01/25/12 10:00 PM EST
Trout leads three Angels prospects in Top 100
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
He's just not the top prospect.
After being ranked No. 1 last January, Trout -- coming off another great season in the Minors, but some struggles through two stints in the Majors in 2011 -- moved down to third on MLB.com's current list, behind Rays left-hander Matt Moore and Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper, respectively.
Trout was one of three Angels prospects listed when MLB.com released its Top 100 list on Wednesday, joining shortstop Jean Segura (55th) and right-hander Garrett Richards (67th). The Padres, Rays and Athletics had the most prospects in the Top 100, with six each.
"Trout moving to No. 3 isn't really a sign of any drop in the industry's opinion of him," said MLB.com prospect expert Jonathan Mayo, who had Harper third and Moore 27th last year. "Most scouts had Trout, Matt Moore and Bryce Harper 1-2-3 in some order, and you could flip a coin and make a very solid argument for any of them to be No. 1. In the end, Moore and Harper came out just a tick ahead of Trout, but he still has one of the brightest futures of any prospect in the game."
This year's edition of MLB.com's Top Prospects list has expanded from 50 to 100 players. The annual ranking of baseball's biggest and brightest young talent is assembled by MLB.com's Draft and prospect expert Mayo, who compiles input from industry sources, including scouts and scouting directors. It is based on analysis of players' skill sets, upsides, closeness to the Majors and potential immediate impact to their teams. The list, which is one of several prospect rankings on MLB.com's Prospect Watch, only includes players with rookie status in 2012.
Trout, the No. 25 overall selection in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, was stellar in his first season at Double-A Arkansas last year, batting .326 with a .414 on-base percentage, 11 homers, 33 stolen bases and 13 triples in 91 games. But he finished batting .220 with a .281 on-base percentage and five homers in 40 games for the Angels.
Trout was called up to fill in for the injured Peter Bourjos on July 8 and hit .163 in 47 plate appearances before being sent down on Aug. 1. He was called up again on Aug. 19 to spark some life into the Angels' offense and finished hitting .250 with four homers and 10 RBIs in 26 games the rest of the way.
Hal Morris, the long-time first baseman who was hired in November to serve as the Angels' director of pro scouting, caught a glimpse of Trout at the Texas League All-Star Game last year and is eager to see more.
"When I watch him, I just have a hard time thinking of anybody that I've seen play or that I've played with where his skill set compares -- with that kind of speed and with his strength from the right side of the plate," Morris said. "The comparisons are hard to find, maybe Bo Jackson. He's a really exciting player to watch.
"What jumps out is the fact that he'll hit a ball on the ground and he gets up to first [base] in four [seconds] or less, and you just don't see that from the right side of the plate very often. And he plays hard, and that just gets your attention immediately. And also his age -- he's a young man, and his baseball future is just very, very bright."
The question is what the immediate future holds for Trout, who's only 20 years old, hasn't played in Triple-A and is currently blocked by Bourjos, Vernon Wells and Torii Hunter in the Angels' outfield.
Morris doesn't make the final decision as to whether Trout will start the season in the Majors or the Minors, but said: "With a player his age, you want to see them playing every day and developing their skill set."
Segura, like Trout, boasts an impressive combination of speed and pop. But last year, in his fifth season in the Minors, hamstring issues limited the 21-year-old right-hander to 52 games, including 44 games for high Class A Inland Empire, where he hit .281 with a .337 on-base percentage, three homers and 18 stolen bases.
Richards, who could compete for the fifth spot in the Angels' rotation this spring, went 12-2 with a 3.15 ERA in 22 games (21 starts) for Double-A Arkansas in 2011. In 14 innings in the big leagues, the 23-year-old posted a 5.79 ERA, a 1.643 WHIP and a 1.29 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
All three players are on the 40-man roster and will be in Tempe, Ariz., for Spring Training in February.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.