Powerful Trumbo has case for Aaron Award
Angels first baseman collects 29 homers, 87 RBIs as rookie
ANAHEIM -- Entering the final two weeks of the season, Angels manager Mike Scioscia had a somewhat startling response to a question about first baseman Mark Trumbo's American League Rookie of the Year candidacy.
"He's going to have to get Rookie of the Year consideration," said Scioscia, a man not given to overstatement or undue praise. "If we reach our goal, he has to get some MVP consideration.
"If we take him out of our lineup, we're not even in a pennant race this year. When you talk about one guy's impact on a team, Mark's up there. His numbers might not be on the level of some other guys, but his value is."
Trumbo is the Angels' candidate for the Hank Aaron Award. This coveted honor is awarded annually to the best overall offensive performer in both the AL and National League. Originally introduced in 1999 to honor the 25th anniversary of Hank Aaron breaking Babe Ruth's all-time home run record, the Hank Aaron Award was the first major award to be introduced in 30 years.
Trumbo has been a force throughout his rookie season, playing through pain in his right foot for about six weeks before he was shut down with three games remaining when doctors discovered a stress fracture in a bone on the top of the foot. He is expected to be ready for Spring Training, where he will resume his development as one of the game's emerging power hitters.
Wise beyond his 25 years, Mark Trumbo understands that rookies are best served being seen and felt, not heard. Only with media probing will the Angels' first baseman talk, humbly and briefly, about exploits (29 homers, 87 RBIs, .477 slugging percentage) in 149 games beyond the most basic level.
"I'm just continuing to try to improve as an all-around player," he said. "My whole focus, honestly, has been on doing everything I can to help us win the AL West, then the Wild Card when that was out there. It's frustrating that it didn't happen, but I think we did a lot of good things as a team this season."
Teammates aren't shy in discussing his prowess with a bat in his hands. Veteran Vernon Wells watches Trumbo go about his business with a keen eye, recalling the early development of Toronto slugger Jose Bautista when they were linked in the Jays' lineup.
"The scary thing is he's still learning his swing, learning the pitchers in the league," Wells said of Trumbo, who finished two homers shy of Tim Salmon's club record for rookies. "He's already put himself at the top of the league as far as raw power is concerned.
"It takes time. It's a fair comparison. Bautista's swing is so quick; he generates so much power. In [batting practice], you can see the kind of raw power Trumbo has."
Added Torii Hunter: "Trumbo has awesome power. He's done some things you just don't see. He's one of the biggest reasons we were able to stay in the race. Mark and Peter [Bourjos], all the young guys, they really came through for us."
After a mammoth Triple-A season (36 homers, 122 RBIs) with Salt Lake last season, Trumbo was expected to be a role player, backing up Kendrys Morales at first base while playing some outfield. But when Morales was lost for the season, requiring a second left ankle procedure, Trumbo became a pivotal player.
His dramatic two-run, walk-off homer against Texas' Mike Adams on Aug. 18 at Angel Stadium was one of the two defining moments of the season for the Angels, along with Ervin Santana's final pitch in his July 27 no-hitter in Cleveland.
The Angels used Trumbo's blow as a springboard to six straight wins, moving back into contention in the division race with Texas. Scioscia repeatedly stressed that his team wouldn't have been in contention in September without Trumbo's work, especially in the clutch.
"I'm never one for personal accolades," Trumbo said. "I've had enough opportunities, enough at-bats, to put some numbers up. It's all I asked for."
Trumbo left fans from Boston to Seattle, all through the AL, marveling at the awesome power he can generate.
The big kid who thought he'd been a pitcher growing up, with his mid-90s heat, has turned into a pretty fair hitter. Few of the big names in the game matched the distances he consistently produced this season with mammoth homers -- and there are many more to come.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.