A Tale of Two Prospects: Los Angeles Angels’ Mike Trout and Cincinnati Reds’ Aroldis Chapman

mlbtraderumors.com today informed me of a hot prospect I hadn’t heard much about: the Angels’ Mike Trout.  He was their first round pick last year (25th overall), and he’s a great example of what major league organizations look for in their prospects.

Trout is only 18 this year (turns 19 on August 7), but he’s already got a major league body (he’s listed as 6’1″ and 217 lbs by baseball-reference.com).  Trout has the two things major league organizations want most in a major league prospect: tools and proven ability at a certain level of professional baseball at a young age.

Trout has just been promoted to Rancho Cucamonga in the A+ California League, after hitting .361 with a .974 OPS in 368 plate appearances at Cedar Rapids in the Class A Midwest League.  The Midwest League, a low full-season Class A league, is a long way from the majors, but for a player yet not 19 years old to dominate at this level gives teams goose bumps.

Trout has already demonstrated several important abilities:  he can obviously hit, and he can obviously run.  He has 58 stolen bases in 69 attempts as a professional.  He has a great idea of the strike zone (.451 on-base percentage), and he has a good throwing arm (seven assists in 78 games in center field this year for Cedar Rapids, although he may not have the range to be a major league center fielder).

The only thing Trout hasn’t done so far as a professional is hit many home runs, but that doesn’t matter.  He’s obviously big and strong, and he collected 32 extra base hits in his 368 plate appearances at Cedar Rapids.

Home run power is a skill players generally develop as they mature in professional baseball.  So long as he’s hitting the ball with authority (and a .361 batting average and 32 extra base hits strongly indicate he is), major league organizations assume the home runs will come in due time.

Trout still has a long way to go to get to the majors and establish himself as a star there, but the point is that not one major league team wouldn’t like to have him in their organization right now.

Reds’ beat writer John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer thinks that LHP and super bonus baby Aroldis Chapman won’t be promoted to the major league squad until the September call-ups due to Chapman’s continuing command issues.

The Reds/Louisville Bats recently moved Chapman to the bullpen, probably with the idea that he’d have a better chance to help the Reds this season as they fight for a post-season berth.  That’s not necessarily a good idea in terms of Chapman’s long-term development since he’s always been a starter, but the Reds’ reasoning is obvious.

Chapman does not have major league control yet (47 walks in 75 AAA innings pitched), but he’s close.  The Reds are in a bind: they really have to go all-out to win this year, because it’s been 15 years since they last made the play-offs.  As the team playing in MLB’s smallest market, who knows when the next chance this good will come around?  Still, Chapman isn’t a pitcher they should rush to the majors leagues, because his potential is enormous.

Aside from the $30 million investment, Chapman’s talent is obvious.  For a 22 year old pitcher with his stuff (90 Ks and only 67 hits allowed in 75 IP) to be pitching as well as he has at the AAA level in his first year in American professional baseball, his upside is huge.  He only has to improve a little bit to be a good major league starter, and (if his arm stays healthy) his stuff is good enough that even if it takes him three or four years to find his command, he could still be the next Randy Johnson.

I’m reminded of Jose Rijo, the player against whom all Latin Reds pitchers (Edinson Volquez, Johny Cueto and Aroldis Chapman) will inevitably be compared.  Rijo was an enormously talented young pitcher who first reached the majors with the Yankees in 1984 at the tender age of 19.  After the season, he was traded in a block-buster deal to the A’s (with others) for Ricky Henderson.

Because Rijo had been one of the key pieces in a trade that sent away the A’s best player, the A’s weren’t sufficiently patient with him.  He lasted three years in Oakland in which he really pitched pretty well for a pitcher of his age, but after a rough year in 1987, the A’s traded him away to the Reds at the exact moment when his value was lowest.

As everyone knows, Rijo immediately became the Reds’ ace and eventually won the World Series MVP Award in 1990, when the Reds swept — you guessed it — the A’s.  That’s the reason why all current Reds pitchers will be compared to Rijo in one way or another: he took them to the top of the mountain, something that hasn’t happened much in Cincinnati.

As a fan, it would be exciting to see Aroldis Chapman pitching in situations that mean something in September as the Reds fight for a post-season spot.  However, it behooves the Reds to turn their $30 million investment into a pitcher who can give them five or six years as a top-two starter.

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One Comment on “A Tale of Two Prospects: Los Angeles Angels’ Mike Trout and Cincinnati Reds’ Aroldis Chapman”

  1. shlepcar Says:

    I’m glad the Giants are giving him a shot too. Hopefully being closer to home will help any lingering psychological issues he might be dealing with.


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