MLB.com Columnist

Roger Schlueter

Trout, already legendary, could still be on rise

Outfielder looking to join Ruth, Cobb, Pujols as all-time greats who improved at age 24

Trout, already legendary, could still be on rise

Mike Trout is great. And the first four years of his career have been so outstanding that it's hard to overstate his greatness.

After all, the Angels outfielder has finished no lower than second in American League MVP Award voting in each of his four full seasons, including his first-place finish in 2014.

Over that span, Trout has put up a batting line of .308/.403/.568 while averaging 34 homers and 27 stolen bases per season.

Furthermore, Trout's career 169 OPS+ ranks third since 1893 among players who have amassed at least 2,000 plate appearances through their age-23 season.

MLB glossary: Explaining OPS+

In line behind Ted Williams and Ty Cobb and ahead of Albert Pujols, Eddie Mathews, Mickey Mantle, Jimmie Foxx and Mel Ott, Trout attracts an explosive kind of excitement and optimism with his early-age excellence.

But might the best be yet to come as Trout heads into his age-24 season? Those who say no should consider how some of baseball's all-time greats performed at the same age.

Trout on his approach to at-bats

In 1919 Babe Ruth set a then-Major League record with 29 home runs and posted a 200 OPS+ for the first time in his career. Jimmie Foxx won the AL MVP Award in 1932 after hitting 58 home runs with a 207 OPS+ (both the best for his entire career) and 438 total bases (the fifth-highest single-season tally of all time). Seven years later, Joe DiMaggio hit .381 and posted a career best 184 OPS+ while taking home the first of three AL MVP Awards.

Each was in his age-24 season when achieving said feats.

So was Lou Gehrig during his 1927 AL MVP Award-winning campaign, when he delivered 447 total bases and the best OPS+ (220) of his career. And Ty Cobb in 1911, when he hit .420 and won the AL MVP Award. And Mickey Mantle in 1956, when he won the AL Triple Crown and the AL MVP Award.

Outlook: Trout, CF, LAA

The list goes on and on.

Tris Speaker. Willie Mays. Hank Greenberg. Johnny Bench. Rogers Hornsby. Like the six aforementioned players, each is a Hall of Famer. And each saw his age-24 season reflect new levels of achievement, more vociferous shouts of "look what I can do."

The 11 players mentioned posted an OPS+ in their age-24 season that was, on average, almost 29 percent better than their career value through their age-23 season.

Even Cobb, who had already climbed so high (an OPS+ of 171 beforehand) saw his age-24 OPS+ improve by more than 14 percent.

Applying some of these historical precedents to Trout's statistical narrative, his OPS+ -- raised by 25 percent -- would be around 211 in 2016, and an increase of 14 percent would land near 193. Split the difference of those two, and he is circling a nice round number: 200.

Since 1893, four players -- Gehrig, Ruth, Mantle and Foxx -- have produced an OPS+ of at least 200 in an age-24 season. They represent almost incomprehensible comps until one circles back to what Trout has already accomplished.

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In a parallel to some of the all-time greats, Trout's age-24 season could be one for the record books.

Roger Schlueter is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.