Cabrera vs Trout

So it’s draft day and you find yourself in the difficult position of having the first pick in your fantasy baseball league.  Most fantasy baseball experts will tell you that there’s only two options to choose from, and that’s Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout.  The good news is that they’re both exceptional players.  The bad news is that you have to choose between the two.

Now this isn’t a debate about whether or not Trout should have won the AL MVP in 2012, but it’s about which player is going to increase your chances of winning your fantasy league in 2013.  First and foremost, I don’t necessarily think it’s a mistake to take either player, but I’m going to do my best to explain who I would take and why.

First let’s take a look at Trout, who had a season for the ages last year.  In his rookie season, Trout posted a .326 batting average, .399 on base percentage, stole 49 bases, hit 30 home runs and scored 129 runs.  Not bad for a guy who didn’t even start the season on the Major League roster.  So what will Trout have in store for his encore performance?

Perhaps I’m a bit pessimistic, but I don’t think Trout will come close to repeating his numbers in 2013.  This isn’t to say that I think he’s going to have a bad year, in fact far from it.  You just have to realize that it’s very likely that Trout’s career year came in his rookie year.  If you look at the projected numbers posted on Fangraphs, only Bill James thinks Trout will find similar success during his sophomore season.  Although it’s possible he could repeat his performance (which James actually thinks he’ll outperform), I think that’s overly optimistic.

I would expect to hit around .300 with 25 home runs and 40 stolen bases.  Most teams would love to have a leadoff hitter post numbers like that, but keep in mind Trout has no track record to prove he’s guaranteed to do it.

Much like Trout, Miguel Cabrera also had quite a historical season in 2012.  Not only did he manage to win the Triple Crown (lead the league in batting average, home runs and runs batted in), but he did it while playing a position he hadn’t played since 2008.  Now that he’s settled in at third base, could he actually find a way to improve offensively in 2013?

It’s not fair to project a player to win the Triple Crown, but Cabrera has the kind of talent where you can never really rule it out.  Yes, he’s that elite of a hitter.  Although his .330 batting average was below the .344 he posted in 2011, he managed to increase his home runs and RBIs (career highs in both).  There’s not too many players that you can easily predict to hit .300 with 30 home runs and 100 RBIs, but there’s also not a lot of players like Miguel Cabrera.

Since 2004, Cabrera has never batted below .292 in a single season while averaging more than 34 home runs a season.  With the kind of numbers Cabrera has already put up in his career (.318 batting average and 321 home runs), he might already be considered a Hall of Fame player.  Not bad for a guy who has only played 10 seasons and is just entering the prime of his career.

Much like Trout, I think it’s reasonable to think that Cabrera will not match his 2012 numbers, but I think you can expect him to hit .315 with 30 home runs and over 100 RBIs.  With numbers like that, it’s also possible Cabrera might be the first player to win the AL MVP in consecutive years since Frank Thomas did it in 1993-1994.

So who should you take with the first pick?  Based solely on consistency, I think Cabrera is the better option of the two players.  If you could guarantee me that Trout will come close to what he did last year, I’d obviously give the edge to Trout, but too many players seem to struggle in their second season.  They’re two great options to choose from, but I really don’t think you can go wrong with either.

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