In 2009, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim drafted outfielder, Mike Trout, with the 25th overall pick in the first round of the MLB Entry Draft. This was a compensatory pick the Angels received from the Yankees, who had just signed former Angel Mark Teixeira. What allowed Trout to fall was hesitancy from scouts, who lacked sufficient tape and data on the New Jersey prospect to pick him at the top of the round. Despite all of his draft grade numbers increasing leading up to the draft, because New Jersey is not considered a baseball hot-bed, Trout was overlooked. Everyone was scared to make a mistake. And boy did they make a huge one.
Upon making his major league debut in 2011, Trout was quickly dubbed the future of baseball, expectations he was more than prepared to live up to. Since his first full big league season in 2012, Trout has put up astonishing numbers, collected the American League Rookie of the Year Award, earned two American League MVP awards (2014 & 2016), and up until this season, had been a picture of health, playing no less than than 139 games in a season. Despite all of his individual success, Trout’s Angels have not been able to keep up. While the Angels consistently rank among the top payrolls in the league, regularly making big moves in free agency, their acquisitions just haven’t panned out. A prime example is Josh Hamilton, who signed a five-year $125 million dollar contract with the Angels in 2012. In just three seasons with the Halos, Hamilton played in just 240 games and failed to live up to the hype surrounding him. The Angels ultimately parted ways with Hamilton, but are reminded of the mistake by the millions they still paid him while he suited up for another team.
Trout has only seen the playoffs once in his career, back in 2014, when the Angels got swept 3-0 by the Kansas City Royals. Its hard not to feel bad for Trout, who hasn’t really gotten a chance to prove himself in October. Fans have also been cheated from the chance to see Trout making big plays when it counts. Despite the Angels being in contention for a wild card spot this season, there is an argument to be made that Trout’s time with the Angels has been a big waste of time. And, with the yearly “the Angels should trade Mike Trout” chatter in full swing, that narrative is amplified. But, what if he had never been in this situation to begin with? What if he never played a single game for the Angels? What if Mike Trout had been drafted elsewhere?
As it turns out, that fantasy was pretty close to becoming a reality. Here are four realistic scenarios that could have seen Mike Trout being drafted by a different franchise:
(1) Milwaukee Brewers
Trout was closer to being a Brewer on draft night than he was any other team.
Prior to the Yankees signing Mark Teixeira, they signed C.C. Sabathia, the former Brewers Ace. As compensation for this signing, the Brewers were originally awarded the 25th pick in the draft. However, the Yankees went on to sign Teixeira, who under the MLB’s free-agency rules was considered a higher-ranked player than Sabathia. As a result, that 25th pick was taken from the Brewers and awarded to the Angels.
In a world where the Brewers hold on to the 25th pick in the draft, they enter the draft with both the 25th and 26th overall pick. Having two selections in a row, the team gladly picks Trout with the 26th overall pick.
When Trout joins the big leagues in 2011, he joins a crowded Brewers outfield, led by beloved All-Star, Ryan Braun. Trout is a strong teammate, learning under Braun, but his talent is too much to ignore. Braun, fueled by his desire to win, accepts the role of Robin to Trout’s Batman. Without the pressure of carrying a team, and with the prospect of a bright team future, Braun is never driven to PED use. With Trout leading the Brewers, the National League Central division becomes the league’s toughest. The Brewers, Pirates, Cardinals, and eventually, Cubs, all battle for control of the division each year. Even though Trout does not make the playoffs every year, not playing in the Pacific time zone ensures his position in the national spotlight. Further, the presence of Trout turns Milwaukee into a legitimate free agent destination. They may not have won a championship, but the Brewers would have been annual contenders, bringing the fun back to baseball in Milwaukee.
(2) The New York Yankees
Yes, Mike Trout could have very easily become a Yankee on draft night. The Yankees being the Yankees were ready and willing to get rid of that draft pick in order to sign an elite free agent. However, in a world where the Yankees, perhaps showing some semblance of restraint, manage to hold on to their draft pick, they are in fact the ones who select Trout 25th overall.
The Yankees would have felt no concerns drafting a New Jersey prospect, instead relishing the chance to tout him as a “home-town” star. Trout, having grown up immersed in Yankee lore, would have been more than ready for the privilege and pressures associated with donning the pinstripes. In New York, Trout has the luxury of joining a veteran team full of superstars who absorb much of the publicity. Learning from Jeter, Rivera, and Rodriguez for his first few years in the league allows Trout to find his game, unlocking potential never possible with the Angels. With Trout delivering MVP performances late in Jeter & Rivera’s careers, the Yankees are able to send them off right, as each retire as World Series champions. Playing in the biggest baseball market in the world and putting the Yankees in contention on an annual basis, Trout is legend on par with the Yankees greats.
Unfortunately, the Yankees did not draft Mike Trout, and they have no one to blame but themselves. The best player in the world was sitting in their own backyard but they were too busy in free agency to notice.
(3) San Diego Padres
If there is one team Trout should be thankful he avoided, it is San Diego, a team that has come to define mediocrity in Major League Baseball. The Padres have not made the playoffs since 2006. They have one winning season going as far back as 2008. During that time, the Padres have not finished higher than second in the division and have not won more than 77 games in a season since 2010. But it all would have been different if they had selected Mike Trout.
In 2009, the Padres held the third overall pick in the draft. With the selection, they chose Donovan Tate, who would not play in a single major league game in his career. In an alternative reality however, the Padres select Mike Trout third overall. In doing so, the Padres select a player destined for greatness, but far too much greatness for such a strikingly mediocre franchise. Playing at PETCO Park, one of the toughest ballparks for hitters, Trout’s development is severely hindered, and he grows frustrated watching would-be homeruns turn into disappointing pop-outs. As the frustration mounts, San Diego, which has not finished higher than third in the division with Trout, finally realizes they must trade Trout as they are going nowhere, fast. In 2014, Trout is part of the mega-trade that sees him landing in Los Angeles, but in a Dodgers uniform. Trout is immediately reenergized, playing for a team that has a chance to compete. Trout makes an immediate impact for his new club, and gets back on track to becoming the player he was supposed to become. Mike Trout will now be a major factor in October baseball for years to come.
(4) Arizona Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks owned the 16th and 17th overall picks in the 2009 draft. With the 17th pick, Arizona drafted future All-Star outfielder, A.J. Pollock. However, with the 16th pick, they selected third baseman, Bobby Borchering.
In an alternate reality, rather than drafting a player who would never reach the big leagues, Arizona’s GM Josh Byrnes, who is in his fourth year in the position, swings for the fences. He takes the little known New Jersey kid named Mike Trout. The Diamondbacks love what they see and instead of parting ways with Byrnes, they team decides to let his plan play out rather than beginning a total team rebuild. With the selection of Trout, Arizona is suddenly a perennial competitor in the National League West. Trout and Pollock make up one of the best outfield units in the league giving opposing offenses nightmares. That, combined with their prowess at the plate, makes the Diamondbacks legitimate playoff contenders.
But none of these teams did draft Mike Trout. Instead, he was drafted by the Angels where his talent and potential is consistently left untapped. What seems clear from all of these scenarios is that just about any other MLB team could have built a contender out of Mike Trout. Unfortunately for Trout and fans alike, he didn’t end up with any of them. Until the Angels actually find themselves in contention or Trout is traded to a solid team, baseball fans will be left wondering just what Trout is truly capable of.
Photo courtesy of: New Jersey Monthly Magazine.
Logos courtesy of: MLB.com