I was watching the Mariners last night, as any good Mariners blogger is wont to do. They were playing the Angels, and batting seventh in the Angels' lineup was super-prospect Mike Trout. I didn't think much of it before the game, but I thought a lot more of it afterward.
Trout would finish 2-for-4 with a walk and a pair of home runs. Granted, the Mariners' starter - against whom Trout hit both of his homers - was Anthony Vasquez, who is a nobody with nobody stuff. Vasquez is, in truth, a Double-A quality pitcher. But forget for a moment about the pitcher that Trout took deep, and consider instead the pitches.
The first homer came on a full count changeup:
That changeup was down and away, in a good spot, and Trout still reached out and blasted it out to left-center, clearing the Safeco power alley that has claimed so many lives before.
The second homer came on a 1-and-1 curveball:
This time the pitch was down and in, and Trout went down and poked it out to left. He hit it off his front foot.
It's hard enough for a right-handed batter to hit one home run to left field in Safeco. It's harder to hit two, and it's harder still to hit two while a little off balance. Tuesday night, Mike Trout showed some real plate coverage and power.
And it's not the first time. Trout has batted just 72 times so far as an Angel, but the Tuesday home runs were his fourth and fifth. His OPS is up to .829, and since being recalled a second time a couple weeks ago, he's gone 9-for-22 while slugging 1.000. With Trout, we're talking about embarrassingly small sample sizes, but he's handled himself. He's been quite good.
Now, everybody figured Trout would be good, soon. There's a reason he's considered a super-prospect. He has his minor league numbers, he has the power mentioned above, and he can run like this:
But it's one thing to consider Mike Trout being good a year or three down the road. It's quite another to consider Mike Trout being good right now. Mike Trout just turned 20 years old on August 7. He was promoted to the Angels straight from Double-A, where he played 91 games. You'd figure there would be some sort of adjustment. You'd figure there would be some struggles.
Rickey Henderson was pretty bad as a 20-year-old rookie. Roberto Clemente was pretty bad as a 20-year-old rookie. Robin Yount was pretty bad as a teenage rookie, and didn't find himself until his early 20s. Alex Rodriguez was pretty bad as a teenage rookie.
You know who's been good as a rookie around Trout's age? Guys like Ted Williams, Tony Conigliaro, Frank Robinson, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle and Orlando Cepeda. More recently, we've seen Jason Heyward and Mike Stanton succeed as 20-year-old rookies. Maybe Heyward doesn't make for the most encouraging company right now, but Heyward has injury concerns that aren't there with Trout.
Players just don't succeed in the majors this young very often, and the ones who do tend to turn out amazing. I know this isn't an earth-shattering statement to make, but Mike Trout is on the way to entering some rarefied air.
Trout could still hit a slump. He is, after all, still waiting on his 100th major league plate appearance, and pitchers could adjust. They could identify and exploit weaknesses that Trout needs to work to improve. He hasn't yet proven beyond a doubt that he's major league-ready, so we shouldn't get ahead of ourselves.
But then, even though Trout hasn't yet proven himself, he's done almost all that he could in the time that he's had. He's showing that he could be ready sooner than most people thought, and rare is the super-prospect who still finds a way to exceed expectations.