On April 27, the Los Angeles Angels dropped their fifth straight game to fall to 6-14, a disappointing start to a season filled with so much promise after the $240 million offseason acquisition of Albert Pujols. After that 3-2 loss to the Indians in Cleveland, Angels' manager Mike Scioscia announced that heralded prospect Mike Trout was being called up from Triple-A Salt Lake.
Trout, a 21-year-old native of Millville, N.J., who spent parts of four seasons in the minors with a 40-game call-up to the big club in 2011, was at the top of Scioscia’s batting order the next day, and despite going 0-for-4 the Angels won for the first time in six games.
With Trout batting leadoff and patrolling center field with aggressiveness and electricity never before seen in Anaheim, the Angels won 83 of their final 142 games (.627), but fell short of a postseason berth. Trout, meanwhile, enjoyed one of the best rookie seasons in baseball history, and now the 21-year-old veteran of eight Perfect Game WWBA tournaments in 2007 and 2008 is starting reap the rewards.
Trout on Monday was named the 2012 American League Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year in a unanimous vote by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA). The Oakland Athletics’ Cuban-born Yoenis Cespedes and the Texas Rangers’ Japanese-born Yu Darvish could do nothing better than divide the second-place votes, with Cespedes getting 19 and Darvish nine.
The voting on the National League side was much tighter, but in the end the star-power of the Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper – the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 MLB amateur draft – was too much to overcome.
Harper, an alumnus of 11 Perfect Game events from 2005-09 – including the 2009 PG/Aflac All-American Classic – out-pointed the Cincinnati Reds versatile utility man Todd Frazier and Arizona Diamondbacks left-hander Wade Miley, also alumni of numerous PG events. Harper received 16 first-place votes to nine for Miley and three for Frazier.
The selections of Trout and Harper mark the fifth straight year a Perfect Game alumnus has earned one of the two Rookie of the Year awards. The Tampa Bay Rays’ Jeremy Hellickson won the AL honor in 2011; the San Francisco Giants’ Buster Posey won the NL award in 2010; the Florida Marlins’ Chris Coghlan was the NL winner in 2009; and the Chicago Cubs’ Geovany Soto took NL honors in 2008.
After a slow start, Trout went on to hit .326/.399/.564 with 30 home runs and 83 RBI. His 129 runs, 49 stolen bases and 10.7 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) rating were all major league highs, and his batting average ranked second in the AL only to Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera from the Detroit Tigers. He was named to the American League All-Star Team in July.
Trout joins Cabrera, Texas’s Adrian Beltre and Josh Hamilton, and the Yankees’ Robinson Cano as finalists for the AL Most Valuable Player, to be announced Thursday. Last week, Trout won his first Louisville Slugger Silver Slugger Award as one of the AL’s top three offensive outfielders, and also received the Players Choice Award as the American League’s Outstanding Rookie.
Taken by the Angels with 25th overall pick of the 2009 MLB First-Year Player Draft, Trout became the first player in history to combine a .320-plus average with at least 30 home runs and 45 stolen bases. He is also the first to score 125 runs or more with 30 or more home runs and at least 45 steals, according to a report on mlb.com.
Trout played in his eight PG WWBA events with the Tri-State Arsenal and New Jersey Super 17s, and was at both the 2007 and ’08 PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., with Tri-State Arsenal/Cust D-Jacks.
During play at the 2008 PG WWBA World Championship, Perfect Game National Scouting Director David Rawnsley wrote this report after Trout went 3-for-4 with a grand slam, triple, six RBI and four runs scored in an 8-3 Arsenal win over Deep South PG White:
“Trout has a ranking of 74 in the 2009 class according to the latest Perfect Game Crosschecker rankings, but that may be due for a bit of a bump. Trout is an excellent runner with sub 6.5 speed in the 60 and a big arm in the outfield. He has the strength at 6-2, 190 lbs to generate impressive bat speed but has been an inconsistent hitter at national level events this summer. The offensive tools are there, though, and performances like this on the big stage are sure to help his stock with the scouts.”
Like Trout, Harper started the 2012 season in Triple-A, but made his big-league debut with the Nationals on April 28. He earned a spot on the NL All-Star Team in July and went on to bat .270/.340/.477 with 22 home runs, 59 RBI, 98 runs and 18 stolen bases. His efforts helped the Nationals reach the NL Division Series, where they lost to the Cardinals in five games.
Harper, a native of Las Vegas, didn’t sneak up anyone; he had, after all, appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a 16-year-old with the caption “Baseball’s Chosen One”. He participated in the 2005 Perfect Game SoCA Pre-High Showcase in Palos Verdes Peninsula, Calif., as a precocious 13-year-old, but didn’t return to the PG circuit until he played with the San Diego Show at the 2008 PG WWBA 2008 Grads or 18u National Championship as a 16-year-old.
He continued to perform with the Show at various PG WWBA tournaments through 2009 but his biggest accolade arrived when he was named to the West Team roster at the 2009 PG/Aflac All-American Classic. Thirteen prospects from that game were 1st-round or 1st-round compensation picks in the 2010 MLB draft, but Harper is the only one to make it to the big leagues – so far.
After watching Harper perform at the 2008 PG/Aflac Underclassmen Showcase in Los Angeles, a PG staffer filed the following report:
“We did a story a while back about young Bryce Harper. It's all true! He is the #1 prospect in the 2011 class and that's not likely to change. Plus arm, no plus-plus arm! Quickness and agility…. Probably the best high school hitting prospect in the country right now. Extreme power. Unlimited ceiling! Not sure there has been anyone to compare him to at the same age.”
Miley, a native of Loranger, La., and a 1st-round pick of the D-backs out of Southeastern Louisiana University in the 2008 MLB amateur draft, made his major league debut on Aug. 20, 2011, as a late call-up after spending parts of four seasons in the minors. He made seven starts and pitched 40 innings in 2011, going 4-2 with a 4.50 ERA and 25 strikeouts and 18 walks.
Miley, 25, earned a spot in the D-backs’ rotation out of spring training, and finished 16-11 with a 3.33 ERA in 32 appearances, including 29 starts. He showed much greater command in his first full season, striking out 144 and walking 37 in 194 2/3 innings of work.
His Perfect Game career began in 2003 when he pitched for the All Star Baseball Academy at the PG WWBA PG/BA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla. He returned to that same tournament in 2004 with the Bill Hood Broncos, this time in Fort Myers. His final fling with PG came at the 2005 PG WWBA 18u National championship in Marietta, Ga., playing with Bill Hood-Marucci Bat.
The 26-year-old Frazier, a Tom Rivers, N.J., native and a sandwich pick of the Reds in the 2007 MLB amateur draft out of Rutgers University, played in 41 big-league games for the Reds in 2011 but started the 2012 season at Triple-A Louisville.
He played 10 games in Louisville before getting called back up and finished the 2012 season hitting .273/.331/.498 with 19 home runs, 67 RBI and 55 runs in 128 games, and helped the Reds to the NL Central Division crown.
It was versatility that made Frazier’s 2012 seasons stand out. He started 28 games at third base replacing the injured Scott Rolen, and then started 35 games at first base while 2010 NL MVP and former PG standout Joey Votto was on the DL. Last week Frazier received the Players Choice Award as the National League Outstanding Rookie.
Frazier’s only experience with Perfect Game was when he played with the Twins Scout Team at the 2004 PG WWBA PG/BA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla.