There’s been a near consensus in baseball about Mike Trout for a few years now.
Since Mike’s AL MVP debates with early rival Miguel Cabrera, there really has not been a serious challenge.
Trout’s consistency is one of his hallmark traits.
Sure, we had a Bryce Harper year or Mookie Betts year thrown in that competed with Trout, but nothing long lasting.
However, that is about to change. Here are 3 players who may be better than Trout this season (if it happens) and beyond.
The Contender – Cody Bellinger
Cody is coming off a remarkable season in which he raked for the juggernaut L.A. Dodgers.
Bellinger smashed 47 homeruns, had a whopping OPS of 1.035, and settled in at 9.1 WAR by season end.
This was the peak season many expected of Cody after his insane Rookie of the Year season in 2017.
Not only can Cody swing the stick, but he is an excellent defender as well.
Cody rated among the top in his position according to SABR, and routinely sits atop defensive saber-metric leaderboards.
But the most insane thing about Cody is that while I mentioned 2019 as the peak season we envisioned, we may not have seen his peak yet.
The Scottsdale, AZ native is only 23! Cody should have his best years in front of him. Cody was better than Trout last year from most statistical perspectives.
With his pedigree and young age, we could be looking at not another flash in the pan competing with Trout, but a true statistical rival as best play in the MLB.
The Other Guy – Alex Bregman
Another young stud who may also have had a better season than Trout last year is the Astros sweet swinging third baseman.
Bregman is entering his prime at 25, and followed up a 5th place MVP finish in 2018 with a second place finish to Trout in 2019.
Bregman already plays elite defense and has elite offensive at the 3rd base corner.
Alex led the league in walks (119) to go with only 83 K’s, hit 41 home runs with an OPS of 1.015, and had a WAR of 9.1 (leading Trout).
The best player on the best cheaters team in the MLB deserves some looks.
He also has improved every year in most statistical categories. This is a guy who should continue to play at least to this level for the next 5 years, and those looks to be a rival in the American League West division for Trout. Arguably, last year, when you take into account winning and positional importance, he was already better than Trout for a season.
Young and On the Rise – Ronald Acuña Jr
There are a few players I could put here, and maybe I’ll list some you may like in honorable mention, but this is the guy, to me, who could be NEXT.
The phenom is only 22 years young now, and spent much of last season among the MLB’s best.
While winning a silver slugger (Bellinger also won) during his 2020 season, he also continued the turnaround for the Braves.
Atlanta went from one of the worst team in the NL, to among the best in only a few short years. This was in no small part to the young outfielder.
Acuña amassed 5.5 WAR while playing great defense.
During his age 21 season, Acuña led the NL in plate appearances, stolen bases, runs scored, and hit 41 baseballs over the wall.
Not too shabby for barely being able to get a drink at a bar (legally). Good luck renting a car though, Ronald (and Cody!).
If the young Venezuelan continues to improve as he has so far, the rest of the MLB is in trouble. Mike, keep those eyes open.
There is actually a large crop of young and prime aged players who can match Trout again and for a few years.
I’d throw Juan Soto on that list, Pete Alonso (maybe he hits 100 HR next year who knows, Ketel Marte, a healthy Yelich may also be an equal, and a few others.
Safe to say, there are plenty of young stars who are ready to compete with the pride of New Jersey for the title of best player in the league.
This is without mentioning any pitchers like De Grom or Cole, as well.
Until we stop defining who the best player in Major League Baseball is by Trout and who may be better than him, the title will reside with the Angels slugger.
But we may be at that point already and just not know it yet.
-Brent Buckley (@bigbucksbuckley on twitter)