Throughout much of Los Angeles Angels star outfielder Mike Trout‘s MLB career, he’s been touted as the clear-cut best player. Not that he needs the accolades to validate that notion, but his resume certainly speaks for itself.
Although he lacks any sizable postseason experience, he’s earned recognition as an all-time great talent with a first-ballot Hall of Fame trajectory. However, the last few years of his career have seen injuries becoming lingering issues.
Trout holds the opportunity ahead to shed that potential label and remind fans and the rest of the league why he’s still the best in the game.
Mike Trout’s struggles with injuries
After moving through a shortened 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns, Mike Trout held the opportunity to earn his fourth AL MVP award.
The nine-Time All-Star raced off to a strong start hitting .333 with eight home runs and 18 RBI with 23 runs scored in 36 games. However, the injury bug flared up as he strained his right calf while running the bases against the Cleveland Guardians.
He was initially slated to miss six to eight weeks, but the injury was far worse after revealing last August that he tore his calf muscle. Trout attempted to ramp up his recovery process but never reached the point of a designated return. It marked the fewest games he’s played since his 40 appearances after his midseason call-up in 2011.
The 2020 season aside, Trout has failed to play north of 150 games since the 2016 campaign. He took the field for 134 contests in 2019, where he won the AL MVP award, missing nearly the last month due to surgery to remove a neuroma in his right foot.
He played 140 games in 2018 but sat out a stretch due to right wrist inflammation. In the 2017 season, he missed 39 games because of surgery to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb.
Although the injury label hasn’t been placed entirely on him, the case is growing toward him receiving that. He will have a chance to erase that in 2022.
Mike Trout remains the premier MLB talent even as he earns the injury-prone label
Mike Trout has produced at a record-breaking pace while piling up numerous accolades.
However, the 30-year-old is moving into his 12th season, where he’s dealing with questions regarding his health. The concern reached the point where manager Joe Maddon revealed that he considered moving Trout from centerfield to one of the corner outfield positions to lessen the physical wear and tear.
Maddon decided against that by keeping his star in the position he has played throughout his career. Trout will have to deal with that outside noise, but he’s ready to put it all on the field to diminish that doubt.
“I try to be the best player on the field at all times,” Trout said via ESPN. “That’s my mentality. The biggest thing, obviously, is staying healthy. And I’m gonna do everything I can to do that.”
Given his extended absence, it’s reasonable for those to forget his talent since he last played a regular-season game in May 2021. Trout will continue to serve as the Angel’s No. 2. hitter in the lineup, where he will have ample opportunity to put MVP-caliber numbers again.
The focus lies with finally reaching the postseason
As much as Trout’s focus is on proving he’s still the game’s best player, he wants to lead the Angels back to the playoffs.
It is an understatement to say Los Angeles struggled to build a playoff contender in their star outfielder’s career. The organization has reached the playoffs in 2014, falling in three games to the Kansas City Royals in the ALDS.
The front office has put together a formidable lineup, especially with Trout returning, featuring reigning AL MVP Shohei Ohtani and Anthony Rendon. However, their longstanding issue has been the pitching staff.
The Angels potentially addressed that by bringing aboard former All-Star starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard along with relievers Ryan Tepera, Archie Bradley, and inked closer Rasiel Iglesias to a four-year deal. All that has Trout optimistic about his team finally breaking through.
“That’s the main goal coming into spring training,” Trout said to CBS Los Angeles’ Jim Hill. “We got a great group of guys and we added a lot of pieces in the offseason. Once that agreement was signed, we are ready to go.”
Time will tell, but the Angels have an opportunity to reach the postseason.