By Jim Callis
August 16, 2004
It was widely known that Mark Trumbo wanted a seven-figure bonus to give up a baseball scholarship from the University of Southern California. And it’s no secret that Angels owner Arte Moreno has deep pockets and is willing to dig into them in order to improve his team.
So when Trumbo signed for $1.425 million as an 18th-round pick on Saturday, setting a record for a non-draft-and-follow selected after the 10th round, it wasn’t a surprise. But this was: Anaheim is making him a full-time third baseman.
When Baseball America ranked Trumbo, a product of Villa Park (Calif.) High, as the No. 31 prospect for the 2004 draft, it was as a righthanded pitcher. But the more the Angels scouted him this summer, the more excited they got about tapping into his powerful bat on a full-time basis.
“The last time he pitched, he threw 96 mph with 11 94s, so maybe we’re crazy,” Anaheim scouting director Eddie Bane said. “We were going to send him out as a two-way guy when we drafted him.
“Then we thought about it, and the pitching will always be there if he doesn’t make it as a hitter. But you’re not going to change someone from a pitcher to a hitter. And we don’t anticipate having to change him anyway.”
Trumbo’s performance at a Friday workout cemented the Angels’ plans for his future. Taking batting practice in front of Anaheim general manager Bill Stoneman, manager Mike Scioscia and batting coach Mickey Hatcher, Trumbo drilled two balls off the rocks in left-center field at Angel Stadium.
Trumbo, a 6-foot-5, 220-pounder, certainly has the arm strength to play third base. He spent his junior season at third base for Villa Park, then played sparingly there this spring while also seeing time at first base and all three outfield positions when he wasn’t pitching.
“Playing third base comes fairly natural to me,” Trumbo said from Mesa, Ariz., where he was working out at the Angels’ complex for a week and will return in mid-September for instructional league. “I have to work on my footwork and stuff because I haven’t been over there in a while. But I took some groundballs yesterday and I felt good.”
If he can’t handle the hot corner, Trumbo could move to left field or first base. Bane has no doubts that Trumbo will have enough bat for any position.
“We didn’t do a great job doing our homework on his bat before the draft,” Bane said. “But we did a great job during the summer. Every time our scouts would go to see the guy, balls were jumping all over the place.”
Though Trumbo said he had some slight discomfort in his elbow in early August, doctors found nothing beyond some slight wear. Bane said the Angels had no physical concerns about Trumbo’s arm, and it didn’t play into the decision to make him a hitter.
Trumbo’s bonus broke the post-10th-round record set last year, when the Dodgers signed 39th-round infielder Andy LaRoche for $1 million. The draft-and-follow mark is $1.701 million, which the Yankees gave lefthander Sean Henn in 2001 after taking him in the 26th round a year earlier.
Trumbo grew up an Angels fan and lives 10 minutes from Angels Stadium. He said he was excited when Moreno spent $145.75 million to bring in free agents Vladimir Guerrero, Bartolo Colon, Kelvim Escobar and Jose Guillen during the offseason, and even more thrilled to join the club.
“When he first started making moves, everyone was taken aback, myself included,” Trumbo said. “I thought, here’s a championship team all the way. When I heard I was going to be part of the organization, I was stoked.
“It was a tough decision to choose the Angels over Southern California. Both options were very good. It came down to the Angels were my hometown team.”
Trumbo is the latest in a series of pricy late-round picks to sign with the Angels. Earlier this summer, Anaheim landed a pair of righthanders recovering from Tommy John surgery, 14th-rounder Nick Adenhart ($710,000) and 34th-rounder Bobby Cassevah ($175,000).
Adenhart entered 2004 as the nation’s top-ranked high school player before blowing out his elbow in May. Cassevah projected as a third-rounder before he had his elbow reconstructed last October.
Bane has two more righties on his radar. The Angels plan on making a run at Stanford-bound 47th-rounder Erik Davis, who looked like a first-round pick before a disappointing senior season at Mountain View (Calif.) High.
Negotiations are proceeding slowly with Long Beach State’s Jered Weaver, BA’s top-rated prospect for the 2004 draft. Weaver fell to Anaheim’s first-round choice at No. 12 overall because he reportedly wants an eight-figure contract. Weaver is advised by Scott Boras, whose draftees usually are the last to sign.
“Nothing’s happening right now,” Bane said. “We fully anticipate we’ll sign Jered, but I wasn’t going to let us get caught with all our chips in one player’s hand. That’s the reason we took Adenhart, Trumbo, Cassevah and Davis.”