Yesterday and the Futures
I spent the weekend before the All-Star Game attending two baseball games. On Saturday, Jon Weisman hosted Dave Cameron, his brother Jeremy, Bryan Smith, and me at Dodger Stadium for the Dodgers-Cubs game. On Sunday, my son Joe and I met up with Dave and Bryan at the All-Star Futures Game at Angel Stadium. We skipped the All-Star Legends & Celebrity Softball Game yesterday evening, choosing to eat dinner at Roy's Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine, one of many restaurants at the Shops at Anaheim GardenWalk. All of us enjoyed our fish but there was a Trout that made an even greater impression earlier in the day.
The United States beat the World team, 9-1, in the 12th annual Futures Game. It was the most lopsided score on record, outdoing the World's 7-0 whitewashing in the inaugural game in Boston in 1999. The contest was a mismatch from the moment the 25-man rosters, selected by Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau, MLB.com, Baseball America, and the 30 clubs, were released late last month. The current format, pitting the U.S. vs. the World, has run its useful course and many, including Bryan, would like to change the competition to the American League vs. the National League.
While Hank Conger (Angels, Salt Lake, Triple-A), a first-round draft pick out of Huntington Beach High School (Orange County, CA) in 2006 who Joe referred to as a switch-hitting Mike Napoli, slugged a three-run home run in the fifth inning to earn Most Valuable Player honors, future teammate Mike Trout stole the show in the eyes of the scouts yesterday afternoon. Trout, who won't turn 19 until next month, was not only the youngest player on the field but the most impressive. The 25th overall pick in the 2009 draft, who put on a display before the game in batting practice when he jacked a ball off the center field wall on his first swing and proceeded to launch several more over the fence, hit the ball hard all four times to the plate, resulting in two infield errors, an infield single, and a double that highlighted his speed and hustle. The slowest fastball he faced was 93 and his line-drive double was on a 98-mph heater thrown by 6-foot-3 righthander Jeurys Familia (Mets, St. Lucie, High Class A).
Trout entered the game in the bottom of the first inning as a pinch runner for über prospect Domonic Brown (Phillies, Lehigh Valley, Triple-A), who reached base on an infield single, advanced to second on one of four hits by Eric Hosmer (Royals, Wilmington, High Class A), and took third on a wild pitch by losing pitcher Simon Castro (Padres, San Antonio, Double-A). Brown (.326/.391/.608 with 19 HR in 330 combined plate appearances at "AA" and "AAA"), who felt tightness in his right hamstring when running down the first-base line and was nearly picked off first and second, left the game for "precautionary" measures and expects to play when minor league action resumes on Thursday.
Interestingly, Brown and Trout were ranked 1 and 2 in Baseball America's Top 25 Midseason Prospects last week.
1. Domonic Brown, of, Phillies (Triple-A Lehigh Valley): The power has come through as the Phillies predicted, as Brown has started to fill out at age 22 and surpassed his career home runs total in his first 65 games at Double-A Reading. Then he went out and hit four in his first 13 games after a promotion to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He ranks 10th in the minors in OPS, and he's doing it with big tools at upper levels. His still-raw defensive skills (his defensive tools are fine) are his only major flaw.
2. Mike Trout, of, Angels (Low Class A Cedar Rapids): Trout hasn't done much wrong. He ranked first in the minors in runs (74), second in batting (.362) and stolen bases (42), was tied for fourth in on-base percentage (.447) and ranks first in scouts' enthusiasm. Trout hasn't committed an error, plays hard and seems to be thriving rather than shrinking from the grind.
Brown (6-5, 200) and Trout (6-1, 217) have different body types. The lanky Brown reminds me of Darryl Strawberry while the thick Trout has drawn comparisons to NFL linebacker Brian Urlacher for his aggressiveness and physicality. Amazingly, Trout has legitimate 80 speed (on the 20-80 scale) and was clocked at 3.9 to first on his infield single, a time that Keith Law tweeted was the "fastest I've ever gotten from a right handed hitter." His plus-plus speed was also evident in center field as he recorded five putouts, including a nice running catch.
I first saw Trout in the 2008 Area Code Games, highlighting his name in yellow in my program. He generated the second highest SPARQ Rating at the event, with a 83.07 (3.64 30-yard dash, 4.47 shuttle, 60-foot power ball toss and 33.5 vertical jump). I was pleased when the Angels selected him in the draft last year as the club was in need of outfielders and athleticism. Although Trout, who was promoted to High Class A Rancho Cucamonga in the California League over the weekend, has not played above Low Class A yet, there has been talk that the teenager could reach the majors next year.
Trout has a big supporter in Angels manager Mike Scioscia:
He's not like one of these real gazelle center fielder types. This guy's a strong kid. He runs hard. He runs heavy, and he can fly. He drives the ball well to right field. He's got the makeup; he's focused. He's just a player with as much upside as any player that has put on the uniform.
Given Torii Hunter's presence in center field, there is no need to rush Trout. However, rest assured that the Angels will call him up to the big leagues when he is ready, perhaps moving Hunter to right field and Bobby Abreu to left field or designated hitter to make room for the youngster if indeed he returns to Angel Stadium sometime next year.
It's just too bad the Angels still don't have Tim Salmon to play alongside Trout.