It’s clear to even the greenhorn baseball fan that unless you bleed pinstripes, you pretty much loathe them. The feeling is completely understandable. The Yankees have won far more championships than any other team, which sets in a measure of jealousy. There is also the infamous Yankee Greed: their shameless pursuit of free agents no matter the cost. You can look right to a recent Hardball Talk post for a shining example. There are few instances where I can disparage someone their Yankee hatred.
Angels fans, however, should be thankful that the Yankees got greedy in the winter of 2008. That, of course, is when they made their big splash, landing CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeira. All three were Type-A free agents, and therefore cost the Yankees their first three picks. Teixeira was the last of them to sign, and even then it came as something of a surprise. Media reports had Boston as the favorites, and there was little, if any, word that the Yankees were making a last-minute run. The Angels would be in a distinctly different position now if Boston had gotten its way.
As everyone knows by now, the Angels have called up Mike Trout, the consensus No. 2 prospect in baseball. They did so with the 25th pick of the 2009 draft, which was originally property of the Yankees. It was well known that the Yankees wouldn’t pick in that position, given their interest in multiple high-end free agents, so it’s not as though they ever had a shot at drafting Trout themselves. The situation would have changed, though, had the Red Sox signed Teixeira. Anaheim would then have received Boston’s pick, the 28th in the draft, while Milwaukee would have taken the 25th overall pick as compensation for CC Sabathia.
The situation isn’t as simple as it’s laid out, of course. The Angels also had the 24th pick in the draft, which they used on outfielder Randal Grichuk. There were reports that the Cardinals considered taking him with the 19th pick, but it was no lock that he’d go that high. (They were smart to take Shelby Miller instead.) In any case, since the Angels picked twice in a row there’s no real way of knowing which player they would have chosen if they had only the 24th pick. Maybe they just would have taken Trout then. If they hand’t, though, then Milwaukee would have had two cracks at him, at 25 and 26, and then Seattle would have had a chance before the Angels picked again. There is a decent chance, then, that Trout would have been off the board.
At the time, Trout was not in any way a world-beating prospect. If you read his draft report, you see the makings of a very good defensive outfielder who had some skills at the plate that were still raw. Also, he apparently started to switch hit around draft time, but he’s ditched that in favor of his natural righty swing. But in reading the report there’s no indication that he’d explode onto the scene and turn heads in every at-bat. Yet he dominated the Arizona League (rookie level) immediately after signing, hitting .360/.418/.506 before moving up to A ball for the final week or so of the season. That put him at No. 85 on Baseball America’s Top 100, which is quite a slot for the No. 25 pick in the most recent draft.
One year of A-ball dominance and a half-season of similar results in AA later, and he’s with the big league club. It might be only a temporary move, to let him get his feet wet while the starting center fielder, Peter Bourjos, nurses a strained hamstring. And, as Sam Miller of the Orange Country Register notes, the odds are against him producing much at the plate. But it still has to be a great feeling for Angels fans, to get a glimpse at one of the most hyped, and justified, prospects in baseball. I just hope they remember that the pick they used to take Trout was born of Yankee Greed.