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Angels' Mike Trout Tops Bryce Harper, Kris Bryant As Most Marketable Player In MLB

Angels' Mike Trout Tops Bryce Harper, Kris Bryant As Most Marketable Player In MLB

By John Bauernfeind, Thomas Leary & Preston Bounds

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Angels CF Mike Trout is the most marketable player in MLB, according to a survey of sports business execs, analysts and media members conducted by THE DAILY. Trout, Nationals RF Bryce Harper and Cubs 3B Kris Bryant constitute a trio of players under the age of 26 who finished well ahead of the rest of the field, showing MLB does not lack for young star power. While popular older players such as David Ortiz and Derek Jeter have walked away from the game in recent years, the emergence of these young phenoms leaves MLB well-positioned in terms of marketable talent.

RANK
PLAYER
1ST
2ND
3RD
4TH
5TH
TOTAL
% OF BALLOTS
1
Angels CF Mike Trout
16
9
11
3
2
152
98%
2
Nationals RF Bryce Harper
12
12
8
2
2
135
86%
3
Cubs 3B Kris Bryant
9
11
6
7
2
119
83%
4
Dodgers P Clayton Kershaw
3
3
2
4
12
51
57%
5
Cubs 1B Anthony Rizzo
1
2
4
3
21
24%
6
Red Sox CF Mookie Betts
1
2
5
20
19%
7T
Giants C Buster Posey
1
1
3
4
18
21%
7T
Mets P Noah Syndergaard
1
1
3
5
18
24%
9
Marlins RF Giancarlo Stanton
1
1
3
2
16
17%
10
Dodgers SS Corey Seager
1
1
7
5%
11
Orioles 3B Manny Machado
1
1
6
5%
12T
Rays P Chris Archer
1
2
5
7%
12T
Pirates RF Andrew McCutchen
1
1
5
5%
14T
Rockies 3B Nolan Arenado
1
4
2%
14T
Mariners 2B Robinson Cano
1
1
4
5%
14T
Indians SS Francisco Lindor
1
4
2%
14T
Tigers P Justin Verlander
1
1
4
5%


METHODOLOGY: The survey was distributed to corporate brand managers, marketing and branding executives, agencies, sports business professors and baseball media. The 42 respondents listed, in order, the top five most marketable players in MLB. Points were awarded on a five-point scale, with a player awarded five points for a first-place vote, four points for second place, etc.

TOP FIVE: Trout, the reigning AL MVP, edged out Harper in both first-place votes (16 to 12) and overall points (152 to 135). Bryant was not far behind, as the reigning NL MVP and World Series champ drew nine first-place votes and 119 points. After those three, there was a steep drop-off in terms of consensus among the panelists, with Dodgers P Clayton Kershaw and Cubs 1B Anthony Rizzo rounding out the top five. Three other players -- Red Sox CF Mookie Betts, Mets P Noah Syndergaard and Giants C Buster Posey -- finished not far behind. The majority of Kershaw’s votes came as panelists listed him in their final spot: he totaled 12 fifth-place votes.

Trout in '14 became the only active MLBer with his own signature shoe from Nike
GONE FISHIN’
: Trout, repped by Craig Landis at California Sports Management, is no newcomer to MLB stardom. The 25-year-old has already won two AL MVP awards in five full MLB seasons and also plays in one of the country’s biggest markets. In ’14, he became the first MLBer with his own Nike signature shoe since Baseball HOFer Ken Griffey Jr. In ’16, Trout added a signature smart bat via San Jose-based Zepp Labs. He also recently extended his exclusive trading card deal with Topps. But for all the on-field accolades, there is also the perception that Trout is a reluctant star. The L.A. Times’ Bill Shaikin: “You can't market a player who does not really want to be marketed, which is baseball's Mike Trout dilemma. Trout is polite and cooperative, but he would just as soon disappear for the winter.” Also, his media exposure could be affected by playing on the West Coast, and he has only made the playoffs once. “If the Angels were ever good,” the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Zack Meisel said, “Trout would receive the attention he deserves.” FS San Diego’s Mark Sweeney: “Put him in a Yankee/Red Sox uniform and he bypasses everyone.” The Baltimore Sun’s Peter Schmuck said Trout, though he hails from New Jersey, “has a Mickey Mantle Midwestern appeal.”

Trout's deals: Subway, BodyArmor, Old Hickory Bat Co., J&J Snack Foods, Musiq Locker, Nike, Phiten USA, Zepp Labs

Harper: Gatorade, New Era Cap, Geico, Monster Products, Marucci, Oakley, Pepsi, Rawlings Sporting Goods, T-Mobile, Toyota, Under Armour, WarriorBlack

Bryant: Adidas, Express, Fanatics, Glu Mobile, Lyft, Nestle, Rawlings Sporting Goods, Red Bull, Topps

Kershaw: Subway, FantasyDraft, Wilson Sporting Goods, Under Armour

Rizzo: Citigroup, BodyArmor, EA Sports, Fanatics, Marucci, PLB Sports
MUCH TO HARP ON: Make Baseball Fun Again. That was Bryce Harper’s mantra entering the ’16 season, and whether or not he succeeded in that, he at least got people talking. Harper’s comments in a cover story profile for ESPN The Magazine made waves and set him up as potentially the new face of baseball. Repped by Scott Boras, Harper endorses an impressive host of companies. In ’16, he signed a mammoth 10-year extension with Under Armour believed to be the largest endorsement deal in baseball history. UA’s Harper One signature cleat came out in July. What could give him an edge over Trout long-term, says the Washington Post’s Chelsea Janes, is the “simple fact that he markets himself more.” Janes: “I've always considered Harper to be an NBA or NFL-type star in the wrong game. He's a guy who is willing to market the shoes and do the commercials and drink the Gatorade, but he plays a sport where guys often try so hard not to put themselves above their teammates.” Steiner Sports’ Kelvin Joseph said Harper’s image “appeals to millennials that are generally nonconformists,” while Trout has a “more traditional corporate appeal.” Harper’s hindrances have been injuries and a lack of postseason play. He hits free agency after this season, and whether he moves to a new team or remains in the DC market should have serious ramifications for his marketing future.

CUBBIE BEAR BRYANT: Not many athletes had a better ’16 than Kris Bryant. After taking MLB by storm his rookie year in ’15, Bryant won NL MVP while serving as a key cog in the Cubs’ World Series title, their first in 108 years. SI’s Tom Verducci: “Baseball is our strongest regional sport, but to be a true national star I believe you need the exposure and confirmation from the national stage that is the World Series.” The Cincinnati Enquirer’s C. Trent Rosecrans noted Bryant “has the Cubs brand behind him” and is “perceived as a winner.” CSN Chicago’s David Kaplan said he has a “clean cut and wholesome image.” Bryant is repped by Boras and endorses a wealth of brands, with Adidas in ’16 announcing a multiyear extension of its deal. Verducci: “Bryant is the rare baseball player who has appeared in an ad campaign out of uniform (Express Men). This is what the Brady's and Rodgers of the world do -- when your face, not just your skill at the job, are part of your brand.” Joining Bryant in the top five is another young Cub, 27-year-old Anthony Rizzo, repped by Sports One Athlete Management. Rizzo last year debuted his own cereal, RizzO's, through his deal with PLB Sports. He has made three All-Star teams, and has an incredible off-the-field story in having beaten Hodgkin's lymphoma and starting the non-profit Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation. He has graced the cover of ESPN The Magazine and appeared on NBC’s “SNL” this past November. Like Bryant, Rizzo’s marketability should continue to rise provided the team sustains its success.

KERSHAW STIRS THE DRINK: Clayton Kershaw, the top pitcher in our survey, is repped by Excel Sports Management’s Casey Close and J.D. Smart. The three-time Cy Young Award winner and ’14 NL MVP’s deals include endorsing Under Armour since he broke into the league in ’08. ESPN’s Dan Shulman, who ranked Kershaw second, said, “He is the best pitcher on the planet, and he is a terrific guy who does a ton for charities and within the community. I believe people would love to know more about him.” But outside of Kershaw and Noah Syndergaard, no pitchers received more than five total points. Does this mean pitchers are less marketable than position players? “I understand the premise that pitchers would be less marketable because they are on the field less,” said NBC Sports Bay Area’s Ahmed Fareed. “But, I find the opposite to be true as well. Every Clayton Kershaw start is an event.” Tandem Sports & Entertainment Senior VP/Communications Meredith Geisler said Kershaw in L.A. is a “big fish in a big pond.”

REVIVING BASEBALL’S DIVERSITY: MLB has made no secret of the fact that it would like to see more African-American talent return to its rosters. Mookie Betts is a rising star in Boston, while Rays P Chris Archer appeared on several ESPN MLB broadcasts last year. The L.A. Times’ Shaikin: “Archer is relatively invisible playing for Tampa Bay, but he is thoughtful, intelligent and giving of his time, with some heartwarming personal stories to share. He also is a natural bridge to the African-American community MLB struggles to reach.”

STAY TUNED: In tomorrow's issue, THE DAILY looks at MLB's most marketable international players.

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