When the 2022 regular season begins April 7, the Los Angeles Angels will have Mike Trout in center field for the first time since last May 17. Trout suffered a calf injury that night that ended his season after only 36 games. He was his usual self before the injury, hitting a robust .333/.466/.624, though it wasn’t until the offseason until the calf fully healed.
On Monday, Trout said he hopes to remain in center field another few years, though he is willing to play left field if that’s where the team wants him. Manager Joe Maddon said the position switch had been discussed with Trout previously, then later in the day told reporters, including Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times, that Trout will be the team’s center fielder “and that’s that.”
Here’s what Trout said about his future in center field (via MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger):
“I hadn’t really thought about it until it popped up,” Trout said. “I obviously love center field. I’ve got nine years left [on my contract] so I could see it down the road, moving to a corner. Corner outfield is less on your body. They’re trying to keep me out there for 162 games. But I want to play center field and we had a great conversation about it.”
Top prospect Brandon Marsh made his MLB debut last season and is a splendid defensive center fielder. He will likely play left field in deference to Trout in 2021 even though he is almost certainly the superior defender right now. Since 2019, Trout is at minus-17 defensive runs saved in center field. He was consistently a plus defender earlier in his career.
Center field is a young man’s position and Trout turned 30 last August. Over the last five seasons only seven players age 30 and older have played at least 200 games in center field, and Lorenzo Cain is the runaway leader with 500 on the nose. Charlie Blackmon and Starling Marte are a distant second and third on that list at 309 and 308 games in center, respectively.
It’s worth noting Trout originally broke into the big leagues as a left fielder. He played left while Peter Bourjos played center, then took over center field full-time his sophomore season. A center fielder moving to a corner spot in his early 30s is the natural order of things and Trout will soon make that transition. It could happen as soon as later this year. For now, Trout will remain in center.