The hot stove is starting to cool, as we are less than a month from pitchers and catchers reporting. So, let’s stoke that fire a bit with more prospect talk. This series on prospects will cover a wide range of players as well as positions. We’ll cover sleepers and even some of the more obvious stars of the future.

The next prospect in this series is a player the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are already clearing a spot for, even though he won’t be up to stay until next season. Mike Trout is a legitimate center fielder who brings all five tools to the game along with a makeup that seems to be missing in last week’s featured prospect, Bryce Harper.

Trout has a big league-ready approach to go with outstanding hands and bat speed. He makes consistent, hard contact to all fields and has a great approach at the plate. He has an advanced batting eye, a natural feel for hitting, and great plate discipline.

His best tool is his speed. He grades out at a pure 80, meaning his speed would likely be a waste anywhere but in center field. That fantastic speed already translates into big stolen base numbers, ripping off 56 bases in 2010.

He is likely to hit for a high average and get on base at a high rate in the Majors, similar to his 2010 season in Single-A where he hit .341 and got on base at a .428 clip. His 6’1″, 217-pound frame is likely to develop, enabling his power to continue improving in the coming years. As his body continues to fill out, there are fair concerns about him remaining a burner, but he’ll always have at least plus speed.

The weakest of his five tools is his arm. This will make a difference in his future days as a corner outfielder, but will not affect your desire to draft him for your fantasy squad.

To keep Trout’s body from aging much faster than desired and becoming the next Andruw Jones, he may end up in left field sooner rather than later. The less wear and tear on his body would be a big benefit for his bat long term.

Growing up in New Jersey, Trout snuck up on many people because he was a high school player from a cold weather state. He didn’t get the exposure players in the south at major colleges and universities do.

Trout replaced the injured Domonic Brown in the first inning of the Futures Game in July and ended up on base five times in four plate appearances.  Getting on base any way possible and finding ways for his team to score runs seems to be Trout’s game.

Trout has a rare combination of tools and baseball aptitude for a teenager and is a treat to watch. One scout said of Trout, “He does it all, and does it with a smile on his face…he just seems to love playing the game.” He looks like the rare kind of player who can be a game changer.

No one argued whether Trout was a prospect or not entering 2010, but few people expected the 25th overall pick in the 2009 draft to make the kind of impact he did. He had stretches where he looked like the best player in the minor leagues.

He will likely start 2011 at Double-A. It will be interesting to note how well he fares against better pitching to see just how good his approach is. If he does as well as expected, a September call-up is a reasonable expectation, giving him a chance to turn 20 first, and he should be up for good to start 2012. He’s a must-own in long-term keeper leagues and worthy of stashing in AL-only formats.

If his power fully develops, he will be the complete package. If not, he will still be an excellent player, one that could help your fantasy team for the next decade. He most closely compares to a Grady Sizemore with a better average and, hopefully, fewer injuries.

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