By Manny Randhawa
The baseball world has spent the past month without its brightest star. But even in his absence due to a thumb injury, Mike Trout has demonstrated just how valuable he is.
Without playing in a game since he suffered an ulnar collateral ligament tear in his left thumb while sliding into second base on May 28, the Angels superstar remains the leader in wins above replacement among full-time center fielders.
As of Sunday, Trout's 3.3 fWAR stood well ahead of the next closest center fielders, the Rockies' Charlie Blackmon (voted as the National League's starting center fielder in the All-Star Game) and the Royals' Lorenzo Cain, each of whom had an fWAR of 2.4. Blackmon entered Sunday having played in 81 games. Cain had played in 78. Trout was injured in his 47th game.
Per Baseball Reference WAR, Trout's 3.4 mark also leads Cain's (2.8) by a substantial margin. Looking at either WAR calculation, the gap between Trout and every other full-time center fielder halfway through the season is remarkable given the fact that he's missed a third of the 2017 campaign.
Before he got hurt, Trout was putting together his finest season -- and with the 25-year-old having led the AL in fWAR each of the past five seasons, that's quite a feat. Through May 28, he was slashing .337/.461/.762 with 16 homers and 10 stolen bases.
With the rosters for the 88th MLB All-Star Game announced on Sunday night, we learned that Trout received 3.2 million votes, even without having played in June. He won't be playing in the Midsummer Classic in Miami on July 11 (Mookie Betts will start instead), though he is set to work out with the Angels' Class A affiliate and possibly begin a rehab assignment before the break.
But Trout's absence from the American League's starting lineup for the first time in five years (in two of which he took home All-Star Game MVP honors) will only underscore his status as baseball's greatest active player.
Consider: Per Fangraphs, as of Sunday, there were only six players at any position with a higher WAR than Trout: Aaron Judge (5.0), Paul Goldschmidt (3.9), Justin Turner (3.7), Joey Votto (3.7), Jose Altuve (3.6) and Anthony Rendon (2.4). All but one had played at least 75 games to Trout's 47 (Turner had played 58). Per Baseball Reference, there were nine -- add Carlos Correa, Mookie Betts and Andrelton Simmons to the list.
Offensively, just 11 outfielders across the Majors had created more runs than Trout with the benefit of an extra month. Trout's wRC is 52; that's the same figure as the Mets' Jay Bruce, who is having a career year and as of Sunday had 125 more plate appearances than Trout. It's also equal to that of A's slugger Khris Davis, who entered Sunday tied for third in the AL with 22 homers and had 130 more plate appearances than Trout.
Trout's status as baseball's best player has been well-documented. But come the All-Star Game on July 11th at Marlins Park, one thing will be abundantly clear: The 25-year-old is even awe-inspiring when he's not playing.