Can Mike Trout break the all-time home run record?

This past Saturday, Mike Trout hit his 300th career home run.

Trout’s milestone home run was significant on two fronts. One, he became the Angels franchise leader with #300, surpassing Tim Salmon and his 299 career home runs. Salmon, one of the franchise greats, held onto the title of franchise home run leader for two decades after surpassing Brian Downing with his 223rd home run in August of 2000. Trout managed to achieve this milestone in 1500+ fewer plate appearances than Salmon.

Secondly, Trout achieved his 300th home run just after turning 29 years old. Achieving these historic milestones at a young age is no surprise for Trout. Through age 28, Trout had the highest WAR (71.7) of any player in MLB history. Trout is just one of 11 players with three MVP awards, a group consisting of 7 Hall of Famers, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, and Albert Pujols. But Trout’s 300th home run raises another question: can he break the all-time home run record?

Let’s dive in.

The home run leaders

Even though Trout hit a milestone home run at a young age, he has a long way to go to get into the conversation for the home run king. There are plenty of factors in play to get to that point. Trout needs to continue producing, continue hitting for power, stay healthy, etc. The first question to explore, however, is what some of the home run legends did after they reached age 29 (Trout’s age).

Career HRHR through age-29 seasonHR after age 29HR/PA after age 29PA after 29
Bonds76222254014.217677
Aaron 75534241317.827358
Ruth71428443014.26106
Rodriguez69638131518.485822
Mays66027938118.887195
Pujols65936629321.376262
Trout300300?????????

As you can see, all of the home run legends produced gaudy home run totals even into their 30’s. Even Albert Pujols, who Angels fans have watched decline rapidly in the past decade, has nearly hit 300 home runs in his post-prime playing days. In addition, all of these players stayed healthy enough to accumulate enough opportunities. To join this company, Trout will need to maintain his health and sheerly be on the field enough to obtain the opportunities to hit more home runs. Alex Rodriguez, at 5822 plate appearances, is the only player on that list who didn’t rack up 6000+ plate appearances. For reference, Mike Trout has 5440 plate appearances to date so he’ll likely need to both replicate and surpass that total in the latter part of his career.

Now we know what other peers did to get to this level. The next question: is Trout trending in the right direction?

Trout’s power trends

Trout was already one of the game’s premier sluggers through the first part of his career. Through his first 5 full big league seasons (2012-2016), Trout’s 163 home runs trailed only Chris Davis, Edwin Encarnacion, Nelson Cruz, and Miguel Cabrera. Trout’s power, however, has soared to an even higher level over the last handful of seasons.

HRPAHR/PASLG
2012-2016163342321.564
2017-2020132188214.25.638

Over the last four seasons, Trout leads baseball with his 132 home runs and .632 slugging percentage. Trout was already the arguable best hitter in baseball heading into 2017 but there is no question about it now. Since 2017, there is an enormous gap between Trout’s MLB-best 183 wRC+ and Aaron Judge’s second-best 159 wRC+. Trout is doing it all: he’s drastically cut down his strikeouts, ramping up his walks, and is crushing baseballs harder than ever. The latter (crushing baseballs) is what’s important for this conversation.

Average Exit VelocityLaunch AngleBarrel RateHard-Hit %
201592.9 mph13.9 degrees16.4 percent48.6 percent
201691 mph13.8 degrees14.6 percent40.5 percent
201788.8 mph17.6 degrees13.3 percent39.7 percent
201891.2 mph18.6 degrees16.5 percent46.2 percent
201990.9 mph22.2 degrees18.9 percent44.4 percent
202093.5 mph23 degrees17.8 percent55.4 percent

Trout is trending in a positive direction in terms of batted ball authority. After a slight dip in 2017, his power has surged to new levels over the last three seasons. Since 2018, Trout’s 16.6 percent barrel rate trails only Aaron Judge and Joey Gallo. In other words, only two other players are better in terms of producing more hard-hit baseballs at the optimal launch angle to produce big results. Surely, we have to factor in the juiced baseballs for any player in this era but Trout is still at the top of the leaderboard regardless.

Unfortunately for Trout, his upward trend in power has also coincided with more time on the injured list. From 2017-2019, Trout missed a combined 98 games. Add in the shortened 60-game 2020 season and there was a huge chunk of Trout’s prime years wiped out due to injuries and a global pandemic. The injuries are notable both in terms of time missed that Trout can’t have back and projecting his injuries as he enters into his 30’s. Still, Trout has positioned himself quite well at his current age.

The question is can Trout pull this off and break the home run record?

What Trout needs to do from here on out

If you look at the entire scope of Trout’s career, you’ll see that Trout has homered once every 18.13 plate appearances. That number will probably be lower in the next handful of years but a tad higher in his latter years. If he can maintain that 18.13 figure for the rest of his career, he’s in pretty good shape to approach some of those aforementioned home run kings. An 18.13 HR/PA rate would put him square in the middle of the list of greats, not quite Bonds-ian or Ruth-ian but also better than Mays, Rodriguez, and Pujols.

Let’s try to run the math on this. Over Trout’s first eight big league seasons (2012-2019), even accounting for the injuries, Trout averaged 642 plate appearances a season. It might be ambitious to expect that for the rest of his career but it’s possible that he can maintain that with a shift to a less prominent defensive position. 642 plate appearances feel like the high-end of possibilities. 600 feels like a more conservative measure. 550 might be a pessimistic guess. Trout’s contract runs through 2031, giving him 12 potential full seasons to accumulate plate appearances. Let’s see if we can project what his numbers would look like if Trout maintained his 18.13 HR/PA over the course of these different scenarios. The following table shows what Trout would do based on an 18.13 HR/PA ratio in each scenario, his projected plate appearances in the rest of his career (including roughly 70 for this season), and his projected home run output.

Current HRProjected PAProjected HR
Best-Case (642 PA)3007774729
Conservative Guess (600 PA)3007270701
Pessimistic Guess (550 PA)3006670668

This is just a base-level projection of what Trout could do based on his overall track record. Trout could drastically outperform these projections or underperform these projections. Players are aging better than they used to and Trout isn’t the ordinary player so utilizing normal aging curves for him may not work. To account for both extremes, let’s utilize two separate charts. First, a best-case scenario in terms of power output. This following chart assumes that Trout will maintain his 2017-2020 power (14.25 HR/PA) over the rest of his career.

Total PATotal HR
642 PA7774842
600 PA7270810
550 PA6670768

Second, here’s a worst-case scenario in terms of power output. This chart assumes Trout will revert back to his old power (21 HR/PA from 2012-2016) for the rest of his career.

Total PATotal HR
642 PA7774670
600 PA7270646
550 PA6670618

Again, these are rough estimates of projecting what an inner-circle, generational talent will do for the rest of his career. I don’t claim to be a numbers expert in terms of statistical projection nor do I claim to have magic powers predicting how Trout might age. But based on Trout’s resume, his interconnectedness to all-time greats, and the potential best and worst-case scenarios for Trout, there’s a good bet that he’s on track to approach 600+ home runs.

Can Trout do this?

If there is one thing I have learned while watching Mike Trout over the past decade, it’s to not underestimate the new levels he’s capable of reaching. At this current juncture, Trout has turned into the best hitter on the planet. Over the last four years, he’s cut his strikeouts back in a major way while walking more and hitting for more power. He’s about a complete of a hitter as you can find in today’s era (perhaps besides Juan Soto). Trout will not be immune to the aging process but, as the first table in this article showed, the inner-circle greats tend to age very well compared to their counterparts. Add in the fact that Trout has maintained his athleticism (his sprint speed is in the 95th percentile this year) and there’s reason to believe he’s going to age gracefully.

Once Trout moves off of center field, which could happen soon based on his ugly defensive metrics, there will be less emphasis on his defense and less wear-and-tear. If Trout settles into a role in left or right field, or even first base eventually, Trout’s offensive production could decline slower and prop up his overall production late into his career. Couple that with Trout’s already historic offensive production and you have the ingredients for a graceful aging curve. Trout’s career 173 wRC+ is tied for the third-best in MLB history with Barry Bonds, Lou Gehrig, and Rogers Hornsby. Even a drop-off from that level makes for an incredible hitter.

Mike Trout is incredible. He’s already a surefire Hall of Famer at the age of 29. He could retire today and find himself in Cooperstown a half-decade from now. But Trout’s career is far from over. When it’s all said and done, Trout could make a legitimate run for the all-time home run title.

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GrandpaBaseball
Legend
3 years ago

With the above stats that Brent posted, the more launch angle the less BA and the less Hits is achieved by Trouty. His hitting game has drastically been altered by stats. He needs to play the hitting game as he did when he came up. Only when a player of his talent level is hitting does he help his team. Mike should be banging hits to the alley’s and bouncing balls off the walls for extra base hits than sitting and waiting for the walk. When pitchers do not want to pitch to the player he shpold be will those same pitchers that will challenge him now be afraid and stay away from the plate. Mike should get aggressive and stop waiting for the mistakes that happen less and less now as evidenced by backwards K’s. The deal this year is low and away and up and in and it looks like he is guessing more and more than knowing. By getting a swing that is not just one dimensional and is less at an angle will he truly be fearsome to a pitcher. Hitting .320 35 110 and 115 runs is better than .285 40 95 and 100 runs. Having 180 hits and not 150 is a lot more intimidating as is 45 doubles instead of 27 doubles. Somehow or another Trouty’s hitting game has changed and not necessarily for the better. The production equaling the Greats of the game needs to return by hitting the ball more.

steelgolf
Super Member
3 years ago

Great article Brent! I had my 10 yr old kid read it last night as he was asking this same question a couple of weeks back. He is pretty good at math and came away with a better picture of what it will take for Trout to be able to break the home run record. He thinks Trout will probably run out of time and come up just short.

GrandpaBaseball
Legend
3 years ago

Can Trout be the All Time Career HR KIng? NO as it is highly unlikely that even with the Manfred signature ball being used that Bonds Steroid honored record will ever be broke. He would need to play less aggressive, no more stretching out of balls and no more banging into walls. Accept a move to first base and learn to side feet first. He would need 5 – 7 straight year of over 45+ HR’s followed by 2 or 3 season’s of over 30. l do believe that with the Super Ball that 575 to 625 is doable. 12 straight years averaging 38 is not realistic.

HalosFanForLife
Trusted Member
3 years ago

Could he? Sure. But highly unlikely. Of course we’d all love to see it. If he were in Colorado how many more would he already have?

Senator_John_Blutarsky
Legend

Can he do it – absolutely.

Greatjake
Member
3 years ago

The only way Trout does it is by following Aaron’s career path. He’ll need great consistency and even greater longevity.

Mountainman76
Member
3 years ago
Reply to  Greatjake

Hank Aaron’s greatest five year stretch as a hitter started when he was 35. If Trout does that, he will have an excellent chance.

Last edited 3 years ago by Mountainman76
Jeff Joiner
Editor
Legend
3 years ago

I think you’ve laid out some very great cases either way. Trout should be near the top of the leader boards as he winds up his career. Health will be the key.

Side note: Pujols post prime production is more impressive when you realize that what you have labeled as his age 29 season was, in all likelihood, his age 32 or 33 season.

Eric_in_Portland
Legend
3 years ago

Manfred might juice the ball more but then various people will get to 700.

2002heaven
Super Member
3 years ago

Don’t care…….
Rather see him win a World Series……..WITH US IN A ANGEL’S UNIFORM!!

Last edited 3 years ago by 2002heaven
John Henry Weitzel
Editor
Super Member
3 years ago

Trout’s hurdle will be longevity. Sure an OF will age better than a 1B but we saw what happened to Andruw Jones. To Vernon Wells. Stuff can happen.

Yes no one of Trout’s caliber had that fall. But Mantle, his biggest comparison, did have injuries hamper him.

Trout isn’t even halfway to A-Roid. And that guy hit the milestones faster than anyone ever. He didn’t make it to 700. The Kid became a shell of himself in the latter half of his career.

And other contemporary power hitters are not lasting. Miggy, Trout’s first rival, has aged as bad as pujols. But with worse power. Stanton was so far ahead of Trout but has been injured so much that he could be passed next year.

Trout is very likely to get to 500. Anything after that is a crapshoot. Who knows what the ball will be like in 2030. Or if Angel stadium gets replaced. Too early to tell.

Fansince1971
Legend
3 years ago

My guess is when he retires with 650 or so we will look back to this year’s and maybe next year’s shortened seasons with a ‘what if’. Much like people debate Williams and the seasons he missed due to WW2.

John Henry Weitzel
Editor
Super Member
3 years ago
Reply to  Brent Maguire

Hell we are thinking this now with Pujols. Sure it was iffy but 2 full seasons and he may have gotten 700.

AnAngelsFan
Super Member
3 years ago

Not a chance. Pujols’ wasn’t going to hit 20 HRs again this year or next. Even with 2 full seasons he wasn’t going to catch Arod.

Jim Atkins
Super Member
3 years ago

He’s going to be up there. Any clues on why his defensive metrics are so poor this year?

John Henry Weitzel
Editor
Super Member
3 years ago
Reply to  Jim Atkins

His jumps and range has been terrible. He admitted it himself. He blames the lack of fans.

nishiogawakun
Super Member
3 years ago

I believe! Would much rather watch trout chase this milestone than the ex-cardinal Pujols.