Mark Trumbo has had a very unique and odd climb to becoming a very solid major league player. Drafted locally out of Villa Park High School, Trumbo was thought of being a future power arm or an elite power threat. USC wanted Trumbo to become an elite player in their program, but the Los Angeles Angels had different ideas.
Drafted in the 18th round of the 2004 draft, the Angels had high hopes he would become a huge power bat in the middle of the Angels order. If that didn’t go according to plan, Trumbo’s huge arm could be used in high leverage situations out of the bullpen.
Trumbo’s biggest weakness from the get go was his shaky plate discipline. His first year in low A ball produced a terrible .293 OBP across 482 plate appearances. Trumbo’s OBP went up each of the next 2 years due to a better batting average but his walk rate actually headed downhill. From 9.9% in his first year to 6.6% in 2007, there were bad signs of a AAAA player forthcoming.
In 2008, Trumbo produced some huge power numbers, posting a .553 slugging percentage and a .270 ISO. The .329 OBP gave many people a cause for concern but the power breakout was a great sign for the Angels Organization. An injury riddled 2008 season and mediocre 2009 season put a damper on his future. Entering the 2010 season, Trumbo was a 24 year old prospect who had only put together 1 good season in his minor league career up to that point. It could be argued that 2010 was a make or break season. He was at an age where most good prospects already had major league service time and were making big differences at the big league level.
Trumbo broke out big time in 2010. A .575 slugging percentage and .276 ISO, to go along with a well improved walk rate, gave the Angels a great backup option while Kendrys Morales was recovering from a broken leg. His call up in late September only had 16 plate appearances, too little to make anything out of it.
Morales’ leg didn’t heal in the offseason and Trumbo was given the full time role at first base. His rookie year had many positives but also some negatives that could easily hurt his career. A .477 slugging percentage with 61 extra base hits, including 29 HR, placed him 2nd in the Rookie of the Year voting. A plus fielder at 1st base that season yielded a very respectable 2.1 WAR rookie season. The huge red flag was his abysmal .291 OBP and 4.4 BB%. A 20.9 K% wasn’t exactly good but it wasn’t terrible. If Trumbo could improve in the incoming years, he could put himself in the upper tier of 1st baseman.
The Angels signed Albert Pujols in the 2011-2012 offseason, meaning Trumbo would either become a full time DH or have to transition to another position. Kendrys Morales healed, meaning the latter was Trumbo’s only option. He attempted an experiment at 3rd base, which went terribly. With limited time in the offseason to work there due to a stress fracture in his foot, he started taking reps at 3rd base in spring training. The Angels thought he was sufficient enough there to get his huge power bat in a loaded Angels lineup.
The experiment didn’t last long. 8 games into the 3rd base experiment, Trumbo committed 4 errors and was hurting the Angels too much to keep him there. Trumbo was transitioned to a corner outfield spot, where he had past experience in the minor leagues. Playing time could be scarce due to a crowded outfield with the veteran Torii Hunter, speedster Peter Bourjos and young phenom Mike Trout. A leave of absence for Torii Hunter opened up playing time every day for Trumbo. A great offensive month in April and scorching hot May kept Trumbo’s bat in the lineup for good. Trumbo continued mashing the baseball, leading the majors in several power categories up until the All Star Break. A .966 OPS and 22 HR was more than enough to get Trumbo to the midsummer classic and even in the Home Run Derby. His prodigious power was put on display in front of a national audience and fans outside of Orange County were finally aware of this great young talent. Angels fans were ecstatic with Trumbo and were optimistic he would be one of the best power bats in baseball for years to come.
A horrible 2nd half changed everything. His OPS dropped from .966 in the first half to .630 in the 2nd half. An 88-14 K/BB ratio in the 2nd half was beyond abysmal and turned optimism to immediate pessimism. Trumbo’s offseason was going to be a tough adjustment to correcting these major flaws.
Trumbo has started off the horrible 2013 Angels season as their best hitter. A 9.7 BB% and .923 OPS has confused the fan base but has given them reason for hope. Trumbo could end up being the lone Angels All Star in a horrific Angels season so far.
Mark is absolutely one of my favorite players in baseball. He has taken a very weird route to the majors but he has established himself as a home run highlights reel who has made adjustments at every level to improve. Mark is a guy who admitted he didn’t really care at all about taking walks throughout the minors, a huge flaw by him and more importantly the Angels organization. He continues to adjust each year and keeps making it more obvious that this is a guy the Angels need to lock up during his core years. For Angels fans and baseball fans together, this is a guy who you should enjoy. His home runs are legendary and that’s not an overstatement. If my years of watching baseball, I’ve never seen someone hit home runs the way he does. His batting practices are almost surreal. It’s as if he has a corked aluminum bat and is hitting golf balls. Take the time to go early and see him bat because he puts on a complete display. His power is something that I know I’ll enjoy for the next few years. His continually improving discipline gives me hope that he is going to be a borderline star player in this league for the next decade.