Trout could pass these legends in WAR this year

March 21st, 2019

It looks like will wearing an Angels uniform as he continues his ascent up the all-time leaderboard for Baseball-Reference's wins above replacement (WAR).

The 27-year-old agreed to a massive extension Wednesday that would add 10 years to his existing contract, keeping him with the Halos for the next 12 seasons in total.

Trout already has made history, and watching him fly up that career WAR list is now an annual tradition. Former Angels outfielder Vladimir Guerrero was just one of nearly 100 players the two-time American League MVP passed last season, a star-studded group that includes more than 40 other current Hall of Famers. With 10.2 WAR in only 140 games, Trout left in his rearview mirror legends such as Yogi Berra, Dennis Eckersley, Bob Feller, Whitey Ford, Hank Greenberg, Harmon Killebrew, Juan Marichal, Mike Piazza, Mariano Rivera, Jackie Robinson, Willie Stargell and Dave Winfield.

(This list is for total WAR, so figures for pitchers include their value as batters. And while the metric is certainly not perfect, it's a useful way to compare different types of players across eras).

When the curtain closed on Trout's 2018, he found himself with in a tie for 144th place with Roy Halladay, who a few months later would be voted into Cooperstown on the first ballot.

That honor requires 10 years of Major League service, and Trout has to play two more seasons to get there. But he already possesses a Hall of Fame-caliber WAR (64.3) -- a record for position players through their age-26 season and trailing only Ted Williams for a position player's first eight years in Major League history.

With the retirement of , only five active players remain ahead of Trout in career WAR, with teammate (100.0) the only one out of reach in the immediate future. (64.6), (65.7), (69.2) and (69.4) each is within 5.1 WAR of Trout and potentially could be caught in 2019.

Setting those cases aside, which retired players are within range for Trout this year? In his seven full seasons, Trout has averaged 9.1 WAR, with a low of 6.7 -- when an injury limited him to 114 games in 2017 -- and a high of 10.5 in both '12 and '16. He also posted 10.2 last season, despite a stint on the disabled list. Given that, it's not unreasonable to think a healthy Trout could accrue up to another 11 WAR.

Such a gaudy figure would lift Trout over another 65 (non-active) players, including 46 Hall of Famers and a few others who could join that list soon. Here is a look at Trout's 2019 targets, broken down into increments of 1 WAR.

^Indicates Hall of Famer

With 1 WAR, Trout would pass …
Halladay^, Willie McCovey^, Reggie Smith, Andre Dawson^, Red Faber^

At the age Trout is now, McCovey had less than 16 career WAR. He then embarked on a dominant six-year run that included an MVP Award, sending him on his way to 521 career homers and a first-ballot Hall selection.

With 2 WAR, Trout would pass …
Chase Utley, Craig Biggio^, Tony Mullane, Willie Randolph, Ed Walsh^, Goose Goslin^

Biggio piled up some impressive counting stats over his 20 seasons in Houston, including 3,060 hits (25th all-time), 668 doubles (fifth) and 1,844 runs (15th). Trout is nowhere close in those departments -- he's less than 40 percent of the way to 3,000 hits and about 45 percent of the way to 500 homers -- but he has packed an incredible amount of production into a short time.

With 3 WAR, Trout would pass ...
Duke Snider^, Pee Wee Reese^, Buddy Bell, Joe Cronin^, Luis Tiant, Don Sutton^, Dwight Evans, Roberto Alomar^, Don Drysdale^

Trout already is the Angels' franchise WAR leader, having passed pitcher Chuck Finley (52.0) in 2017. But the Angels also were an expansion team that began play in 1961. The Dodgers, on the other hand, have a long and rich history stretching back into the 19th century. Yet this year, Trout easily could pass the top four on the Dodgers franchise's WAR list: Kershaw, Snider, Reese and Drysdale.

With 4 WAR, Trout would pass …
Ernie Banks^, Fred Clarke^, Ryne Sandberg^, Graig Nettles, Kevin Brown

One of the best second basemen in baseball history, Sandberg was a 10-time All-Star who won nine Gold Glove and seven Silver Slugger awards. He also took NL MVP honors in 1984, when he posted a career-high 8.6 WAR -- a figure Trout already has surpassed five times.

With 5 WAR, Trout would pass …
Kenny Lofton, Edgar Martinez^, Carl Hubbell^, Carlton Fisk^, Red Ruffing^, Ivan Rodriguez^, Eddie Murray^, Al Simmons^, Amos Rusie^, Jim Palmer^, John Smoltz^, Tony Gwynn^

By reaching a WAR total he has topped easily in every season of his career, Trout would catch Gwynn, a .338 career hitter who captured eight NL batting titles, racked up more than 3,100 hits, and cruised into Cooperstown with nearly 98 percent of the vote the first year he was eligible.

With 6 WAR, Trout would pass …
Manny Ramirez, Tim Raines^, Rick Reuschel, Ed Delahanty^, Carlos Beltran, Gary Carter^, Scott Rolen

At his peak, from 1999-2002, Ramirez posted a 176 OPS+. Trout has a 175 career OPS+ -- including 193 over the past two seasons -- and unlike Ramirez, plays a premium defensive position while providing significant value on the bases.

With 7 WAR, Trout would pass …
Barry Larkin^, Frankie Frisch^, Ron Santo^, Alan Trammell^, Johnny Mize^, Bobby Grich

Santo and Trammell finally were sent to the Hall of Fame by Veterans Committees in recent years, and perhaps, the chronically underrated Grich (a longtime Angel) will join them eventually.

With 8 WAR, Trout would pass …
Ted Lyons^, Rafael Palmeiro, Harry Heilmann^

A 53-year-old Palmeiro did finish sixth in the independent American Association in OPS last year, so perhaps his total could still increase …

With 9 WAR, Trout would pass …
Derek Jeter, Larry Walker, Paul Waner^, Arky Vaughan^, Jim Thome^

Oh, boy. Jeter and Walker could end up entering Cooperstown together in 2020, the former a first-ballot lock and the latter needing a final-ballot surge. Just imagine the hot takes if Trout overtakes "The Captain."

With 10 WAR, Trout would pass …
Pud Galvin^, Frank Thomas^, Reggie Jackson^

Trout already is one of only eight position players to reach the 10-WAR threshold three times. If he does it again, he would join Babe Ruth (nine), Willie Mays (six) and Rogers Hornsby (six) as the only ones to do it four times or more.

With 11 WAR, Trout would pass …
Luke Appling^, Lou Whitaker, Sam Crawford^, Johnny Bench^

With the underrated Whitaker (75.1 WAR), we've reached the limit of what a modern, eligible player can produce without making the Hall of Fame -- excepting those with ties to performance-enhancing drugs or other controversies.

If Trout posts exactly 11 WAR in 2019 -- and depending on how well the active players currently above him fare -- he could reach as high on the list as a tie for 75th, with hardworking 19th-century pitcher and popular Twitter account Old Hoss Radbourn. Those two are about as far apart as it gets in baseball history, but thanks to Trout's nearly unprecedented ascent, they soon could be sharing the same rarified air.