Trout earns praise from all-star peers

The Angels' Mike Trout, The Inquirer South Jersey player of the year when he was at Millville High, is starting for the AL in the All-Star Game.
The Angels' Mike Trout, The Inquirer South Jersey player of the year when he was at Millville High, is starting for the AL in the All-Star Game. (ELSA / Getty Images)
Posted: July 17, 2013

NEW YORK - Miguel Cabrera smiled when the comparison was made. Then he basically suggested there was no comparison.

The Detroit Tigers third baseman was asked Monday about Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout, the pride of Millville, N.J.

Cabrera is often asked about Trout, especially after Cabrera beat him out for the MVP award last season, when the Detroit star became baseball's first Triple Crown winner since 1967.

The Tigers' eight-time all-star did not hesitate when he was asked if Trout as a hitter was comparable to a young Cabrera.

"He is way better than me when I was [at] 20, 21," Cabrera said.

Better?

"He is such a great player who can do it all in baseball," said Cabrera, who will be Trout's American League teammate Tuesday night in the 84th All-Star Game at Citi Field in New York. "I've got to be thankful that I can see what he can do in baseball, and he is great."

That is high praise, and Trout has earned it in a short time. In 2009, he was The Inquirer's South Jersey player of the year at Millville High.

Now he is preparing for his second straight All-Star Game, his first as a starter. Trout will be the AL's leadoff hitter.

"I definitely feel more comfortable this year," Trout said. "I know the guys."

And the guys certainly know him.

"I love the way he plays," said Oakland's all-star reliever, Grant Balfour, an AL West competitor. "He is a hard-nosed player who grinds it out, runs into walls, and as a fan, you can't ask for more than that."

Trout won the rookie of the year award and finished second to Cabrera in the MVP balloting, but he hasn't succumbed to the dreaded sophomore jinx.

Trout is batting .322 with 15 home runs, 59 RBIs, 65 runs and 21 stolen bases, combining power, speed and the ability to hit for average. He is fifth in the major leagues with an on base-plus slugging percentage of .964. Cabrera leads baseball with an unworldly 1.132 OPS.

Trout said the thought of a sophomore jinx never crossed his mind.

"I really don't think about that stuff," he said. "I go out and play and whatever the numbers are at the end of the year, they are."

Last season the numbers were staggering: .326, 30 home runs, 83 RBIs, and a .963 OPS. He led the league in both runs (129) and steals (49).

After that season, Trout realized that preventing his head from swelling would be a challenge. Going home to Millville in the offseason served as a terrific tonic.

"The people in Millville keep me grounded," he said. "It was definitely a crazy offseason with all the rookie of the year and MVP stuff."

Trout said that one of the benefits of having the All-Star Game in New York is that he will get to spend a few days in Millville afterward.

He also still follows Philadelphia sports teams and says he has season tickets for the Eagles this year.

Trout is young and he remains a fan of other sports teams. And speaking of youth, Cabrera seems like he's been around forever, but he is just 30.

The Tigers slugger wasn't just being modest when he said Trout was a better hitter at a comparable stage.

Cabrera batted .268 with 12 homers and 62 RBIs for the champion Florida Marlins in 87 games as a 20-year-old rookie in 2003. The next season, he batted .294 with 33 home runs and 112 RBIs. He hit .323 with 33 home runs and 116 RBIs in 2005.

The two occupy different spots in the order. Trout has batted second 74 games this season and leadoff 18 times. Cabrera has batted third all 93 games this year.

Trout will not turn 22 until Aug. 7.

It's interesting to compare the two distinctly different players, one considered the best hitter in the game and the other among baseball's rising stars.

All-star outfielder Torii Hunter, who played with Trout last season and is now Cabrera's teammate in Detroit, says the two are great, but in different ways.

"Cabrera is the best hitter on the planet, you can't beat him," Hunter said.

And Trout?

"He is a five-tool player who can do everything," Hunter said.

Everything, including making his mark at an early age, just like a young Cabrera.


Contact Marc Narducci at mnarducci@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @sjnard.

|
|
|
|
|