Walt Burrows was the Canadian director for the Major League Scouting Bureau in June of 2011. Mike Trout was a fresh faced 19-year old, #1 prospect in all of baseball playing for the Arkansas Travellers at that time. Just two weeks away from making his Major League debut and changing Angels Baseball, along with the game, forever.
What’s the connection between these two? Burrows became famous, or perhaps infamous in some eyes, for making an observation on a June night. “Oh I saw Mickey Mantle play tonight” in a very casual, nonchalant manner as if seeing a dead man play a sport was normal. Only it was another blonde, buzz cut kid built like a fire hydrant he was referring to.
Normally, this would not sit well with baseball purists. And, well, it didn’t. Trout was the consensus top prospect in the whole sport, that part was undisputed, but everyone wanted to see him at least face Major League pitching before making such lofty comparisons to the Yankee great. This is the ‘The Mick’ we’re talking about, after all. Prospects and young players get comparisons all of the time, when you get them with someone whose game footage is in black-and-white, it’s noteworthy.
So what about someone who actually saw both play? Leave it to the legendary Vin Scully
“Trout all smiles in the dugout. Great-looking ballplayer,” Scully said as the camera panned to Trout in the dugout after his home run.
“Bigger than (Mickey) Mantle, sometimes bigger than life.”
Okay, okay, okay. So some random scout who was able to see how obviously freaking talented Trout was and “some guy” who was able to call games for both of those players say Mantle’s name in the same breath as Trout. Doesn’t mean we should believe them.
How about the offspring of Mickey Mantle? Yep, David Mantle, has also made the comparison.
"Like my dad, Mike Trout isn't just good. He's compelling and exciting to watch. So if you're a baseball fan, you've got a chance to see a modern-day Mickey Mantle in center at Yankee Stadium with your own eyes," David Mantle said on MLB Network. "Just be sure to call him Mike, because the kid has clearly made a name for himself. As for the pinstripes, those you're just going to have to imagine."
“He almost smiles like dad.” That quote brought a Trout sized grin to my face.
So we’ve seen guys make the same comparison based off of the eye test, but we have tools and resources to get a statistical comparison now. I made a comment in the HaloLinks yesterday comparing the two, but Trout had to go be his awesome self and hit a 4th homerun in as many games. So now I have to do a little bit more basic math. Siiiigh.
This exercise comes with one caveat: these numbers, for Mantle, come from the entirety of his age 25 season. Trout’s only 35 games into his, he’s played 106 less games than Mantle total in these categories. These numbers will continue to get closer and closer the more Trout mashes over the course of the summer. They could very well change after tonight for all we know. Give us five straight, Mike!
Let’s start with the basics through their age-25 seasons to this point:
Slash’s Trout: .308/.397/.566/.963 vs. Mantle: .314/.422/.568/.990
wOBA? Trout: .412 vs. Mantle: .436
Hits? Trout: 961 vs. Mantle: 1,080
Runs? Trout: 626 vs. Mantle: 763
HR’s? Trout: 180 vs. Mantle: 207
Stolen Bases? Not even close. Mike has an even 150 against Mantle’s 59
Again, I cannot stress this enough, these are the numbers after Mantle’s age-25 season. There are 121 games left in the regular season. You don’t think Trout can hit 27 homeruns (isn’t that poetic?) the remainder of the season? ZiPS, Steamer, and Depth Charts, all projection based sites, have him hitting around that mark the rest of the way. Plus, if we’ve learned anything about Mike Trout, it’s to never discredit anything in the realm of possibility or even outside of that realm with him.
That’s 119 hits to tie Mantle in those 121 games, again, right around where the projection sites have him (123, 121, and 123). The 137 runs he needs is virtually impossible, Trout’s not exactly hitting in the 50’s Yankees lineups. Stolen bases, Trout will pad his lead significantly. Mantle finished his age-25 season with an even 41 fWAR, Trout already has 50.4 fWAR and still going. Trout’s almost halfway to Mantle’s career total of 112.3 fWAR.
Let’s use ZiPS as a basis to work on in an attempt to project Trout. They have him playing 114 games, hitting 28 homeruns, scoring 84 runs, collecting 167 hits, stealing 18 stolen bases, and accumulating 6.1 fWAR the rest of the way.
Final tally through their age-25 seasons? That’s 208 homeruns vs. Mantle’s 207, 710 runs vs. Mantle’s 763, 1,128 hits vs. Mantle’s 1,080, 168 stolen bases over Mantle’s 59, and 56.5 fWAR over Mantle’s 41 fWAR in only 15 more games than Mantle. Did I mention these projection sites tend to lean on the conservative side when projecting players? They always have been with Mike, he’s a freak of baseball nature. One final spooky stat, both Trout and Mantle are even with a 170 wRC+ in their careers. The more I get into it, the weirder the similarities are.
While many laughed at the comparison at first, it was Burrows who got the last one. Trout is a modern day Mickey Mantle developing before our eyes, he’s a generational talent who is only beginning to scratch the surface of what he’s capable of. The fact that you can even compare the two when Trout’s not even in his prime is remarkable within itself. We don’t know if Trout’s had his best season, that’s the best part, but as he creeps closer and closer to his prime, we’re starting to find out what that could entail. Like Mantle, he’s the best in the game at the moment, if it wasn’t for a darn sprinkler in the 1951 World Series, who knows what Mantle could’ve done.
And if I were a betting man, when it’s all said and done, I would put money on Trout having another thing in common with Mantle: a plaque in Cooperstown.