Mike Trout

Mike Trout says Browns will win more games than Bears in 2018

Mike Trout says Browns will win more games than Bears in 2018

Los Angeles Angels superstar Mike Trout is quickly becoming an icon in American sports. The two-time American League MVP is enjoying another dominant season batting .335 with 23 home runs and 48 RBI.

On Tuesday, he took a swing at what Bears fans may consider a shocking NFL prediction.

“I’ve got the Browns having a better record than the Bears,” Trout told a radio reporter, according to the Los Angeles Times. Trout's comments were made in response the reporter "talking up" Chicago.

Both the Browns and Bears have had productive offseasons that involved headline-grabbing acquisitions on offense. Cleveland drafted QB Baker Mayfield with the No. 1 overall pick, traded for WR Jarvis Landry, signed RB Carlos Hyde and drafted a backfield mate for him in Georgia's Nick Chubb. They added potential lockdown corner Denzel Ward with the fourth overall pick, too. Add all that to a motivated Josh Gordon ready to contribute for a full season, and there's good reason to be excited in Cleveland.

Still, it's hard imagining Trout can be that confident in a team that's won only one game over the last two seasons. And let's not forget what GM Ryan Pace has done this offseason, one that's been praised by analysts from all corners of the NFL universe. From new coach Matt Nagy to free-agent WR Allen Robinson and all the skill players in between, the Bears are ready to make a legitimate run in the NFC North.

Trout doesn't strike out much in the major leagues, but this prediction feels like it could be a back-straining whiff.

More proof Kris Bryant is on the path to becoming the best Cubs player ever

More proof Kris Bryant is on the path to becoming the best Cubs player ever

Kris Bryant is off to the best start of any Cubs player in franchise history.

Bryant just completed his 500th game in a Cubs uniform over the weekend and his numbers compare very favorably to Cubs Hall of Famers who played all of their first 500 games with the Cubs (h/t Chris Kamka):

While the strikeouts are obviously way up, that's the nature of the game today. The walks and OBP are eye-popping compared to the 4 HOF players.

For fun, here's the stat profiles of other recent/active MLB stars through their first 500 games (h/t Kamka again):

When it's all said and done, Bryant may very well be the best Cub ever. 

It could be tough to pass Sammy Sosa's 545 homers in a Cubs uniform, but there are obviously questions surrounding whether Sosa had any unnatural assistance in that total. 

And there's also the fact Bryant may leave and join the highest bidder when he becomes a free agent after the 2021 season (you're dreaming if you think he's signing an extension before hitting the market). You also can't predict the future or any possible injuries slowing his path.

But as things stand right now, there's a legit argument to be made that Bryant is on the path toward becoming the best Cubs player ever.

He's already won an MVP and a Rookie of the Year Award, was named to 2 All-Star teams and finished 7th in NL MVP voting last season.

He's on track to be in the All-Star and MVP conversation once again in 2018 and — health permitting — figures to be right up there every year of his prime. Oh yeah, and then there was the 2016 World Series championship in which he was the best player on the team that ended the longest drought in American sports history.

He just keeps getting better and better.

When Bryant first came up to the big leagues, he was more of a slugger who struck out a lot (a league-leading 199 whiffs). He's since lowered his strikeout rate every season without sacrificing power.

Bryant is a superb baserunner, a solid and versatile defender and continues to develop as a hitter, emerging with the best line drive and hard-contact rates of his career entering the week.

Since the start of the 2015 season, Bryant ranks 2nd in MLB among position players with 22.9 WAR (FanGraphs), behind only Mike Trout.

Yes, this is only his third full big-league season, but Bryant is on a historic pace to begin his career and won't even hit his physical prime until January when he turns 27.

White Sox opposition research: What's there to know about the Los Angeles Angels?

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USA TODAY

White Sox opposition research: What's there to know about the Los Angeles Angels?

As the 2018 season nears and the White Sox get ready to take on the rest of the American League, we're taking a team-by-team look at all 14 of their opponents.

What’s there to know about the Los Angeles Angels?

A lot, actually.

But there’s only one thing we really want to know: Are we ever going to see Mike Trout in the playoffs again? You shouldn’t feel bad if you blinked and missed the best player in baseball’s lone postseason appearance, three losses to the Kansas City Royals in 2014. This guy’s been the face of the game, and he’s got only 12 more postseason at-bats than I do.

That’s a shame, of course, and the Halos have done quite a bit to try to change that this offseason. And they very well might. The new additions in Anaheim have provided plenty of interest, but will that translate to wins? Time to find out.

Obviously, Trout won’t even be the most paid-attention-to Angel come Opening Day, when we finally get to see if Shohei Ohtani lives up to the hype. Baseball had their own version of that reality show that everyone loves so much — Something to do with roses, I think? Is it a show about gardening? America’s Next Top Gardener! Nailed it. — with teams courting the talents of the two-way Japanese superstar. Ohtani is projected to slot into the No. 2 spot in the Angels’ rotation and play regularly as a designated hitter.

That seems like a lot to ask of a 23-year-old who’s never seen major league pitching or faced major league hitting, a lot of pressure on the guy instantaneously crowned baseball’s top prospect.

What Ohtani will do is a complete mystery — but that’s kind of the case for the Angels’ entire rotation. These guys should at least be well rested considering they’ve logged hardly any big league innings over the past two seasons. Seriously, look at the number of starts the Angels’ projected starting staff made last year:

— Garrett Richards: six (after just six in 2016)
— Shohei Ohtani: zero (no career MLB appearances)
— Matt Shoemaker: 14
— Andrew Heaney: five (after just one in 2016)
— J.C. Ramirez: 24 (the first 24 starts of his four-year big league career)
— Tyler Skaggs: 16 (after just 10 in 2016 and zero in 2015)

So that adds up to 65 from six pitchers. Add up the combined 2017 regular-season and postseason starts by Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel, the co-aces for the division-rival Houston Astros, and it’s 66. These Angels pitchers need to stay on the field.

But while that might not sound too promising, the Halos made some typical Halo-style additions, getting a bunch of All Stars on the other side of 30 to try and get Trout — still one of their youngest position players, despite being in the league for seven years — to the playoffs. Justin Upton, acquired in a trade last season with the Detroit Tigers, and Zack Cozart, signed as a free agent this offseason, are both coming off awesome seasons. Upton posted career highs in homers, RBIs and doubles and nearly had career highs in plenty of other categories. Zack Cozart was one of the National League’s best hitters last season, finishing 11th in on-base percentage and OPS. Ian Kinsler? Not coming off a good season. He was statistically bad for the bad-in-every-way Detroit Tigers, but he’s only two years removed from a .831 OPS and 28 homers in 2016, so who knows.

Will it all pay off? Will those moves make the Angels any better? Will it really matter all that much in an AL not exactly bursting with playoff contenders?

All I know is this: America is clamoring for its favorite baseball icon to return to the postseason. We need it. Nothing would make us more happy than to see a symbol of the game, why we watch the game, on the game’s grandest stage. So do it, Angels. Get the Rally Monkey back to October.

What, you thought I was talking about Trout?

2017 record: 80-82, second place in AL West

Offseason additions: Shohei Ohtani, Ian Kinsler, Zack Cozart, Rene Rivera, Chris Young, Jim Johnson, Luke Bard

Offseason departures: Cliff Pennington, Ben Revere, Jesse Chavez, Ricky Nolasco, Bud Norris, Yusmeiro Petit, Fernando Salas, Huston Street

X-factor: Former Cubs reliever Blake Parker was excellent for the Angels last season, making 71 appearances and finishing with a 2.54 ERA. But for X-factor, let's go with heretofore unmentioned Andrelton Simmons, who was very good in 2017, perhaps the Angels' best non-Trout player. He plays great defense at shortstop, baseball's leader in defensive runs saved last season. He also slashed a very respectable .278/.331/.421 with 14 dingers and a career-best 19 steals. And all-around impact player to say the least.

Projected lineup:

1. Ian Kinsler, 2B
2. Mike Trout, CF
3. Justin Upton, LF
4. Albert Pujols, DH
5. Kole Calhoun, RF
6. Zack Cozart, 3B
7. Luis Valbuena, 1B
8. Andrelton Simmons, SS
9. Martin Maldonado, C

Projected rotation:

1. Garrett Richards
2. Shohei Ohtani
3. Matt Shoemaker
4. Andrew Heaney
5. J.C. Ramirez
6. Tyler Skaggs

Prediction: Second place in AL West, AL wild card

Catch up on the AL:

Oakland Athletics
Texas Rangers
Seattle Mariners
Los Angeles Angels
Houston Astros
Tampa Bay Rays
Toronto Blue Jays
Baltimore Orioles
Boston Red Sox
New York Yankees
Detroit Tigers
Kansas City Royals

Catch up on the NL:

San Diego Padres
Colorado Rockies
Arizona Diamondbacks
San Francisco Giants
Los Angeles Dodgers
Miami Marlins
Philadelphia Phillies
Atlanta Braves
New York Mets
Washington Nationals
Pittsburgh Pirates