Mike Trout is incredible. The former Arkansas Travelers player is only two-thirds of the way through his 7th major league season but has achieved feats only comparable to all-time greats like Mickey Mantle and Hank Aaron. And considering that he will only be 26 at his birthday on Monday, it’s easy to foresee Trout earning a permanent place among these legendary players.
With that in mind, I took to Twitter back in September 2015 to make a bold claim about Trout’s legacy here in Arkansas. Even at that point nearly two years ago, I felt confident enough in Trout’s eventual place in history to assert that he will someday top the list of all-time greatest Arkansas Travelers players.
Going to go ahead and call it: Mike Trout is the greatest player ever to play with the @ARTravs.
— Caleb Hardwick (@BaseballYakker) September 10, 2015
Of course, this claim was a bit premature. With names like Tris Speaker, Fergie Jenkins and Bill Dickey currently holding the top positions on the list of all-time Arkansas Travelers, Trout still has a ways to go before he reaches the top. But as he continues to build his astounding career, there’s no doubt that Trout is climbing the list –and fast. (In fact, while I was working on this piece, Trout added to his career numbers so fast that I had to update the table below several times).
So where is Trout when ranked against all other Arkansas Travelers players from history? To find out, I sorted through the major league careers of all several thousand Travelers players dating back to 1901. Since then, the Travelers have produced a healthy assortment of big leaguers, not the least of which are six MVP winners (including Trout) and two Cy Young winners. For simplicity, I chose to rank these players using Adam Darowski’s Hall Rating metric, part of his fabulous Hall of Stats project. Hall Rating is based on Baseball-Reference.com’s Wins Above Average and Wins Above Replacement and makes adjustments for things like position and schedule. The result is a handy little metric that gives us an easy way to compare the all-time greatest Arkansas Travelers players.
Trout Already an All-Time GreatThe top fifteen all-time Arkansas Travelers, ranked by Hall Rating.
|Player||Year(s) with Travelers||MLB Seasons||bWAR||fWAR||Hall Rating|
|1||Tris Speaker (HOF)||1908||22||133.7||130.6||280|
|2||Fergie Jenkins (HOF)||1963, 1964, 1965||19||84.9||80.1||157|
|3||Bill Dickey (HOF)||1925, 1926, 1928, 1947||17||55.8||56.1||128|
|4||Jim Bunning (HOF)||1953, 1954||17||59.4||66.6||119|
|8||Jose Cruz Sr.||1969, 1970||19||50.8||52.5||97|
|11||Travis Jackson (HOF)||1921, 1922||15||44.0||46.0||87|
|12||Andy Van Slyke||1982||13||41.5||41.8||76|
Hall Rating leaves Trout roughly in the same territory as mustachioed Keith Hernandez and sideburned Dick Allen, the first black Traveler. By the end of the 2017 season, Trout should easily surpass both and probably even overtake Jim Bunning to move into fourth place behind Dickey. He’s got a long way to go before reaching Speaker status, but it’s not hard to see him passing Dickey and Jenkins in the next few years. At his current pace, he’d likely do so by the end of 2019 at age 28.
So while it’s too early to know whether my original tweet was baseball prophecy, Trout is quickly proving me more and more correct with every at-bat.