB picks. Machado was fifth in the voting last year in batting .294 with 37 homers and 96 RBIs. Machado is one of eight players to hit 35 or more home runs in each of the past two seasons, and he's one of only six ever to do it in both his ages 22 and 23 seasons. He also plays Gold Glove-caliber defense at third and would at shortstop, too, if the Orioles would ever shift him there full-time. Donaldson was fourth in the 2016 voting after winning the year before.

The other options below +1500 are Astros shortstop Carlos Correa (+1000) and second baseman Jose Altuve (+1200). The two biggest AL betting surprises this decade were Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton in 2010 when he was +10000 in the spring and Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander the next year when he opened at +7500.

I don’t think Trout wins it this year because the Angels will finish below .500 again. Thus, I will take another young superstar -- but one on a pennant contender …

Free MLB Value Pick: Indians SS Francisco Lindor +1600Best Line Offered: BetOnline
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