Have you heard of this Mike Trout guy? You probably have if you’ve been watching any type of baseball at all the past two years. Trout is the centerfielder for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and he’s pretty good.
After having one of the best rookie seasons ever last year, Trout is having an even better season this year. In his Rookie of the Year season of 2012, Trout led the league with 129 runs and 49 stolen bases and wins above replacement (WAR) at 10.9. Trout also batted .326 with a .399 on-base percentage and .963 on-base-plus-slugging percentage (an OPS of .800 is good, .900 is great and 1.000 is ridiculously awesome). He added 27 doubles, eight triples, 30 home runs and 83 RBI, all coming out of the No. 1 or 2 spot in the lineup.
And despite the rest of the Angels not playing worth a flip this year – Albert Pujols hit a career-low .258 and may be injured for the rest of the year, and Josh Hamilton is batting a career low .226 – Trout has definitely been the bright spot for Los Angeles this year.
Trout has 84 runs this year and won’t get close to the 129 he had last year because of his teammates’ struggles. But, Trout has already surpassed his walk total from last year’s 67 with 73 this year in 22 less games. He is also batting .330 with 32 doubles (he had 27 last year), eight triples, 21 home runs and 78 RBI. Forced into the No. 3 spot because of Pujols’ injury, Trout is on pace for 100 RBI. Trout has 26 stolen bases and though he won’t break last year’s number, he has a good chance to be a 30-30 man again.
But before Trout became a stud major leaguer, he was a stud minor leaguer. Drafted out of Millville High School (N.J.) with the 25th overall pick in 2009, Trout began his professional career at the age of 17. In two seasons of A ball, he hit .338 with a .423 OBP.
In 2011, Trout became an Arkansas Traveler and I had the opportunity to watch this guy on a regular basis as I was interning for the Travelers that season and I consider myself lucky to cover Trout for 91 games for Arkansas, as did everyone in the press box that season. For Arkansas, Trout hit .326 with a .414 OBP, 11 home runs, 38 RBI and 33 stolen bases. He scored 82 runs, had 18 doubles and 13 triples to round out his stay in Arkansas.
Everyone in the press box knew of Trout’s greatness. He was pretty much a highlight reel all season, but there were two plays that stood out to me which showed me how great he was. The first was a line shot to Trout in centerfield where he turned and ran straight back at the crack of the bat and caught the line drive, while still running, over his shoulder like it was nothing. Believe me, it was not an easy catch, but Trout made it look like another day at the office. The other play which stood out was a home run he hit; and it was a shot. Trout hit the ball to left-center at Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock which hit the sidewalk past the berm. No, he didn’t hit it out of the ballpark, but it seems like he barely swings the bat and the ball flies.
Trout was called up to the Angels from AA-Arkansas twice that year, and though his numbers weren’t great for the big-league club that season, he helped the Travs make the Texas League Championship (lost to San Antonio). The first time Trout was called up that year, the Travelers went 7-16 without their leadoff man. In his return to Arkansas, the Travs went 10-6 before the Angels called him up yet again.
The regulars in the press box that season would all make jokes basically speaking in Trout. Instead of fantastic, it was Troutastic (in fact, Troutastic is the name of one of my fantasy baseball leagues this year). We would joke that Dickey-Stephens Park should change its name to Mike Trout Park. I know, pretty silly, but there was no mistaking Trout’s greatness. It’s been two years since Trout has been with the Travelers and he is still the background on the Travelers’ website.
It didn’t take long for press box’ joke to become a reality in some sense. Trout’s high school just renamed its baseball field Mike Trout Field in a dedication ceremony on the top of the Empire State Building in New York. Not a bad start for a just turned 22-year-old.