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Trout awaits MVP vote, eager for healthy return

Stellar season ended prematurely, but slugger's confident in future
@RhettBollinger
October 11, 2019

ANAHEIM -- Mike Trout called 2019 his best individual season, but it ended with an injury that sidelined him for the final three weeks with a nerve issue in his right foot that ultimately required surgery. Trout, though, had another incredible year in his first season after inking a 12-year,

ANAHEIM -- Mike Trout called 2019 his best individual season, but it ended with an injury that sidelined him for the final three weeks with a nerve issue in his right foot that ultimately required surgery.

Trout, though, had another incredible year in his first season after inking a 12-year, $426.5 million extension. The 28-year-old hit .291/.438/.645 with 45 homers, 104 RBIs, 110 runs and 11 stolen bases in 134 games. He set a career high in homers while also leading the American League in on-base percentage and slugging percentage. He also led the Majors in Wins Above Replacement (8.6 WAR), according to FanGraphs.

But the big question is, will it be enough for Trout to take home his third AL Most Valuable Player Award, or will he finish second for a fifth time? Trout is considered the frontrunner over the Astros’ Alex Bregman, and Trout said his goal every season is to win the MVP.

“It always motivates me,” Trout said. “I come in all the time, every year, to try to be the best player in the league, the best player on the field at all times. If you are finishing in the top three, you are doing something [right]. Obviously, you want to be No. 1, but that’s my mindset coming in every year.”

What went right?

It was a typical stellar Trout season. He mashed 74 extra-base hits and drew 110 walks compared to 120 strikeouts. Trout had an OPS above 1.000 in every month -- his lowest monthly OPS was in May (1.031), when he batted .275/.427/.604 with seven homers and 18 RBIs.

"Just offensively, in the box, this was the best I've felt,” Trout said. “Just squaring up baseballs. Making adjustments quicker, and barreling up a lot more balls."

Trout also credited hitting coaches Jeremy Reed, Shawn Wooten and Paul Sorrento for helping him. As of now, all three are still part of the staff after Angels manager Brad Ausmus was dismissed, along with pitching coach Doug White and bench coach Josh Paul.

"It's great communication with my hitting coaches and knowing how my body feels,” Trout said. “You can ask them. When I'm in the cage, when my swing feels right I'm usually taking about 10 swings. When I'm not, I'm usually grinding at it for a while. They know when I'm feeling good, and I think that's the biggest thing, having a couple [of] guys to lock you in."

What went wrong?

Trout finished the season injured, as he had a Morton’s neuroma in his right foot that he tried to play through for roughly a month before it required season-ending surgery in mid-September. It could keep him from winning the MVP, as no player has ever missed the final three weeks of a season and won the award. But the condition was something Trout couldn’t avoid, and it was too painful to play through.

“It was kind of a freak thing,” Trout said. “Talking to doctors, I don’t know how I could have prevented it. Maybe if we were in the race I could have got it done earlier. The main thing is it being out of there.”

The good news for Trout is that recovery time for the surgery is only six weeks, so he is about halfway through the process and he will have a normal offseason. Having the neuroma removed means it won’t be an issue going forward.

Best moment?

The best moment for Trout didn’t come on the field. He shined brightest when he served as the team leader in the wake of Tyler Skaggs’ sudden passing on July 1. Trout and Skaggs were both drafted by the Angels in 2009 and were close friends. Trout spoke to the media the day after Skaggs’ death in Texas and played a vital role in the clubhouse in helping his teammates deal with the tragedy.

"It was obviously a tough year for the whole club, the whole team,” Trout said. “Losing Tyler was tough. I'm growing. I just let the guys know that if they have any questions and they need anything, they can come to me. At the time when Tyler passed, that was the time for me to step up and take that role. I think in the past I kind of just tried to ... went out there and played and let my game speak for itself. But I think when the team needed me, and the guys came up and talked, I think that was big for us."

2020 outlook

Trout is still regarded as the game’s best player, and his biggest goal is to remain healthy for a full season. Trout hasn't had a fully healthy season since 2016, as he played in 114 games in '17, 140 in '18 and 134 last year. Trout will be playing for a new manager, and Angels general manager Billy Eppler is expected to be aggressive this winter in pursuit of starting pitching.

“We have a lot of guys coming back,” Trout said. “I’m sure Billy and the front office are going to do a good job to bring new guys in and [we'll] go from there.”

Rhett Bollinger covers the Angels for MLB.com. He previously covered the Twins from 2011-18. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.