Commentary

Trout can't save Angels' season

When looking for a midseason upgrade, prospects are usually not the answer

Originally Published: July 18, 2011
By Jonah Keri | FanGraphs
Mike TroutChristian Petersen/Getty ImagesMike Trout has struggled mightily so far in his short stint in the majors.

When the Angels called up Mike Trout just before the All-Star break, the baseball world gasped. Trout was 19 years old, with just 75 games played above Class A. Universally regarded as one of the top two prospects on the planet, Trout's arrival offered the promise of spectacular things.

So far, not so good.

With the exception of a few jaw-dropping displays of speed, Trout has been a nonfactor, hitting .125 and performing about as well as a replacement-level player (a Triple-A lifer or fringe 25th man). Six games certainly aren't enough to offer a reliable sample of performance, but for Trout and the Angels, this might end up being a case of too much, too soon.

If Trout doesn't work out this season, it would be just the latest example of a team relying too heavily on a rookie player not yet ready for prime time. The proliferation of prospect scouting makes people salivate when a big name starts putting up big numbers in the minors. By the time he arrives in the majors, we view every prospect as a potential Albert Pujols. If they string together a few hits or have a couple of nice starts out of the gate, insanity ensues.

Truth is, instant stars like Ryan Braun and Evan Longoria aren't the norm. They're outliers, rookies who improbably needed no adjustment time after getting the call. Meanwhile, baseball history is littered with tales of can't-miss prospects who stumbled early in their major league careers.

Jonah Keri (@jonahkeri) is a staff writer for Grantland. His book, The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team From Worst to First, is a national best seller. His new book Up, Up, and Away, on the history of the Montreal Expos, is now available for preorder.