One is a 29-year-old slugger who hits for average and power, and has belted more than 300 home runs in his 10-year Major League career.
The other is a 21-year-old rookie who is a five-tool player who started the season in Triple-A.
In this third year with the Detroit Tigers, the right-handed hitting Cabrera has a .322 average with 29 home runs, a Major League leading 95 RBI, 29 doubles, a .593 slugging percentage and a .967 OPS.
Last year, the third baseman won an AL batting title with a .344 average, to accompany 30 home runs, 105 RBI and a league-leading 48 doubles and .448 on-base percentage.
A seven-time All-Star and a .317 career hitter, Cabrera is on pace to eclipse 30 home runs and 100 RBI for a sixth consecutive season.
A first round pick (25th overall) out of high school By the Angels in 2009, Trout leads the AL with a .345 average, 36 stolen bases and 87 runs. He also has 20 home runs, 60 RBI, a.597 slugging percentage and a 1.005 OPS.
In 2011, Trout batted .326 at Double-A Arkansas and .220 in 123 at-bats with the Angels. He opened this season at Triple-A Salt Lake City, where he left the Angels no choice but to summon him back to the bigs by hitting .403 in 77 at-bats.
Unlike last year, when Justin Verlander captured the AL Cy Young Award and AL MVP honors with exceptional numbers, there is no pitcher in contention for the MVP in 2012, unless Jered Weaver (who is 15-1 with a 2.13 ERA) is considered.
Likely, either the young veteran Cabrera or the rookie phenom Trout will have the esteemed trophy to display this off-season.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland offered his opinion on the growing debate earlier in the week. It was no surprise that Cabrera is his choice, though he admits that the sensation that Trout has created could hurt his player’s chances.
“In my opinion, Miggy is the MVP,” Leyland told Detroit’s WXYT 97.1 Radio. “Although you have time to play yet – there is time left in the season – but if the voting was today, Miguel Cabrera is the MVP.
“Trout is one of the best young players I’ve ever seen,” Leyland added. “But at the same time, I think when you do it over a period of time – a little bit longer – I think that should have something to say about it.
Interestingly, the debate about Cabrera and Trout as AL MVP candidates this year is similar to last year when Verlander edged Boston center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury. Some baseball pundits believe that the Cy Young Award is a pitcher’s MVP, and they should not be showered with Cy Young and MVP honors.
Likely, there will be some voters who share Leyland’s belief that a rookie should not win the MVP. Only two rookies have won the AL MVP – Boston’s Fred Lynn in 1975 and Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki in 2001.
By numbers alone, it appears that Trout is more deserving of the AL MVP than Cabrera. Trout leads the AL with a 7.0 WAR compared to 4.8 for Cabrera (who is fourth). Trout is atop the AL in batting average while Cabrera is second. Trout leads the AL in runs and Cabrera is fourth.
Trout is second in slugging percentage and OPS and Cabrera is third in both categories. Cabrera has the advantage in hits at 143 to Trout’s 125; however, Trout did not arrive in the majors until late April.
What differentiates Trout from Cabrera is speed and defense. Trout is widely regarded as an exceptional center fielder while Cabrera’s defense anywhere you put him is suspect. Trout has 36 stolen bases and five triples, and Cabrera …well, Cabrera does not.
Trout is a five-tool player. Cabrera is one of the game’s top sluggers, but speed and defense are not among the contents of his tool box.
Cabrera is undoubtedly one of the greatest hitters in the Majors, and with Prince Fielder he gives the Tigers one of the best 3-4 tandems in baseball.
Trout has not played a full season in the bigs, and he is already considered one of the greatest players with his capabilities at the plate, on the basepaths and in the field.
That, itself, should determine who is named AL MVP in 2012.