The highest compliment for a baseball position player is to be labeled a five-tool player. In that respect, Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout should be labeled a Swiss Army knife.
When choosing a player to build a franchise around, Trout is without equal. Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper and Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig are outstanding young talents, but Trout has proven he is more than just a talent.
In Trout’s first full year in Major League Baseball in 2012, he hit for a batting average of .326 with 30 home runs and 83 RBIs. He led the American League in stolen bases with 29 and 129 runs scored.
All of this led Trout winning the American League Rookie of the Year and finishing second in the voting for Most Valuable Player.
In 2013, Trout duplicated his numbers from 2012 and improved his walk to strikeout ratio. He led the AL in runs scored and walks while finishing second in the MVP voting for the second year in a row.
These stats and accolades for Trout are mind-blowing for a player who is 22-years-old, but they do not tell the whole story of his value.
At 6-foot-2, weighing 230 pounds and with a 1000-watt smile, Trout looks like he was handcrafted to serve as the face of a franchise. He is a natural born leader respected throughout MLB.
Despite his young age, Trout has shown no indications of off the field shenanigans.
Puig, on the other hand, has had his fair share of off the field shenanigans.
When Puig was called up to the majors in June of 2013, his journey has been a roller coaster ride. He started white-hot and had a batting average of .364 at the end of July. But his hitting was inconsistent throughout the rest of the year and his high strikeout total was a cause for concern.
No game summed up Puig better as a player when the Dodgers played the Marlins on Aug. 20. He showed up late to warm ups and was benched for five innings as a punishment. After being inserted in the sixth inning, Puig came up to bat in the eighth and crushed the first pitch he saw for a go-ahead home run.
This game showed Puig’s outstanding ability, but also how unpredictable he is. Although Puig generates plenty of buzz for a team, he is not a sure player to start a franchise with going forward.
Puig is still young and has tremendous upside. If he straightens up his act, he could be a fantastic franchise cornerstone, but until then he will remain an erratic talent.
Since Harper’s high school days, he has generated buzz around baseball. However, his performance in the majors so far has been underwhelming. To be fair, Harper is only 21-years-old and has shown stretches of greatness that hint at a bright future.
Harper’s willingness to hustle on every play helped him stand out in the majors, but it has also earned him numerous trips to the disabled list. He was recently put on the DL because of a torn thumb ligament he suffered after sliding headfirst into third base.
It is important to keep in mind that Puig and Harper are still young players as far as career paths go, but there is no telling how high their ceiling’s are going to be in the future.
Another player to keep watch in the franchise player discussion is Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado. In his first full year in the majors, he was an all-star, won the AL Gold Glove at third base and hit .283 with 14 home runs and 71 RBIs.
Unfortunately, Machado tore a ligament in his knee last season that has caused him to miss all of April this season. It is worth watching how he comes back from this major injury, but if he is able to replicate his performance from last year he deserves to have his name thrown into the franchise player discussion.
With Trout, Puig, Harper and Machado all in their early twenties it is clear that baseball is in good hands for the future. The true beneficiaries of this plethora of young talent are baseball fans.