Thursday, May 24, 2012

By Scott Fowler - Columnist



In chemical terms, this is the full name of the compound usually referred to as TNT.

‘Round these parts, that might be changing.

With TNT, a relatively stable compound, you add an ignition, or spark, and BOOM.

There it goes.

Looking around Anaheim lately, the Angels are putting together their own version of TNT in the forms of Rookie call-up Mike Trout and second-year first base…er, third ba…utili…Angel Mark Trumbo.

With the lack of offensive production and consistency plaguing the majority of Angels veterans this season, it’s the youth movement that is providing the pop and the energy that they clearly lacked in May. That same energy and pop just might be turning things around for a club still struggling with the notions of having legitimate preseason expectations to live up to.

Often referred to as either the #1 or #2 prospect in all of baseball, Trouts skills were sure to translate at the big league level. A great eye in the batters box, unrelenting speed on the bases and in the outfield, and an understanding of the game well beyond his 20 years, Trout embodies “5 Tool Player”. Seemingly unaffected by the funk that the rest of the team seemed stuck in, Trout’s arrival in Anaheim signaled that something needed to change with this lineup and it’s lack of production, and that had to start at the top of the order.

In 93 at bats in 2012, Trout has 29 hits, including 6 doubles, 1 triple, and 4 homers, and has succeeded in  6 of 7 attempts at a stolen base. That breaks down to a .312 average and .377 OBP, while slugging .527 with an OPS of .904.

Not bad for a kid from New Jersey who’s not even old enough to legally drink a beer until August 7th.

Trout also provides the Angels with a legitimate lead-off hitter, a role that the Angels have struggled in filling since the departure of former third baseman Chone Figgins. Comparisons of the youngsters skills and abilities are already drawing comparisons to the likes of long-time lead-off batter and base stealer extraordinaire Rickey Henderson. Not a bad way to start your twenties, let alone your major league career.

In 2011, Mark Trumbo ended up on the lucky side of a fluke injury. With former MVP candidate first baseman Kendrys Morales still sidelined from a freak broken ankle and out for the year, all Trumbo did was finish as a runner up for the American League Rookie of the year, belting 29 home runs and 87 RBI’s with a .254 batting average as his depth chart replacement.

Trumbo has always risen to the challenge. Growing up about three miles away from the Big A in Villa Park, Trumbo often heard that his swing was too big, his strikeouts too many, walks too few,  and his game too one dimensional to play at the big league level. He also entered his sophomore year in Anaheim with a few things working against him. First, he was slated to start the season as a third baseman. In fact, his profile on ESPN and most other professional sports sites still list him as such, even though he’s played less than 10 games there all season. Second, he was on a team crowded with veteran players that slotted in ahead of him at every other defensive position, and would be among the Angels players that had to fight for playing time. Officially, Trumbo has started games this season at First Base, Third Base, DH, Left Field and Right Field. Coming into today’s game, he’s batting .325 with six home runs and 19 RBIs, working into significantly more hitters counts, and lo and behold, more walks. His offensive production have almost single handedly helped keep the team afloat so far this season.

Mark has also emerged as a voice and a leader in the clubhouse and on the field. Taking a cue from the veteran playbook, the youngster recently lit the fire in the clubhouse and dusted off that chip on his shoulder in a recent series against the AL West leading Texas Rangers.

From a recent LA Times interview:

"That's the way we need to play, with some attitude, because that's how [the Rangers] play," Trumbo said. "If we go into it without that figurative chip on our shoulder, things can get away pretty quickly against a ballclub like that. We need to come out a little angry, to want to take it to them. We're capable of hitting three-run homers, but we're a much better club when we're executing and doing the small things," Trumbo said. "I was just as happy to draw a leadoff walk [in the seventh] as I was to hit the home run."

Oh, and the ball? It literally explodes off his bat when he gets a hold of one. His batting practice sessions have become things of legend in a variety of ball parks across the country, with players and fans alike taking pause to watch the youngster send ‘em to the seats

Sometimes you get a glimpse into the future. A rare window into events that have yet to unfold. The other night it happened in Anaheim: The starting outfielders for the Angels read Trout, LF, Bourjos, CF, and Trumo, RF. 

Spark. Boom. Anaheim’s version of TNT.

Should give new meaning to Big Bang Friday for the next few years.
Love to hear what you think!

Listen to "A Fish Like This" Tribute song to Mike Trout's Greatness

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