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Angels' Mike Trout named American League rookie of the year

The vote for the 21-year-old was unanimous, but that was almost expected after he hit .326 with 30 homers, 129 runs and 49 stolen bases. Is MVP next?

November 13, 2012|By Mike DiGiovanna, Los Angeles Times
  • Mike Trout hits a single off of New York Yankees relief pitcher Freddy Garcia in the first inning of a game on Nov. 12
Mike Trout hits a single off of New York Yankees relief pitcher Freddy Garcia… (Kathy Kmonicek / Associated…)

There was no doubt Angels center fielder Mike Trout would win the American League rookie-of-the-year award; the only question was by how much.

That answer came Monday when the league announced Trout had garnered all 28 first-place votes on Baseball Writers Assn. of America ballots to win the award in a landslide over Oakland outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and Texas pitcher Yu Darvish.

Trout is the second player in Angels history to win rookie of the year, joining outfielder Tim Salmon (1993), and the eighth to win by unanimous vote, joining Evan Longoria (2008), Nomar Garciaparra (1997), Derek Jeter (1996), Salmon, Sandy Alomar Jr. (1980), Mark McGwire (1987) and Carlton Fisk (1972).

Trout, who turned 21 on Aug. 7, a month after playing in the All-Star game, is also a leading candidate with Detroit's Miguel Cabrera for the AL most-valuable-player award, which will be announced Thursday.

"Coming into the year, my goal was to be the best player and to make the most impact on the field," Trout said on a conference call. "To be in the MVP talk with guys like Cabrera, it's an incredible feeling, a hard one to explain.

"When I made the All-Star team, that was a really a big moment of my career, and that's when all the rookie-of-the-year talk started. It really came on fast. I was having so much fun during the year, I didn't really think of the awards or the individual stuff. I was just trying to help the team win."

Though Trout opened the season at triple A and joined the Angels on April 28, he had a tremendous impact, batting .326 with a .399 on-base percentage, .564 slugging percentage, 30 homers, 129 runs, 83 runs batted in and 49 stolen bases.

Trout led major league outfielders by robbing hitters of four homers, including a spectacular June 27 catch in Baltimore's Camden Yards in which he raced to the fence and leaped several feet over the wall to pull back a J.J. Hardy drive. According to Fangraphs, Trout saved 22 runs on defense, fifth-most in baseball.

Trout became the first major leaguer with at least 30 homers, 125 runs and 45 stolen bases in a season and the first to hit .320 or above with 30 homers and 45 stolen bases. Only Joe DiMaggio (132 in 1936) and Ted Williams (131 in 1939) scored more runs as rookies.

He fell one stolen base shy of joining Eric Davis (1987) and Barry Bonds (1990) as the only players to hit 30 homers and steal 50 bases in a season.

"Getting compared to guys like Rickey Henderson is pretty remarkable," said Trout, the 25th overall pick in the 2009 draft out of Millville High in New Jersey. "It's an incredible honor."

Trout ranked first in the league in runs and stolen bases, second in average and third in OBP and slugging. The Angels were 6-14 when he was called up from triple A on April 28 and 83-59 after that but fell short of a playoff spot by four games.

"We wouldn't have been in the position to even try to get a wild-card spot without him," Angels right fielder Torii Hunter said. "It's hard to find guys who can run, play defense, hit for average and power, create havoc on the bases and change the mind-set of a pitcher like Trout can.

"If he can put up the same numbers and do this every year, he'll probably be the greatest player who ever lived. He can't do much more."

Trout credited Hunter with having the biggest impact on his career so far, but the two probably won't be teammates next season. Hunter, 37, is a free agent, the Angels did not make him a qualifying offer, and General Manager Jerry Dipoto said the team will go with an outfield of Trout, Mark Trumbo and Peter Bourjos.

"It doesn't look like he's coming back," Trout said. "I called him, thanked him and wished him luck. He's just an incredible guy who had a great year for us. He carried the team in September.

"He took me under his wing, showed me the ropes, and he was always there on and off the field for me. Any questions I had, he'd have the right answer. He was the guy to go to. He really took it upon himself to lead me the right way. I can't thank him enough."

Trout will probably move to left field to clear center for Bourjos next season, a switch he is somewhat reluctant to make but one that could help preserve him physically. For all the great plays Trout made in 2012, he also slammed into walls numerous times on balls he didn't catch.

"I definitely like playing center a lot better, but to help the team win, I will play wherever [Manager Mike] Scioscia puts me," Trout said. "The chances of robbing a homer are slimmer in left, but you have balls down the line and the wall in foul territory. It will definitely be an adjustment. Center field is more natural for me."

The loss of Hunter could also push Trout from the leadoff spot to third in the lineup next season, but considering his remarkable combination of power, speed and on-base ability, that could be an easy transition.

"I wouldn't change my approach at all," Trout said. "I'll just have more chances to drive in more runs."

Of all the numbers Trout put up this season, the one that surprised him most was the home runs, which he credited to a slight adjustment to a more upright stance in early June.

"I knew the power was there, but I didn't know it would come that quickly," Trout said. "Some of it was the adrenaline rush of being in the big leagues, being pumped every night and having fun."

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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