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With the benefit of hindsight, Mike Trout has been the best baseball player of his "generation," if not of all time. Yet, one would not know this from his draft history.

He was the 25th draft pick in his class (2009), and was actually drafted by the Angels behind Randal Grichuk (the team had two back to back "compensation" picks). He was a first round pick but just barely, because he was actually the Angels' "second" choice. Normally, a very talented player would be drafted in the "top five," because scouts, coaches and commentators would be all over him. A 20-something draft pick is normally a talented player, but one that teams have doubts about, someone like St. Louis' Kolten Wong.

A talented second baseman named Dustin Pedroia was picked by the Boston Red Sox late in the second round. Teams overlooked him because he was "small" (5'7") for a baseball player. But Trout (over six feet tall, over 200 pounds) had no such disadvantage.

How was Trout perceived prior to the draft? Was he considered "standard strong" but lacking a "hook," that would have put him in the top five or ten at the time he was picked?" Did he have "hidden" talents/skills that became apparent only after he was drafted? Were there concerns about him that proved to be "irrelevant" when he actually started playing? (These are reasons that high potential players go in the 20s (or higher numbers) overall rather than in the top five or ten.)

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One of the major things that would make Mike Trout a passed up on draft opportunity would have been his age. Trout was just 18 at the time of the draft and just finished high school. He was a split sport athlete playing both baseball and basketball. He had committed to play at East Carolina University, a Division I school however not a team necessarily known for their MLB level player production, although they have a few players who have been drafted (a total of 20 players drafted since the inception of the draft in 1965). Due to his draft pick he never actually played any college baseball. Likely this low level of experience and long-term investment made him seem less appealing to teams.

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  • "High school" and multiple sports represented two good reasons why Trout might have been overlooked.
    – Tom Au
    Jan 1 '20 at 6:37
  • @TomAu Yep that is fair. Are you asking me to rephrase my answer or simply making an additional observation?
    – Paul Witry
    Jan 2 '20 at 19:08
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    No. I "rewrote" the question in line with your answer. "Multiple sports" does hurt signability." Will you vote to reopen (if you have not already done so).
    – Tom Au
    Jan 2 '20 at 20:47
  • @TomAu ok thanks for the clarification! :) yes I certainly will
    – Paul Witry
    Jan 2 '20 at 22:15
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This is very well covered in an ESPN piece with interviews from several of the involved parties. The short answer:

  1. Trout was from a relatively unknown school (he was the first pick ever from his school), in a small New Jersey school. Thus, he didn't get a lot of "buzz" until relatively late (Junior year).
  2. Trout had several demographic details against him: he was a right handed position player from the northeast, which for some reason was a downside according to the article. (Baseball scouting is weird, and people have all sorts of oddly formed prejudices that are based on things that make no sense.)
  3. Trout was physically "good", but not necessarily "great". He wasn't short, but he wasn't tall. He was strong, but not that strong. His arm wasn't bad, but it wasn't great.
  4. Scouts who did see the potential were afraid to overstate it. One scout mentioned in the article that he downgraded his 75 (75/80, basically "Future HOF") to a 68 ("Future all-star") because he had never given anyone a 70. It's very hard to give someone that high of a grade and defend it!
  5. Signability may have impacted some teams. They don't interview every team, but they do mention that the Angels had some concerns about his bonus requirements. 25th gives a slot of around 1.2MM, and that's what he ended up signing for; but after the draft his father mentioned numbers more like 2.5MM, and according to the article, during the draft there were (probably negotiating tactic?) suggestions that he might have wanted $3.5MM. Signability often drops guys in the draft because of the concern that if you draft someone at #5 or something and he doesn't sign, you lose him and the money associated with his slot, and that can be very damaging.

Ultimately Trout was just not projected to be a superstar by all that many people - in part because it is harder to project baseball players, and in part because he was so young that he hadn't developed yet into that star. He worked very, very hard to get to where he is today - he has great physical gifts as every star does, but the work ethic is what makes him truly great.

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