If Mike Trout were to retire right now, he’d be a first ballot Hall-of-Famer. There’s absolutely no chance of that happening considering he’s in the midst of his prime and just inked a 12 year, $430,000,000 contract (which still might not encapsulate his value), but if he for some reason decided to hang ’em up, he’s already put together a Hall of Fame resume. In fact, the average Hall of Fame centerfielder has a career WAR of 71. Trout is currently sitting at 68.7. If he continues at his current pace, he will pass Ken Griffey Jr. in WAR within the next two seasons. Griffey played 22 seasons, Trout is in his 9th.
This year Trout is once again putting together an all-time great season, yet somehow it feels like it’s flying under the radar. He’s leading the league in OBP, OPS and OPS+. He’s hitting nearly .300, slugging over .600 and has added 17 homers and 42 RBIs through 61 games. If he continues at this pace he projects to hit over 45 homeruns and knock in over 110 RBIs. Trout is putting together a stretch of seasons comparable to regular seasons put together by LeBron James in basketball or Tom Brady in football. But, James and Brady are far more recognizable and far more marketed than Trout.
There’s a number of reasons for this. The most obvious reason being that Trout plays a sport with less singular player impact on the game. In basketball and football respectively, James and Brady can put together wins seemingly on their own singular greatness. In baseball, Trout can and does play excellent games night in and night out but the outcome is largely contingent on the 8 other hitters producing and the pitching showing up.
Trout can go 3-4 with a couple of homers in a game, but he’s still really only seen by the casual viewer a handful of times during the entire broadcast of a game. Whereas in basketball a player like James is on screen and in the action for nearly the entire game, and in football, Brady is on screen anytime the offense takes the field. Their impact on winning is quite clear. The MLB is simply not built for producing worldwide superstars like soccer or basketball. For that reason, Trout will continue to seem underrated and under-marketed as the leagues best player year in and year out.