Trout, MLB's No. 1 prospect, is even better
Scioscia: 'As far advanced as anybody the past few generations'
TEMPE, Ariz. -- The blinding speed can't be missed. The strength is apparent in his rock-solid frame and the way the ball jumps off his bat. His outfield play is polished, poised. The full tool-set is highly visible to the naked eye.
Yet what's most impressive about Mike Trout, the Angels' brilliant 19-year-old outfield prospect, is his baseball IQ, his awareness on the field. He does things intuitively you don't see in many 10-year Major League veterans.
The son of a former ballplayer, Trout grew up in Millville, N.J., about a half-hour from Philadelphia. He also played football as a kid but gave up the quarterback position after his freshman year when he began feeling the effects of hits he was taking for the Millville Senior High School junior varsity.
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"We ran the ball a lot," he said, grinning. "I decided I'd better stick with baseball. Probably if I'd stayed with football I would have loved it. I talked to my parents, and they said, `Do what you want.' They never pushed me into anything."
Leaving football behind was a better move than anything he did in pads.
Identified as the No. 1 prospect in the game by MLB.com, Trout -- built like a running back at 6-foot-1 and 215 pounds -- has batted .344 and stolen 69 bases in 175 Minor League games at three levels.
Playing for Class A Cedar Rapids and advanced A Rancho Cucamonga last year, he drew 73 walks while striking out 85 times, reflecting an uncommon knowledge of the strike zone.
Invited to big league camp for the first time, Trout has taken full advantage of the opportunity to learn from such established veterans as Torii Hunter, Bobby Abreu and Vernon Wells.
Appearing in nine Cactus League games this spring, while showing exceptional range and instincts in the outfield, Trout is 4-for-14 (.286) with four walks for a .444 on-base percentage. Abreu might be the only player in the organization with better plate discipline.
"What I've learned over the past three years is that swinging at bad pitches gets me in a slump," Trout said. "My dad explained stuff to me when I was a kid, like how you need to be disciplined to get your pitch.
"I see the ball pretty well. I always want to hit, but getting on base with a walk can be just as good."
With Trout's speed, a walk can quickly become a Rickey Henderson double: free pass and a steal.
"This guy's as far advanced as anybody the past few generations we've seen," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's got a great head.
"One thing he does that's rare for a young player is his ability to go the other way, to right field. We're excited to see him as a player, but we're not expecting him to run routes in center like Torii Hunter did or run the bases like Chone Figgins did.
"There's growth he needs before he's a Major League baseball player. This guy's got a plan every day. This guy's going to be a very good player very soon. What his numbers are going to be in 10 years, nobody knows."
Trout is expected back in the outfield in the next few days after experiencing some stiffness in his right shoulder. Serving as the designated hitter against the Mariners on Thursday, he was 0-for-3 with a walk, but even in making an out he impressed his boss.
"On a 3-0 pitch," Scioscia said, having given him the green light, "he rolled over to shortstop and was out by a cleat-length. He's been caught in 3.98 out of the right-handed batter's box -- and he seemed to slip a little getting started."
In the annual All-Star Futures Game last July preceding the Major League All-Star Game, Trout wowed scouts with his speed. A month away from his 19th birthday at the time, he forced errors on two sharply hit ground balls to the left side, legged out an infield hit and had a hustle double on a line drive fielded cleanly by the center fielder.
On Sunday against the Cubs, Trout hit a routine bouncer to shortstop that was fielded cleanly -- and beat the throw for an infield hit.
There is ongoing debate in camp over whether Trout or fellow center fielder Peter Bourjos is faster, but neither is in any hurry to settle it with a race.
"Nah," Trout said, grinning. "No reason for that. Me and Pete are teammates. We don't want any arguments."
The day is coming when they'll patrol the Angels outfield together, making plays that will have fans leaping from their seats in amazement.
"He tracks balls very well and has a great first step," said Angels third-base coach Dino Ebel, who has assumed former coach Ron Roenicke's role in charge of the outfielders. "Mike has great instincts for the game, a great feel out there. And his speed, well, that's just something to behold.
"You should see the reaction of players on the field -- and even umpires -- when they see him run."
His power gradually developing, Trout is expected to open the season at Double-A Arkansas in an environment not known to be friendly to hitters. If he holds his own, he'll likely move up to Triple-A Salt Lake at some point -- and then Anaheim is just a phone call away.
"The Future" is knocking -- hard -- on that proverbial door.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.