The Los Angeles Angels took one step closer to setting their 25-man roster today by sending South Jersey's own (Vineland born) Mike Trout back to the minors for a chance to play everyday and recover from a very tough spring that saw him fighting physical ailments.  This trip to the Angles AAA squad (one level below the majors) could be a blessing is disguise for this kid who projects to be a future star.

This March has seen Trout contract a viral infection that caused him to lose 15 pounds, recover from a bout of shoulder tendinitis, not make his exhibition season debut until 10 days ago, and he has since bounced back and forth between big league and minor league games as a DH.  Trout just got his first hit of the Cactus League season against the Royals yesterday - Trout went 1-for-6 against the big league competition recently.

Trout has earned high praise from his Angel mates - a complement to the talent this kid from Millville High School has had from the minute he signed with the Angels as the team's #1 pick in the 2009 amateur draft.  Angels All-Star outfielder Torii Hunter recently told ESPN "He's not scared.  That's what I like -- the heart he has.  We would see this guy battling, fouling balls off and getting to 3-2 counts. He'd have a 10-pitch at-bat and strike out and we were like, 'Wow, that's impressive.'  We didn't look at it like, 'He struck out.' We were thinking, 'Wow, this dude battled.'''

Trout has all the skills - speed, power, strong arm, great defensive skills, and those intangibles that make for a potential great career ahead.  His minor league number have been eye popping - hitting .338 over his first 3 minor league season at 3 different levels, an amazing .422 on-base percentage (great eye in the batter's box), 102 stolen bases (34 per season average), averaged 28 doubles and 10 triples per season, and has only committed an unthinkable 3 errors during this stretch in the outfield.

Trout was the 2011 Minor League Player of the Year with his performance for the Arkansas Travelers (the Angels AA affiliate), and this earned this 20-yr-old a trip to the big leagues late in the season.  Trout showed flashes of his brilliance during his 40 game stretch - belting 5 Home Runs, 16 Runs Batted In, and went 4-for-4 in stealing bases.

The Angels could have easily been swayed to rushing Trout to be in the mix for the start of this season, but aside from Mike's ailments the team's outfield is crowded:

Vernon Wells is their starting left-fielder with a career .274 batting average, but was coming off a disappointing .218 last season with 25 HR and 66 RBI.  His $25 Million salary makes him impossible to trade!  Peter Boujos is in center - the spot Trout projects potentially to play.  The 2nd-year Angle hit .271 with 22 stolen bases, 11 triples, 12 HR and 43 RBI.  A bad stretch for Peter could bring Trout up sooner than later.  Torii Hunter is the veteran right-fielder who at 36 may have seen his best years behind him, but his .262 average with 23 HR and 82 RBI.

What further complicated the Angel outfield was the off season signing of Albert Pujols to play 1st Base, forcing Kendry Morales (coming back from injuries) to spend some time in the outfield, move Mark Trumbo (last year's 1st baseman - 29 HR and 87 RBI) over to be the designated hitter, and least year's DH Bobby Abreu (career .293 hitter who only hit .253 last season) back to playing in that crowded outfield.

Rumors have Abreu possibly being traded to the Cleveland Indians, which would clear up part of the outfield volume, but for Mike Trout he will begin 2012 with the Salt Lake Bees.  This will be Trout's first stint at the Angels top level minor league team.  Another great stint in the minors will make it impossible for the Angels to not bring Mike up for good, but let's not forget that he is not even of legal drinking age yet.

Mike Trout hit only .220 in 123 at-bats for the Angels last year.  Combine this with Mike's lack of preseason action, plus him not being 100% physically makes today's decision the right one for everyone.  Fans in South Jersey will have to wait a little bit longer, and it would be shocking if he's not playing for L.A. by the time the Angels invade Yankee Stadium after the All-Star break.  Can someone see a July 13th-15th road trip to the Bronx?  Look for Mike Trout progress reports periodically here on SoJO 104.9's website.


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