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The Strike Zone

Mike Trout, Jose Abreu land the covers of the May 12 issue of Sports Illustrated

Mike Trout, AngelsMike Trout (Robert Beck/SI)

Baseball's best player is on the latest national cover of Sports Illustrated. Mike Trout, the Angels' 22-year-old superstar, is profiled by SI senior writer Tom Verducci, who tries to answer the question of just how good Trout can be.

Trout enters this season with a new $144.5 million contract in his pocket -- the largest ever handed out to a player 22 years old or younger -- and fresh off back-to-back runner-up finishes for the American League Most Valuable Player award. In 2012 he hit .326/.399/.564 with 30 home runs, 83 RBIs and MLB-highs of 49 stolen bases, 129 runs and a 168 OPS+. Last year he hit .323/.432/.557 with 27 homers, 33 steals and 97 RBIs, and he's started this season by hitting .293/.380/.597 with six homers. In the story, Trout talks about the expectations facing him, the pressure to keep improving to remain one of the league's best and the changes he's made so far at the plate, on the bases and in the field.

Verducci also visits Trout's hometown of Millville, N.J., a small town just south of Philadelphia, and talks to Trout's friends and family to discover the star's origins. Despite the newfound fame and fortune, those who have known Trout the longest insist that he's the same person he's always been, and that he's a perfect representative for their town. In addition, Verducci spoke with Angels players and front-office personnel, who suggest that Trout's personality and demeanor make him the ideal ambassador for baseball with Derek Jeter now in his final season.

Along with the Trout profile, the new issue of SI includes a short piece by Verducci on baseball's wave of under-21 stars, focusing on Boston shortstop Xander Bogaerts. There's also a story by Ben Reiter on Cuban sensation and White Sox slugger Jose Abreu, whose power has already made him a force to be reckoned with in the majors. Abreu landed SI's regional cover, which you can see below.

Jose Abreu, White Sox Jose Abreu (Fred Vuich/SI)
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