Mike Trout has been at the top of prospect charts since he was the first selection of the Angels in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft.
Trout is widely recognized as a player with five-tool ability.
He's is often mentioned in the same conversation with Nationals outfielder and former overall No. 1 pick Bryce Harper. While it makes sense to discuss both as outstanding prospects, they are totally different types of player.
Harper is more a middle-of-the-batting-order power hitter while Trout seems to project more as a top of the order table-setter and run producer. Both are exciting, dynamic, franchise-changing players.
Trout is a right-handed hitting outfielder with a rare combination of blazing speed and pop in his bat. Only 20, Trout has tremendous power upside as he continues to develop both physically and professionally. He may gain even more strength and muscle tone to his already athletic 6-foot-1, 200-pound frame.
I have had the opportunity to see Trout play in Spring Training with the Angels and in the 2011 Arizona Fall League.
First impressions are lasting. I was surprised at the strong upper body and broad shoulders I saw when Trout was launching balls during batting practice. He showed strength in his forearms and wrists and a very polished, mechanically sound, sweet swing. Trout looks like an athlete. He has advanced baseball instincts that he calls upon in every phase of his game.
When I saw him play, Trout was not in his optimal physical condition. He had a sore shoulder that impacted his outfield throwing in the Fall League and he had a virus that sapped his energy and cost him some weight this past Spring Training. Both conditions prohibited him from playing to his potential. It was like asking a painter to create a masterpiece while using a roller. His tools were limited.
When he's healthy, as is currently the case, Trout has the skill and talent to change a game in any of a number of ways. He consistently travels from home- to- first base in 3.8 seconds, give or take a tick. The fastest time I have seen personally is Ichiro Suzuki who I clocked just under 3.8. Mickey Mantle had blazing 3.7 type speed. That's the company Trout keeps regarding his home-to-first foot speed. He realizes the potential of his speed and he takes advantage of that gift whenever possible.
Even playing at less than full physical capacity, Mike Trout hustles on every play. He tries to beat every throw. He tries to get the quickest jump from the batter's box to first base, from one base to another as a baserunner and chasing down fly balls as an outfielder. Trout's speed creates mistakes by the opposition. His speed cannot easily be defended. Consequently, it is his speed and his ability to properly use that speed that helps separate Trout from other players. To me, it is his most dominant and advanced tool.
Using a very measured approach at the plate with good pitch recognition, sound plate coverage and a discerning eye for his pitch, Trout has the ability to exercise patience and select pitches he can drive. It will be a rare occasion that Trout gets himself out swinging at pitches beyond his capability. He will foul off pitches to sustain an at-bat and work pitchers deep into counts. If the defense so permits, Trout won't hesitate to bunt for a hit or accept a base on balls. It can be expected that when he gains more experience, his on-base percentage will be one of his most remarkable, defining statistics. Once on base, he will steal and score runs.
Playing for an American League team, especially on one with the talented hitters of the Angels, Trout will drive in runs regardless of where he hits in the batting order. His ability to make contact on the barrel of the bat and drive the ball to the gaps will lead to him becoming an offensive force. And again, his power will develop over time and maturation, making the home run a very real component of his value.
While I have been impressed by Mike Trout's offensive promise, his defensive ability is every bit as skillful.
In addition to using his blazing speed to chase down fly balls, Trout also takes very direct routes to the ball, providing himself the opportunity to arrive in time to make the catch. His outfield skill, instincts and speed also provides him the opportunity to play a bit shallower, reducing the chance for balls to fall in front of him.
Finally, Trout has a very strong and accurate throwing arm. If needed, that strength and accuracy will allow the Angels to play Mike Trout in any outfield position.
I have two minor concerns about Mike Trout at this stage of his development. First, I am concerned about his stamina playing over a long, hot, summer. He did tend to wear down following the play of his 2011 Minor League campaign and then moving directly to the Arizona Fall League. It was a lot of baseball in a short amount of time. But he did look tired and a bit fragile.
I am also concerned about his ability to hit the highest quality pitching on the planet at this young stage of his professional career. Has he had enough development time against progressively better pitching?
Prior to his late April promotion to the Angels, Trout had been hitting a very robust .403 with one home run and 6 stolen bases in 93 plate appearances covering 20 games for Triple-A Salt Lake. His promotion was based upon team need and his outstanding play.
Angels fans can look forward to exciting, game-changing play from young outfielder Mike Trout. He brings a loaded toolbox to Anaheim.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter.