Mike Trout MLB Prospect of Year for 2010
All this week, the FanHouse staff will look back at the most significant baseball storylines of 2010.
In a competitive and interesting year for prospects in the minor leagues, one player stood a cut above the rest as our FanHouse prospect of the year. Yes, there were a number of players who just as easily could have been chosen, but in this case it is Mike Trout, the 19-year-old outfielder from the Angels' organization, who deserves this distinction.
Not just in terms of statistics, and actually more in terms of where he put himself in the eyes of scouts in 2010, Trout brought his name to the forefront of the prospect conversation more than any other player in the last 12 months.
Part of my comfort in making Trout the prospect of the year comes from the two separate occasions I had the privilege of seeing him play in 2010. The first time around he was an 18-year-old outfielder who had been taken in the first round a year earlier with a lot of upside getting off to a very hot start. I arrived in Peoria to see a three-game set which featured two prospect-loaded rosters, including Trout on the Cedar Rapids roster. By the time I left Illinois, it was clear that not only was Trout an elite prospect but he had the potential to be perhaps the best prospect in the game.
There are really a number of things that stuck out to me with Trout that make him this year's prospect of the year. You could make the case simply on performance and statistics alone that he deserves that title. But it was his combination of tremendous performance at two levels at such a young age and pure tools that made him this year's most intriguing up and comer.
What I got a glimpse of immediately was a player that even in his teen years looked liked a man among boys in the Low-A Midwest League. That's a sight you very rarely see from a player in his first full year of professional baseball. You usually see the tools, but the performance and statistics usually lag behind. All told before his promotion to High-A Rancho Cucamonga, Trout's slash line read .362/.454/.526. Trout also socked six homers and swiped 45 bases in 81 games.
Even before seeing Trout in May, as he continued to put up staggering numbers, I had a pretty good indication that his tools would be rather impressive. As it turns out, they were a little more than rather impressive. Giving me possibly the fastest right-handed home-to-first base times I've ever recorded, the former first rounder repeatedly got down the line between 3.9 and 3.95 seconds. And, make no mistake, Trout is not a player who will waste that speed. He had a total of nine triples in 2010, and it was easy for me to see how he got there. Every ball he hits in the gap he rounds second base hard and is always looking for that extra base.
Most importantly, however, Trout continued to square the ball up and produce line drive after line drive at a remarkable rate for a player his age. This is a player, even in Low-A ball, who had the look of a perennial .300 hitter at the big league level. And given his world-class speed he may have a shot at contending for a batting title one day.
As the season wore on it was clear that the Midwest League was no challenge whatsoever for the righty-swinging outfielder and he made his way up to Rancho Cucamonga. Unsurprisingly, he continued to swing the bat well, hitting .306 with four homers and 11 more stolen bases in 51 games, putting him at a total of 56 steals and 10 home runs on the season.
Although the promotion to High-A was a clear challenge for a teenager in his first full year of professional baseball, the real test for Trout and his blossoming prospect status on the big stage was the Futures Game on All-Star weekend in Anaheim back in July. One of the youngest players on either roster, it would be logical to expect Trout to look a bit overmatched. As I learned firsthand, that was not the case. Trout struck the ball hard four times in the game, forcing errors with his speed on two hard-hit balls in the infield and scorching two hits. One of those hits was a seemingly routine line-drive single to right-center field that the New Jersey-born Trout simply made into a double on the strength of his outstanding speed and instincts.
These moments in the Futures Game, whether it was turning a single into a double or just the fact that he squared the ball up four times against minor league baseball's most talented pitchers, are obviously mere snapshots in time. And the game was a much smaller glimpse of Trout than I had gotten earlier in the regular season. But these moments seemed to open the eyes of the baseball world.
You couldn't miss the blistering speed. You couldn't miss the advanced approach and swing mechanics. You just couldn't miss the total package. It was clear to most in attendance that Trout had a very unique set of skills. And it's not often that a player that young is able to showcase himself and be up to that challenge at such an early stage in his career.
So, what does the future hold for Trout? In terms of his bat, his power stroke is still developing. He's already a physical specimen and clearly has the strength to produce 20-plus home run power at the next level. But, as always, the home runs will be one of the last things to come. At 6-foot-1, 217 pounds, there have also been some mild concerns about his thick frame and what it means for his future in center field. At this point, Trout looks like the exception to the rule. He will not be built like the typical center fielder, but considering that he looks about maxed out physically already, the idea that he may lose a step as he matures doesn't seem realistic.
In other words, what the Angels appear to have on their hands is a center fielder who can stick at the position, hit .300, steal 30-40 bases a year, and hit 20 or more home runs. It doesn't need to be said, but those players don't come along too often.
Following his phenomenal 2010 campaign, it appears that Trout will be coming fast for the Angels. With that considered, as well as the staggering statistics, the performance on the biggest of minor league stages, and the fact that he owns some of baseball's best tools, there's no prospect who enjoyed 2010 more than Mike Trout.
Frankie Piliere spent the last three seasons working as a scout, most recently in the professional scouting department for the Texas Rangers in 2009. He now serves as the National Baseball Analyst here at FanHouse.