When the 2012 Major League Baseball season began, the usual names came up in predicting the MVP’s of the American and National Leagues. Braun, Kemp, Pujols, Cabrera. Fast forward four months and there are two names on top that practically no one predicted. Andrew McCutchen and Mike Trout. Both players, you could say, have single-handedly turned their respective teams around this year. They’re both putting up absolutely gaudy numbers and there is no real sign of either slowing down. So, from a fantasy perspective, who is more valuable, this year and into the future? To find that out, let’s take a look at each player.
Bursting onto the Major League scene at age 22, Andrew McCutchen was regarded as a top prospect, not just for the Pirates, but in baseball as a whole. He spent almost four months in the majors that year and put up very good numbers as a rookie. The following season with 160 more plate appearance, he totaled the exact same average and on base percentage while increasing his home runs by four and his steals by eleven. He looked primed for a huge breakout in the 2011 campaign, but a lackluster second half derailed those plans. After hitting .291/.390/.505 with 14 homers and 15 steals, he looked well on his well to a 30/30 campaign. His poor second half, .216/.330/.392, didn’t allow that to happen. Still, going 23/23 in the home run and steals department is great fantasy production and it made McCutchen a consensus top 25 pick on most draft boards in 2012.
This season, Andrew McCutchen is from another planet. As of August 11, his triple slash is .365/.425/.610. He’s batting .368 with runners in scoring position. He leads the National League in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) with 6.0, one shy of another guy I’ll touch on further down the article. As a life long Pirate fan, it is my personal opinion that McCutchen has been more valuable than that. With such a tepid offense, I think the Pirates would have 10 less wins without ‘Cutch in their lineup. This can’t even be classified as a tale of two halves. McCutchen has continued to blister the ball in 27 games since the All-Star break.
From a fantasy perspective, the only thing that can be somewhat disappointing are his 14 steals, all of which came before the break. His other totals, especially the eye popping average, have more than made up for it. If the Pirates want to make the playoffs, McCutchen has to keep up this production. Will he? I’m not so sure. He’s carried his team this far, but another month and a half may be too much to ask.
The one glaring thing about McCutchen’s high average is his unearthly BABIP of .414. I can’t see him maintaining that until the end of Septmeber. The balls he hits are going to have to find gloves more often from here on out, it’s the law of averages. When his BABIP falls, his average is going to fall. How much will it fall is the question. McCutchen has roughly 205 plate appearances left in 2012. If he goes 50/185 that would give him a .270 average the rest of the way. Adding those totals to his current at-bat totals of 148/405 would give him a final average of .336. That could still be enough to win the Batting Average title in the National League.
McCutchen is going to produce from here on out, but don’t be surprised if he doesn’t keep his current pace. My final line prediction for him is .340-32-110-102-22. That is awesome production and should put him in line to be a top 5 pick next season. He will be the NL MVP and that’s more than anyone could have hoped or asked for this year.
Mike Trout began the 2012 season battling the a stomach virus. He never even made his spring training debut until March 20. Between losing 10 pounds from the flu bug and battling a sore shoulder, he was sent packing to start his season in Salt Lake City. He must have disagreed with the decision because he absolutely tore the cover off the ball down on the farm and gave the Angels no choice but to bring him up to the big league roster. Lucky for them, they did. Mike Trout is the AL MVP at this moment. In fact, I don’t really think it’s debatable. Since his promotion on April 28, Trout has a triple slash of .345/.407/.603. He leads the AL in Batting Average (.345) Runs Scored (88), and Steals (36). He’s 2nd in Slugging Percentage (.603), OPS (1.010), and 3rd in OBP (.407). Remember, he missed the first 20 games of the season!
Trout is on pace for 32 Home Runs, 135 Runs Scored, 100 RBI’s, and 55 Steals. That’s number one pick production. In re-draft leagues, how many of you picked him up off the wire in mid-April? It’s rare to draft that type of production let alone pick it up from a free agent pool! What’s really remarkable about Trout’s production is the fact that he’s only 21 years old. He’ll hit his prime in about five years.
As valuable as Trout has been to fantasy teams this year, think about how valuable he’s been to the Angels. Andrew McCutchen has a WAR of 6.0. The only player in the majors ahead of him? Mike Trout, WAR 7.0. Did I mention he came up on April 28? The Angels record on that day was 6-14.
I think Trout can keep this production up, especially in the runs and stolen base categories. It seems like every night I look at the Angels box score and he’s got at least a run and a steal. He hasn’t hit any type of slump yet this year and just keeps on hitting. Since the All-Star break he has 9 home runs and 10 steals. He dug the Angels out of early season obscurity and if they make the playoffs he will be the number one reason why.
From a fantasy perspective, I’m buying, but good luck finding someone who would trade him. He is that good. Final line prediction? .340-30-130-95-56. Move over Pujols, move over Braun. Mike Trout is the new top dog in Fantasy Baseball. By the way, have I mentioned that he’s 21?
The Verdict: Mike Trout
I love Andrew McCutchen, especially because he plays for my favorite team. Fantasy Baseball is a whole different monster though and when I play, I want to win. With all due respect to McCutchen, Mike Trout is the best option to build a fantasy team around. He does it all (in mass quantities) and he certainly is set up better to succeed (better team). Both will be first round picks next year, but Trout should be going number one. If I own him in a Dynasty League, someone would have overpay to the highest degree to pry him away from me. He’s arrived, he’s here to stay, and yeah, he’s only 21.