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August 27, 2012
How Mike Trout became the one that got away from so many teams
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August 27, 2012

The 21 Club

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How Mike Trout became the one that got away from so many teams

At the time, the story of the 2009 draft was the Nationals' selection of Stephen Strasburg at No. 1. Three years later, what happened with the following 22 picks is the most intriguing part of that night, when 21 teams chose not to take Mike Trout.

After Dustin Ackley (Mariners) and Donavan Tate (Padres) rounded out the top three, the Angels, who coveted Trout, sat with fingers crossed. With the fourth pick the Pirates took a college catcher who has yet to make the big leagues (Tony Sanchez). The Orioles then selected a high school pitcher (Matt Hobgood) who went 4--15 with a 5.48 ERA in three years in the minors before he broke down. It was the first of eight straight picks used on pitchers. Among them were the Nationals, who took Drew Storen, a college reliever, at No. 10. With that pick Washington missed the chance to have three of the best young players in baseball for years to come: Strasburg on the mound and Trout and Bryce Harper, the No. 1 pick in 2010, in the same outfield. "Looking back, [Trout] was certainly underrated," says Nationals G.M. Mike Rizzo. "He was described as a skilled high school player from the Northeast. Great tools but a little raw. His makeup was off the charts; we were right on that. But we certainly didn't have as much interest as we should have. We had him as a mid-first-round pick."

The run on pitchers ended with the A's at No. 13. The Angels were worried the Oakland would take Trout. But the A's played it safe by taking Grant Green, a college player who they believed was closer to the big leagues at a position, shortstop, that they considered more a need than outfield. Green has yet to reach the bigs.

The Rangers and the Indians then took pitchers; Texas wasn't even able to sign its pick, Matt Purke, a high schooler from Texas. The next two picks belonged to Arizona. The Diamondbacks locked in early on a high school third baseman (Bobby Borchering, left) and college outfielder (A.J. Pollock). In the draft room Tom Allison, the director of amateur scouting, said, "We need to talk about Trout. He's the best athlete in this draft." Somebody mentioned he was "a little stiff," and the subject died. Arizona took Borchering and Pollock.

Six more picks passed, with the Marlins, Cardinals, Blue Jays, Astros, Twins and White Sox bringing the count to 21 teams that passed on Trout. For the Angels the wait was over.