It seemed like an innocent tweet I sent around midnight ET Tuesday: "Wow, Trumbo goes yard again, second of night. He'll lose 50 batting average points eventually, but he'll hit 30 homers, too ..."
Some of you know how it is when you're recklessly tweeting, saying things you might not mean, spur-of-the-moment utterances. But that was not the case here. Mark Trumbo, the Los Angeles Angels slugger, is owned in every fantasy league, and after his 4-for-4 performance with a pair of blasts Tuesday, he enters Wednesday a cool 26th on the ESPN Player Rater, with the expected power but also an unexpected .337 batting average.
So what about my tweet, so rich in responses as it was? Now with the benefit of a good night's sleep and a little research, is it really possible that Trumbo, who was on so many bust lists entering 2012 (including mine), will hit 30 home runs and bat a cool .287? Frankly, if there was anything I could have changed about the tweet, I would have put 75 batting average points instead of 50. How can this guy even hit .287?
Trumbo certainly showed off the power his rookie season, hitting 29 home runs and 31 doubles, but his miserable plate discipline limited him to a .254 batting average. His on-base percentage was a ghastly .291, and we made fun of that and highlighted it as a reason for major regression. The Angels, as you might have heard, signed a certain future Hall of Fame first baseman and got Kendrys Morales back to be the designated hitter, so Trumbo was a man without a position. He played sporadically in April, a square peg in a round hole at third base, but he did hit. Fantasy owners whined, "This guy needs to play! He has 30-homer power!" And we, the statistical/fantasy community, reminded everyone that this guy is a one-trick power pony with many flaws. He drew just 25 walks and fanned 120 times last season!
Ah, but people can and sometimes do change. While most hitters are what they are, the 26-year-old Trumbo has made necessary, impressive adjustments, and I admit it took me time to buy in. I don't see a .337 batting average by any means, and even .287 seems generous, but how about 35 home runs and, from here on out, months with a .260-.270 batting average? Trumbo already has 12 home runs. He leads the Albert Pujols Angels (among qualifiers) in batting average, home runs, RBIs, on-base percentage and hits! And he's only fourth in at-bats. Trumbo is on pace for 34 home runs, 88 RBIs and 11 stolen bases. I'm taking the over on the power. Trumbo played basically half of April (46 at-bats). In May, he hit .367 with seven home runs.
Trumbo isn't exactly Joey Votto when it comes to the walks, but is on pace for 37 of them. That's improvement. Trumbo's 6.8 walk percentage rate isn't special, but it beats his 2011 mark (4.4). He's still striking out aplenty, but we expect that from most power hitters. One thing working against keeping his batting average this high is a .384 BABIP, especially since he's a fly ball hitter. That said, his home run rate is sustainable, and he's also hitting quite a few more line drives.
Trumbo isn't seeing more pitches than he did last year, when his swing rate was among the league leaders, but now he's laying off some of the obvious non-strikes he missed in 2011. Trumbo isn't going to draw a ton of walks, and he'll still strike out, but he's swinging at better pitches and driving them very far. That's clearly progress, and it seems sustainable to me.
So what should I have tweeted about Trumbo's power and batting average? Well, this is a legitimate power hitter who should reach 35 home runs. He pulls most of his homers, but as long as he hacks at the pitches he knows he can drive, that's great. Trumbo's RBI total is dependent on others around him; leadoff monster Mike Trout is your AL Rookie of the Year and is capable of sustaining a .370 OBP. Perhaps Alberto Callaspo or Erick Aybar can help out the top of the lineup and get on base. Pujols will get on base, but he's also likely to knock in some of the runs being left for Trumbo and Morales. I'm saying 35 homers, 100 RBIs. Yep, I said it, and not in a midnight tweet.
As for the batting average, the highest full-season mark I'm willing to project at this point is .270, and trust me, that really would be buying in to what we have seen so far. He isn't a speedster, and the BABIP must drop. Trumbo will be a candidate, more than most players, for slumps; last season, he hit as high as .270 in only two months. In September he hit .233 with a .250 OBP, with one walk in 88 plate appearances. I don't necessarily see months like that pending, but who wouldn't take a 35/100 season and a .270 batting average from Trumbo? He's fantasy-eligible at first base and the outfield, and with two more games at third base, you can use him there in ESPN standard leagues, as well. The Angels have been using him at corner outfield, but with right fielder Torii Hunter back, Trumbo has been playing left field, with Trout usurping the struggling Peter Bourjos in center field. The Angels can't sit Trumbo. They can sit Bourjos and Hunter the way they're playing, and Vernon Wells is guaranteed nothing when he comes off the DL. Trumbo is going to play, fantasy owners. He is going to hit. Enjoy it, just be prepared for batting-average regression, even more than what I tweeted.