Angels rookie Mike Trout has played well in center field since taking over… (John G. Mabanglo / EPA )
Asked by a Bay Area reporter over the weekend what impresses him about Mike Trout, Mike Scioscia turned the question inside out.
"Why don't you ask me what doesn't impress me about him," the Angels manager said. "Otherwise, we might be here all day."
The Angels love Trout's skill set, a combination of size (6 feet 1, 220 pounds), speed and plate discipline that pushed the 19-year-old center fielder to the top of several best-prospect lists last winter.
"Physically, he's a specimen," Scioscia said. "You don't see guys with his size and strength who can run like he does short of the NFL combine."
How have those skills translated to the major leagues? Seven games is a tiny sample size, but since being called up from double-A Arkansas to replace the injured Peter Bourjos on July 8, Trout has made several nice catches after long runs to the gaps.
Offensively, he has looked overmatched at times, with a .125 average (three for 24), seven strikeouts and two walks. Like virtually every youngster in his first big league stint, Trout has been susceptible to nasty breaking balls.
But he hasn't looked overwhelmed.
"I don't think he's afraid to fail," Scioscia said. "It seems like he's playing free, and that's what you want, a guy to think about making plays and not worry about making mistakes.
"He's not the finished product, but he's grown by leaps and bounds in the last year to where he's not getting swallowed up by an opportunity to play in the big leagues.
"He's handled himself very well. This experience should be very valuable as he continues his quest to be an everyday player in the big leagues."
Trout will be sent to the minor leagues when Bourjos returns, but there is a growing sense in the organization that he might be ready for that everyday big league role next season.
Finding a spot will be difficult, though. The Angels have $48 million invested in three veteran outfielders next season, Vernon Wells, Torii Hunter and Bobby Abreu, assuming his 2012 option vests, and Bourjos has solidified his spot with his spectacular defense and improving bat.
Barring a trade, Trout, who turns 20 on Aug. 7, will probably get one more year of minor league seasoning.
"When you start to get a logjam because of depth at a certain position … those are issues you dream about," Scioscia said. "That's what you strive for, to have the depth that forces those decisions.
"I don't think it ever hurts a player to be in the minor leagues working on his game. But if you're asking where Mike will be a year from now, nobody knows. Those are decisions we don't have to make right now."
Rangers are rolling
Texas will take an 11-game winning streak and two standout left-handed starters (Derek Holland, C.J. Wilson) into a three-game series in Anaheim beginning Tuesday night.
Neither bodes well for the Angels, who lost three of four weekend games in Oakland to fall four games behind the Rangers and are 15-17 against left-handed starters this season.
The marquee matchup will feature Angels ace Jered Weaver (12-4, 1.90 ERA) against Wilson (10-3, 3.11 ERA) on Thursday.