Trout leads the way for top-five Angels prospects

Mike Trout’s combination of guts and speed is a great formula for a long career in Anaheim. (Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Baseball fans are never quite content with merely knowing the present. Driven by almost childish insecurity, we of the baseball fan community are always looking ahead, pondering nervously whether our beloved club will contend next year, in five years or a decade.

Hence, our constant and careful watch over minor league baseball, from which we hope to divine our team’s playoff chances in the near future.

You may look upon the preceding paragraphs and deem this article a haughty dismissal of such obsession, but this will be quite the opposite. I, like so many other baseball fanatics, greedily squirm in my seat in anticipation of the next great young player to emerge from the minor league ranks.

Angel fans had the opportunity to sneak a peek at one such future star in the form of Mike Trout, who played 40 games for the Halos last season. Trout was not spectacular in his big-league debut, but he still tantalized Angel fans with his quickness and hustle. It will suffice to say an outfield consisting of Trout, Peter Bourjos and possibly Mark Trumbo would rank among the best in the league.

Trout still has a lot of kinks to work out of his game, of course – he struck out 30 times and walked only nine times in 2011 – but his aggressive, free-swinging style of play suits the Angels well. Trout’s development is sure to have Angel fans at the edge of their seats for some time.

Pitcher Garrett Richards’s season did not go quite as smoothly as Trout’s first taste of the big leagues – he went 0-2 with a 5.79 ERA in three starts – but Richards is excused simply because he was called into an emergency situation. With the final two spots in the Angels’ starting rotation in doubt, he was called up as a last-ditch effort to round out the staff. Richards did perform admirably, especially considering the short notice and the fact that he had never been to “the show” before. With a bit more time to develop, Richards will certainly put up better numbers than we’ve seen thus far in his young career.

Kaleb Cowart, ranked number two on most Angels prospect lists, still has a long way to go before making his big-league debut. In his second year with the Orem Owlz, the third baseman posted a .283 average and 40 RBIs in 319 plate appearances. He’s putting up solid numbers so far, but the consensus is he still has plenty of room to improve, particularly in his fundamentals.

C.J. Cron, Cowart’s Owlz teammate, did not see as much playing time for Orem. Nevertheless, Cron’s numbers were still impressive. In 159 plate appearances, the first baseman/designated hitter accumulated a .308 average, 41 RBIs and 1.000 OPS. The sample size is small, but Cron’s numbers indicate he’ll play some fantastic baseball in his first full season in rookie ball.

Inland Empire’s shortstop/designated hitter Jean Segura rounds out the top-five Angels prospects. Segura, who moved to single-A plus after eight games in rookie ball, batted .281 with three homers and a .758 OPS for the 66ers.

Overall, the Angels’ farm system is a tad depleted after the club promoted several prospects to the majors for 2011. Nobody besides Trout really stands out as the next obvious call-up. Luckily, the Angels have enough youth among their starters to last a while before it’s time to raid the farm again. When the time does come, the Angels’ reserve of quality minor-leaguers should be fully stocked.

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