If you’ve followed anything about the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the lead-up to Spring Training, you’ve undoubtedly read the name Mike Trout.
Trout, the 19-year old outfield prodigy, has had scouts and reporters agog with his combination of speed and smarts on the basepaths. His swing hasn’t hurt his hype, either. In two minor league seasons, Trout has hit .344 with a .426 OBP and 69 stolen bases.
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He’s even earning praise from fellow prospects. Angels’ minor league catcher, Hank Conger called Trout “one of those guys I fear behind the plate as a baserunner.” That’s notable when you consider Conger was the MVP of last season’s Futures Game, thanks to his 1-for-3 with a 3-run homer. But it was Trout who stole the show going 2-for-4 with four hard shots, a stolen base and two runs scored.
Put that all together and you have the credentials to become Baseball America’s #1 prospect and an invitation to play with the big club in Spring Training.
All of that has Angels fans dreaming of a future when Trout roams the outfield alongside Peter Bourjos and Jake Locker (although the NFL may have something to say about that). It also has headline writers dreaming up their best fish-related titles. So far, the L.A. Times is leading the pack with “There’s something fishy going on in Angels camp” while reporting on a meeting between Trout and former Angels star Tim Salmon.
Enter Mike Scioscia, aka the Voice of Reason, aka Buzz Killington. Scioscia has been quick to downplay any pressure that the baseball heralds might put on Trout, constantly reminding reporters that he’s “not a finished product.”
To that end, Trout will likely start the season at Double-A Arkansas, which makes it an important season in his development. The jump from A to AA is thought of as the most difficult step in a player’s progression since it’s not uncommon to run into a player with Major League experience. Expect the Angels to keep a close eye on Trout to see if he struggles and how he deals with it.
Scioscia (and hopefully GM Tony Reagins as well) knows that if there’s one spot they can afford to wait on a prospect, it’s in the outfield. The Halos already have to find a way to split at-bats between four players (although Bobby Abreu will likely DH once Kendry Morales is ready to play first base again – more on that in a bit). Leaving Trout in the minors gives him the chance to get consistent at-bats.
More importantly, it gives him a chance to get more work in the outfield. The organization projects Trout as a center fielder, but because of concerns about his arm strength, the Angels will give him some innings in left field during camp. With his limited experience playing the corner outfield spots, he may spend a few games there during the season as well.
Until then, Trout will get the chance to make a splash in the big pond for a few weeks. Fans are waiting with baited breath for him to arrive on their shores. The rest of us will spend time working on our bad puns.
Some tasty nuggets from around the Southland…
Kendry Pipp? – Kendry Morales still isn’t running at 100% although the team still expects him to be ready for Opening Day. While he’s limited from playing in the field, Mark Trumbo will get an extended look during the spring. Trumbo is already making the most of the chance, hitting a 2-run homer in the fourth that put the Angels ahead for good in a 4-1 win over the Dodgers’ split squad.
Butcher gets the all-clear – Two weeks after having surgery to remove his cancer-infected thyroid glands and 14 lymph nodes, Angels’ pitching coach Mike Butcher was assured by his doctor that the cancer is gone. Tim Salmon’s wife, Marcie, had the same surgery more than 10 years ago and helped encourage Butcher during the process.
Meet the Veep – Former Dodger manager Joe Torre got a new gig. Four months after leaving the L.A. dugout, Torre was named MLB’s new vice president of on-field operations. The job will allow Torre to remain in Los Angeles where he can be close to his daughter who is attending high school in the area.
Off and running – Knowing that they will have to change their style in order to compensate for the loss of Adrian Gonzalez, Padres’ manager Bud Black has given Will Venable the green light to steal more bases. San Diego was second in the National League last year in steals with 127 as a team (Venable was the team leader with 29). Venable and company should have help. San Diego’s first base coach is Dave Roberts, who swiped 243 bags in his 10-year ML career…including the most famous stolen base in Boston Red Sox history in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS against the Yankees.