If Mike Trout didn't have the explosive athleticism or the breakneck speed or even the prodigious power, he'd still be an elite baseball player, because Mike Trout, at his very core, is simply a genius hitter.
From the start of the 2012 regular season through the first five months of this one, Trout sported a .308 batting average, tied for the fifth highest in the Major Leagues, and a .401 on-base percentage, which ranked fourth. He's drawn 161 walks in this span, fourth most in baseball.
But what sets him apart is his approach.
Players often venture away from their mechanics amid the inevitable slumps. Their swings get long, and their strike zones expand. But Trout hardly ever wavers. His swing always stays short and compact, his hands quick through the zone.
"He's got the fastest hands west of the Mississippi," former teammate Hank Conger once said.
But Trout also has the moxie of a 10-year vet, with the strike-zone awareness that makes him unafraid to work deep counts.
Hitting with two strikes is almost impossible in the Major Leagues, but Trout is a .222/.313/.381 hitter on two-strike counts from April, 1 2012, to this past Friday, even though he easily had the most chances in those situations.
The Major League average is .178/.244/.269.
As they age, athletes often talk about how they wish they were as intuitive and fundamentally sound when they were young and athletic. Trout lives that every day.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.