The Los Angeles Angels have purchased the contract of 19-year-old outfielder Mike Trout, one of the top prospects in baseball. Trout, called up from Double-A Arkansas, is expected to arrive in time Friday to play in Anaheim against the Seattle Mariners.
Peter Bourjos, the Halos' soon-to-be Gold Glove center fielder, strained his right hamstring in Thursday's game against Seattle. He is expected to be out at least through the All-Star break.
Trout was second on my top 50 prospect list out of spring training, behind only the Nationals' Bryce Harper. Trout has off-the-charts makeup and character. He profiles as an above-average center fielder with great instincts and first-step quickness. He runs like a cheetah, with 80 speed. He has a level swing that is short and quick to the ball and already knows how to work a count, having phenomenal pitch recognition. Trout will develop into a high on-base percentage, top-of-the-order type hitter with late-developing power potential. A special kid.
Tony Reagins, executive vice president and general manager of the Angels, told me multiple times this year it was “unlikely” Trout would be called up this year. Their blueprint was for him to play this year at Double-A then go to the Arizona Fall League, and if all went well, give him a chance to make the team sometime in 2012. This blueprint recognizes the value in keeping salary arbitration and free-agent years at minimum but also recognizes that with Torii Hunter in right field, Bourjos center field, Vernon Wells in left field and Bobby Abreu at DH, there wasn't an immediate need for Trout, so they were able to buy valuable development time. Of course, an injury such as this changes the club's situation, especially in the midst of a close three-team pennant chase.
GMs always have to be flexible. Here's why Reagins needed to deviate from his blueprint:
1. Trout was hitting .324/.415/.534 with 12 doubles, 11 triples, nine home runs, 27 RBIs and 28 stolen bases at Arkansas. His OPS was .950. He was catching everything in center field, with only one error and a .994 fielding percentage. He looked as though he was ready.
2. The Angels find themselves in second place, just one game behind the Texas Rangers. They are in a tight pennant race. They have a chance to win the AL West. They've been winning with pitching and defense. The Angels need to win. They can't stopgap for Bourjos with another Reggie Willits appearance. They need equal or close-to-equal defense in center, and they need to find out if Trout is ready to help them offensively in the second half of the season. In fact, the Angels' offense has been so bad it ranks 11th in the league in OPS and runs scored and 10th in the league in home runs. Bourjos has been playing Gold Glove defense in center field. Trout is a plus-plus defender, but already is capable of making more offensive contributions than Bourjos. Trout is a top-of-the-lineup game changer.
3. The call-up can be explained to Trout as a short-term move until Bourjos gets back. However, it also gives Angels management time to evaluate Trout with a Starbucks (cup of coffee) to see if he's ready to help them in a second-half pennant race. If Trout dominates, the door will be cracked open for him to make this a longer visit.
Baseball is about adjusting, making an audible at the line of scrimmage, and that's what the Angels have done in calling him up.