Tim Salmon's favorite player: Mike Trout
ANAHEIM -- Tim Salmon -- former Angels outfielder, longtime Orange County resident -- said Mike Trout is easily his favorite current player, even though he knows exactly how that will be perceived.
"I almost wish I could say it was someone else, just so it doesn't look like I'm jumping on a bandwagon here," Salmon said.
Trout's 2014 season was perhaps an indication that his talents are guiding him more toward being a power hitter than a basestealer. He established career highs with 36 home runs and 111 RBIs, but he also led the American League with 184 strikeouts and stole only 16 bases, after swiping 33 in '13 and 49 in '12.
"Between the strikeouts and the stolen bases, given my choice on which ones to improve on, improve on the strikeouts," Salmon said. "He's a big boy, and stolen bases take a toll on your body; your legs start getting beat down and it takes a toll on the rest of your game."
Salmon sees the strikeouts as a natural course for a young player with emerging power who subconsciously got a little too big with his swing at times, prompting Trout to foul off pitches he should drive and frequently putting himself in unfavorable counts.
"His strikeouts should improve," Salmon said, "and I think they will."
Those strikeout totals led Trout's slash line to dip from .324/.416/.560 from 2012-13 to a still-formidable .287/.377/.561 in '14. Salmon sees the batting average and on-base percentage picking back up in 2015, a year that may see Trout move into the prominent No. 3 spot of the lineup on a permanent basis.
Salmon spent his entire 14-year career with the Angels, garnering the AL Rookie of the Year Award in 1993, winning a World Series championship in 2002 and amassing 299 home runs before retiring after the '06 season.
Now 46, Salmon will spend 2015 as the interim head baseball coach at Scottsdale Christian Academy in Arizona, and Trout will continue to serve as, according to Salmon, "the guy I want these kids to look up to."
"You really see him having fun," Salmon said. "I guess maybe I appreciate that more so because I wasn't one of those guys. Looking back, I wish I did have more fun doing it, but I felt like I had to grind it out. I watch him and I go, 'Gosh, you know, guys, that's the way to play.'"