The Los Angeles Angels are fortunate enough to pencil one of the best players in Major League Baseball history into their lineup every game, but before he was a big leaguer, Mike Trout had teammates, coaches, and onlookers fixated on his raw ability.
While attending Millville High School in Millville, New Jersey, Trout took a step forward after moving to the outfield during his senior season. He set the New Jersey high school home run record with 18 and committed to play baseball at East Carolina University.
But the Angels realized Trout was an incredible talent and selected him with the 25th overall pick in the 2009 MLB draft. After reporting to rookie ball, Trout’s build and combination of traits perplexed evaluators and teammates.
In 2010 during his time with the Cedar Rapids Kernels, reliever Jeremy Berg was one who had to second guess what Trout could do on a baseball diamond, via Stephen J. Nesbitt of The Athletic:
It took Berg only one workout to realize he was wrong. Supposedly, Trout was the speed guy. He really was both. Trout was one of the fastest players in the organization — so speedy that then-Angels GM Tony Reagins says he believed Trout would steal 50 bases per season in the majors — and he homered five times in the last week of spring training, flexing the muscle he’d added that winter.
“Someone asked, ‘Dude, what did you do?’” infielder Jon Karcich remembers. “Mike said, ‘I just crushed steak and Pepsi all offseason long.’”
Trout immediately became one of the top three prospects in all of the Minor Leagues, and in that 2010 season, he posted a .919 on-base plus slugging with 56 stolen bases between both low-A and high-A.
His success was instant and he was putting it all together, even garnering comparisons to an all-time great player with his look:
“Has anyone ever said you look like a young Mickey Mantle?” longtime Kernels general manager Jack Roeder asked after picking up Trout at the airport.
“Yeah,” Trout said, with a smile, “I’ve heard that.”
His speed made him a threat to run, it made him a saving grace in the outfield, and his power made him a force at the plate. Trout was just a kid from New Jersey, playing rookie ball with players two years older than him, and he was excelling:
On another April day at the Kernels ballpark, former Angels GM Bill Stoneman told Roeder, “Trout’s the fastest player I’ve seen home to first base,” before adding a caveat: “I never saw Mantle at his prime run home to first.” Moisello remembers a scout clocking Trout at 3.89 seconds to first — an outrageous time for a right-handed hitter — on another infield single.
“You hear him when he runs,” Moisello says.
“It’s like the ground was shaking,” adds outfielder Jeremy Cruz.
Angels scouts said he checked all the boxes to be a superstar, rightfully so. Trout improved in every facet of the game and when he needed it, he listened to the suggestions from coaches around him:
Trout rarely struck out, but when he did he’d smile and give the pitcher a nod. More often than not, Trout got him back the next time up. Del Chiaro, the hitting coach, remembers making only one tweak to Trout’s swing. The barrel of the bat was getting too far behind Trout’s head, making his swing longer. Trout watched video, worked on the change one day in the batting cages, and it was fixed. “That’s when it kind of hit you: This is special,” Del Chiaro says.
“He shines when you watch him,” Cruz says, “but when you actually play with the guy, you realize he’s a different animal.”
Trout’s scouting report following his meteoric rise through the minors can be summarized as “he completes the five-tool picture with plus range in center field, where he reads the ball well off the bat, and an accurate, if only average, arm…Regardless, Trout’s offensive potential makes him a future all-star at any position.”
They were right, and possibly underselling him.
Trout advances to phase 2 in MLB All-Star voting
The Angels had two players advance to Phase 2 of voting for the 2022 MLB All-Star Game. Trout and Shohei Ohtani both placed within the top two vote getters at their respective positions in the American League ballot.
With 3,381,758 votes, Trout trailed only New York Yankees star Aaron Judge, who led all players in MLB with 3,762,498 votes. Ohtani finished second at the designated hitter position with 1,664,012 votes to Yordan Alvarez of the Houston Astros, who had 2,215,456.
Bidding for his 10th All-Star selection and ninth starting assignment, Trout would become eighth player in AL history to earn nine fan elections with one club, joining Hall of Famers Cal Ripken Jr. (Baltimore Orioles, 17), George Brett (Kansas City Royals, 11), Ken Griffey Jr. (Seattle Mariners, 10), Rod Carew (Minnesota Twins, 9), Derek Jeter (Yankees, 9) and Iván Rodríguez (Texas Rangers, 9), as well as Ichiro Suzuki (Mariners, 9).