Photo credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
As we all know, Mike Trout is the best player in the major leagues, but how well would he fare in the Far East?
In one of the most interesting moves of this offseason, the Brewers signed 30 year old first baseman Eric Thames to a 3 year, 16 million dollar contract. Thames hadn’t played in the majors since 2012, and he was rather unremarkable when he did. In 181 games over two seasons with Toronto and Seattle, Thames posted a -0.1 WAR and struck out in over 25% of his at bats. So why is Thames suddenly signing with a major league team, especially for this kind of money? The answer is because he spent the last three seasons in Korea, and he absolutely mashed. Thames had a 1.171 OPS and hit 124 home runs. In his 2015 MVP season, Thames put up an absurd line of
.381/.497/.790 with 47 homers. He also stole 40 bases and was only caught 8 times. Though Thames has been valuable for the second place Brewers, he hasn’t even approached his Korean numbers since April. His wRC+ was an absurd 218 in April, a month in which he hit 11 homers. In 40 2nd half games this season, he has only hit 5 with a wRC+ of 79, putting him 137th out of 168 qualified hitters in that span.
Eric Thames is obviously a better hitter than he was five years ago, but he has been a far cry from his Korea self. The superior pitchers in the MLB took only a month to figure him out. Clearly, playing abroad against weaker competition has inflated Thames’ numbers, as it has for several mediocre major leaguers such as Wladimir Balentien, who in 2013 became Japan’s single season home run king. Seeing the success of Thames led me to ask an interesting question. If playing in Korea can turn someone like Eric Thames into a hitting God, what can it do for the best player in the majors, Mike Trout? I decided to test this idea out.
I used OOTP, a highly realistic baseball simulation game, to get the answers I wanted. I placed Mike Trout on Korea’s KT Wiz, the team playing in the biggest hitters’ park in the league. To ensure Trout didn’t get homesick before I was through with him, I deleted the MLB and all its players and prospects. The only baseball league in the world is the Korean Baseball Organization, and its superstar is Mike Trout. At only age 24 going into the first season, can the Millville Meteor become the greatest baseball player South Korea has ever seen over the rest of his career?
See how happy he looks?
2016: WAR – 10.5
There was no transition period for Trout, as he quickly established himself as the best player in the league. Winning the triple crown and MVP, Trout hit .324 with 31 home runs in the 144 game season. His on base percentage was an absurd .507, thanks to 152 walks and 155 hits. His 10.5 WAR was nearly twice as high as the second best hitter. Trout led the league in just about every offensive category except for total bases, which was led by none other than Eric Thames. Unfortunately, Trout’s Wiz lost in the Korean Series to the Daegu Samsung Lions. His .370 batting average couldn’t prevent the Lions from winning in 7 games. Though the loss was disappointing, Trout’s career was only just beginning.
2017: WAR – 12.2
Trout had an even better season than his first, hitting .346 with 43 home runs and 12.2 WAR. He couldn’t win back to back triple crowns, as he was beaten out in RBIs by Rockies legend Wilin Rosario. Trout was the uncontested MVP, but his Wiz unfortunately missed the playoffs. Mike Trout can travel halfway across the world, dominate much inferior competition, and he still can’t play for a winning team.
2018: WAR – 14.3
After three years and three MVPs, Mike Trout’s numbers are starting to approach insanity. His second triple crown in three years, he slashed .372/.472/.759 with 53 home runs and 14.3 WAR. He also had a remarkable 40 game hitting streak beginning in August that stretched into September. NC Dinos player Sung-bum Na is the only player who even approaches Trout’s numbers, with 39 homers and 10.1 WAR. Na gets the last laugh, though, as his team downs Trout’s in 7 games in the Korean Series. The Dinos scored 4 runs in the bottom of the 8th to win the deciding game 10-8 and rip Trout’s heart out once again. As a consolation, Trout won series MVP with a .439 average and 5 home runs in the losing effort.
2019: WAR – 13.7
In his age 27 season, Trout reached another level on offense, but suffered his first injury. Trout missed the final two weeks of the regular season and the entire playoffs with a fractured thumb. However, he hit a ridiculous .401 with 44 home runs in 127 games to win his third triple crown and fourth MVP. He slashed .401/.531/.803 for an OPS of 1.334, a number that would be 6th in MLB history, bested by only three Bonds and two Ruth seasons. Oh, and with Trout on the disabled list, his KT Wiz won the Korean Series in five games. With only one season before free agency, this upcoming year is a big one for our hero.
2020: WAR – 6.6
A testament to his abilities, Trout played in only 73 of his team’s 144 games due to three different injuries, and he still managed to lead the league in WAR without coming close to qualifying for the batting title. His team struggled without him and finished 8th out of 10 teams in the league. The writers still voted him MVP, and Sung-bum Na was forced to settle for second for the 4th year in a row.
In the ultimate Kevin Durant move, Trout signed a 6 year 8.7 million dollar contract with his rival Na’s NC Dinos. Trout joins the team that has won three of the past four championships with the second and third best hitters in the league: Na and our old friend Eric Thames.
2021: WAR – 10.1
Trout puts up the lowest WAR in a full season of his career, largely due to the fact that he is inexplicably playing designated hitter. He won his fourth triple crown and sixth consecutive MVP on the back of a .350/.468/.718 slash line and 50 home runs. The Dinos unsurprisingly swept the Korean Series, with Trout being named MVP. He turned 30 during this season, and to this point, he has hit .357, averaging 14.0 Wins above replacement per 162 games. He’s pretty good.
2022: WAR – 11.2
Trout has one of his best offensive seasons yet, slashing .362/.504/.763 with 48 home runs, winning his 7th MVP and 5th triple crown. His WAR took a hit from the lack of playing a position in the field, but his 1.267 OPS is his second best. He set a career high in extra base hits with 97. For the second year in a row, Trout finishes with 666 plate appearances, further solidifying my theory that he sold his soul to the devil in exchange for his baseball talents. Unfortunately, his Dinos were upset in the semifinals by the Gwangju Kia Tigers (named after the car company). The Dinos obviously felt the loss of first baseman Eric Thames, who signed as a free agent with Mike Trout’s former team, the Wiz. Trout’s teammate Sung-bum Na put up another 7.5 win season, finishing second in MVP voting for the 6th consecutive year.
2023: WAR – 11.7
Trout’s career WAR now sits above 90 after only 8 seasons. It is now a given that he will win the triple crown, as he does so for the sixth time in eight MVP seasons. He also leads the league for the first time with 50 doubles, crushing his previous career high of 39 set last year. His Dinos finish 100-44, cruising to their 5th title in the past 7 years. Teammate Sung-bum Na finishes second in MVP voting for the seventh straight season, and at age 34, 2 years older than Trout, his chances at an award may be few. Eric Thames has retired, leaving behind a whopping 156 WRC+, a top 20 all time number in the MLB. Trout’s 217, meaning he is 217% as good as the average hitter, is by far the best of all time.
2024: WAR – 13.6
Trout returned to playing center field full time and posted his highest WAR in five seasons, despite missing a week with a hand injury. He slashed .376/.498/.736 to win his 9th MVP, but he could not win the triple crown. His team sweeps through the playoffs, and Trout has another ring to add to his collection. He is a career .360 hitter with 384 home runs and 104 WAR in only 8.5 seasons and showing no signs of slowing down.
2025: WAR – 11.7
Even though he has proven to be more than capable in the outfield, Trout’s manager decided to move him back to DH for the 2025 season for some reason. He had the type of season that’s begun to be expected of him, with a 1.225 OPS and a career high 54 home runs including his 400th. Trout becomes a free agent following the upcoming season. He has won the championship in four of his five seasons with the Dinos, but the 10-time defending MVP may choose to chase a large contract elsewhere.
2026: WAR – 11.3
Back in centerfield, the 35 year old Trout may be beginning to show signs of slowing down. Though he hit .351 and won his 8th triple crown, Trout’s 1.110 OPS was his lowest since his first season in Korea. He also won his 4th straight and 6th overall Korean Series, as the Lotte Giants blew a 3-1 lead, and the Dinos won Game 7 on a walk off double by Min-kook Kang, who hit a whopping .212 in the regular season.
In the offseason, Trout signed a 3 year, $3.5 million contract with the Seoul LG Twins, a team sponsored by one of the country’s largest electronics manufacturers.
2027: WAR – 10.2
Despite missing nearly 40 games with an array of injuries, Trout had another phenomenal season, putting up a slash line of .359/.502/.698 and over 10 WAR in a season in which he barely played 100 games. He had his 2000th career hit in June and his 500th career home run in July.
2028: WAR – 14.4
When many thought his career was entering its twilight, Trout put up the best season he has ever had. Hitting .396 with 54 home runs, Trout at ages 36 and 37 had a higher WAR than in any season thus far. In the modern era, only 5 men have had a higher OBP in a single season than Trout’s career value of .492. Trout won his 13th MVP, 9th triple crown, and 7th ring as his Twins won in 7 games. In other words, he is the greatest baseball player this world has ever seen.
2029: WAR – 3.6
It was a lost year for Trout. Ravaged by several injuries, he hit below .300 for the first time in his career. For the first time ever, he failed to win MVP. The award instead went to Min-su Lee, who led the league with 51 home runs. At age 38 and entering free agency, Trout’s days may be numbered.
In the offseason, Trout chose to remain with the Twins on a two year deal.
2030: WAR – 2.1
Trout’s downfall was as quick as his rise. Missing 30 games due to injury, he had the worst WAR of his career, largely due to his diminished skills in the field. Though he still had an OBP of .430, Trout was all around the worst he has ever been, failing to win MVP for the second season in a row. Rival and former teammate Sung-bum Na retired following the season. Na finished second behind Trout in MVP voting 7 seasons in a row from 2017 to 2023.
2031: WAR – 4.1
Now 40, Trout is a shadow of the player he formerly was. He still led the league in OBP, as he has done in every season in which he has qualified, but he hit only .260. He hit his 600th career home run in late July, but he failed to hit another over the rest of the season. Still valuable but no longer elite, Mike Trout hopes to play a few more seasons in the Korean Baseball Organization, as long as his body holds up.
2032: WAR – 6.7
Defying the odds, Trout continues to be a solid contributor past the age of 40. It shouldn’t be too surprising, since many former major leaguers such as Julio Franco and Manny Ramirez have come to Asia and found success playing against weaker competition. In the offseason, Trout signed a 1 year deal with his former team, the NC Dinos, who won 5 championships in Trout’s six seasons with them. In 2032, Trout proved he could still hit, leading the league with a .448 OBP and winning his 13th Korean Silver Slugger. His Dinos were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, but Trout has proven he is not done yet.
2033: WAR – 2.5
41 years old on Opening Day, Mike Trout signed a 2 year deal with the defending champion Nexen Heroes. He had the worst season of his career, batting .225 with 8 home runs and 163 strikeouts. He continues to get on base in his old age, reaching at a .415 clip. This is the first season in Trout’s career in which he does not lead the league in that category; he finishes second behind Min-su Lee, whose batting average was 110 points higher. Though he struggles, Trout remains a positive contributor, and he plans to suit up for at least one more season.
2034: WAR – 3.9
Trout had a bit of a bounce back season at the plate, leading the majors with a .432 on base percentage. Despite his 131 wRC+ in nearly a full season, Trout drove in only 31 runs for the 4th place Heroes, due to the fact that he only had 23 extra base hits. A 43 year old free agent and on base machine, Trout hopes to be able to sign another major league contract. Meanwhile, Sung-bum Na was inducted into the Hall of Fame with 95% of the votes and zero MVPs.
2035: WAR – 0.9
It took 20 seasons, but Mike Trout is officially washed up. After signing a deal with the Doosan Bears, Trout produced a WAR below 1 and a pathetic .613 OPS, slugging an impressively bad .262. He led the league in walks once again with 97, but he also led in strikeouts with 193, which translates to a Mark Reynolds-esque 217 in a 162 game season. In an otherwise awful season, there was celebration as Trout recorded his 3000th career hit in September. His personality characteristic is listed as “Never satisfied with his performance,” and in that vein, the Millville Meteor returns for a 21st season in Korea.
2036: WAR – 1.7
Trout returned to the NC Dinos for a third stint with the team with which he won 5 rings. He improved slightly at the plate, posting an OBP of .361 and a league leading 108 walks. His 11 home runs were his highest in 4 years. However, he batted .207 and slugged .303, lowering his career average to .322. Against all odds, Korea’s GOAT decides to push off retirement another year and return for another season.
2037: WAR – 1.1
Trout limped to the finish line as a member of the Kia Tigers with a career low .183 batting average. The only reason he was above replacement level was because of his league leading 118 walks. Trout’s slugging percentage was .255, which is incomprehensibly bad, especially for a 13 time MVP. 46 years old and with his best years a decade behind him, Mike Trout retires from Korean professional baseball.
So what did we learn from this exercise? We learned that Mike Trout would be pretty good if he played in Korea. The best ever, in fact. He won 7 rings and 13 MVPs and played well into his 40s.
Here are some of his career numbers:
Seasons: 22 (19 full)
Walks: 2472 (Led the league every season)
Batting Average: .316 (Career high .401)
OBP: .458 (Career high .533)
Home Runs: 651 (Career high 54)
wRC+ 181 (Career high 249)
WAR: 178.4 (Career high 14.4)
Triple Crowns: 9
Gold Gloves: 2
Trout took advantage of the relatively weak pitching in the league, and became the best hitter of all time. If we’ve learned anything from this experiment, it’s that Mike Trout is wasting his talents in America.