MLB roundtable: Will Mike Trout will be the best player in baseball in the 2020s?
Mike Trout dominated the past decade of baseball, but some of our panelists might bet against him in the 2020s
The 2020 Major League Baseball season is on indefinite hiatus because of the threat that is the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Spring training was shut down last month and Opening Day has been pushed back to at least mid May, and it could be pushed back even further as the situation develops. When will baseball return? No one knows.
Between now and Opening Day my fellow CBS Sports MLB scribes and I will bring you a weekly roundtable breaking down, well, pretty much anything. The latest news, a historical question, thoughts about the future of baseball, all sorts of stuff. Our roundtable series launches this week with the question about the greatest player in baseball because it felt appropriate. Away we go.
True or False: Mike Trout will be the best player in baseball in the 2020s.
Katherine Acquavella: False. Although, to be honest, I could sell myself on either option. Trout is a once-in-a-generation player, and he'll likely go down as one of the greatest baseball players of all time when all it's all said and done. While the three-time MVP has seen his numbers progress and his defense improve each season, an eventual decline is inevitable somewhere within the decade. Not to mention, the beating he will take as a center fielder along with his recent injury troubles makes it tough to commit to him outperforming some of the game's current elite, young talent this decade.
R.J. Anderson: True, because it's hard to pick against him. Even if you expect him to age like a mortal, he'll turn 29 (not 31, or 34, or 38) in August. In other words, he has years to go before he's likely to hit a downturn. Unexpected injuries happen all the time in professional sports, and it's possible one befalls Trout and knocks him from the catbird seat. For now, though, the more interesting question is who will finish second.
Mike Axisa: False, but I hate betting against Trout. He will turn 29 in August and that means the second half of the decade will be his mid-to-late 30s, when even the all-time greats typically slow down. Guys like Ronald Acuna Jr. and Fernando Tatis Jr. are going to play pretty much the entire decade in their 20s, so they'll accrue much more prime production in the decade than Trout. Cody Bellinger deserves a mention too. He'll play more peak years in the 2020s than Trout. I expect Trout to be the best player in baseball the next few years, possibly even into 2026 or 2027. He'd be an easy pick for the best player of the next half-decade. The expected decline at the end of the decade will allow some younger guys like jump him though, and Trout will have to settle for being only the third or fourth best player of the 2020s when it's all said and done.
Dayn Perry: Good, tough question. If we'd cut this down to the next five years or maybe even six or seven, I'd say True. Over all of the 2020s, though, I have to say false. Decline comes for us all, and Trout is no exception. I'm particularly concerned about his penchant for injury over the last three seasons or so. I expect him to be the best player in baseball for the next handful of years, but once we look back upon the entire decade, I don't think so. I guess I'd lean Ronald Acuna Jr., Juan Soto, or maybe Fernando Tatis Jr. Heck, Wander Franco might even wind up in that discussion. Whatever the specifics, I'll take the field over Trout for the 2020s.
Matt Snyder: False. I think Trout is going to go down as one of the greatest players ever, perhaps the greatest. If this was asking for the first half of the decade, I'd say true, but Father Time is undefeated and I'm betting on someone whose prime more lines up with the decade taking the honors for the entire decade (perhaps Fernando Tatis?). This decade will see Trout go from age 28 through age 37. Whether it's a borderline Hall of Famer like Andruw Jones or an easy one like Albert Pujols, I've just seen too many examples of guys hitting their declines in their 30s to bet on Trout being the single best player in baseball during a majority of his age-30s seasons. If the question was will he be a top-10 or even top-five player, I probably would have said yes. I can't bet on him being No. 1, though, not looking at ages 33-37.