Originally written on The Outside Corner  |  Last updated 11/14/14

This is the cover of the new issue of Sports Illustrated. Angels rookie, and probable league MVP, Mike Trout is prominently featured as THE SUPERNATURAL. Trout is the best player in baseball, and just turned 21 two weeks ago. He's six homers away from a 30/30 season, and has played in just 100 games this year. He has a 1.013 OPS on the season, and is playing Gold Glove defense in center field. Trout could be having the best rookie season in MLB history.

However, that caption on the cover reminds me of a much darker time in SI covers. A time that haunts me to this day. A time where life stood still, and the focus was on a similar young, energetic player.

Yeah. Seven years ago TO THE VERY WEEK, SI christened Braves rookie Jeff Francoeur as The Natural, with a nearly identical caption of "can anyone be this good?" compared to Trout's caption of "how can Mike Trout be so good so young?"

Francoeur was also 21 during his rookie season of 2005, and while his numbers looked nothing like Trout's, he still has himself a good year. Francoeur finished that 2005 year with an .875 OPS and 14 homers in 70 games. He finished third in NL Rookie of the Year voting...and quite frankly, that was the peak of his career.

Francoeur is 28 now, and has spent time with four teams in his career. He has a .737 career OPS, and 48 steals. Trout has 39 steals this year alone. Francoeur's career high in homers is 29, and Trout already has 24 this season. Since that 2005 rookie year when he hit .300, Francoeur's highest average in a season was his .293 mark in 2007. Trout is hitting .344 this year.

I love how the cover is a callback to seven years ago, when SI christened a top prospect off to a top start as the next big thing in baseball. Thankfully, they waited until 140 games into Trout's career (including 40 last season) as opposed to just over a month's worth of games in the case of Francoeur.

Hopefully for the Angels and their fans, their SUPERNATURAL player doesn't go the route of Atlanta's NATURAL player, who has accumulated 9.5 fWAR in 1112 career games. Trout has 7.5 this year...in just 100 games. If Trout ever sinks down to Francoeur's level in the next five years, it will be a massive upset...even more so than the devolution of Francoeur into a running joke of a player.


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