Salmon: Maturation key to Trout's future success

By Alden Gonzalez / | 11/15/12 2:33 PM ET

ANAHEIM -- One of the more popular memes spread via Twitter on Tuesday, when Mike Trout officially joined Tim Salmon in a rather exclusive group, featured the slick Dos Equis pitchman with the words: The Angels don't always sign players with fishy names, but when they do, they win Rookie of the Year Awards!
Trout and Salmon are the only Angels players to be named the American League's Rookie of the Year, and both did so unanimously.
"And I think that says a lot," Salmon said in a phone interview. "You have to experience the West Coast to understand some of the biases on the other side of the country. It can be tough. But Mike, I think he just went so far beyond what your average rookie would do. The guy had just a phenomenal, amazing year. I just can't ever see another rookie having that year again."
As Trout captivated the nation with his energy, talent and youth, Salmon had a front-row seat, as an analyst for the Angels' local affiliate, FOX Sports West.
Salmon, who spent his entire 14-year career with the Angels and was part of their 2002 World Series championship team, won Rookie of the Year honors in 1993 after batting .283 with 31 homers, 95 RBIs and a .918 OPS. The former right fielder never made an All-Star team, but he maintained similar numbers throughout his career, averaging an .898 OPS with 26 homers and 86 RBIs over the next 10 seasons.
The question with Trout is: How in the world does he sustain the kind of production he had in 2012?
"It will be more difficult in some things, but here's the thing: He didn't sneak up on anybody in the second half," Salmon, now 44, said. "He was on everybody's radar, every pitching staff's radar, and he proved he can make adjustments. So, going into the season, just have that same mindset.
"I think the biggest thing for him is just going to be blocking out all the distractions. He's going to have a lot more microphones in his face, and he's just going to have to find a way to embrace that a little bit."
Trout's numbers were off the charts.
He finished second in the AL in batting average (.326), first in steals (49) and runs (129), third in on-base percentage (.399) and third in slugging (.564). He robbed four homers (only three others have done that since 2004) and saved 23 runs altogether (fifth in the Majors). He made the All-Star team. He became the first player ever to combine at least 45 steals with 125 runs and 30 homers in one season, not to mention a .320-plus batting average.
And he could become the youngest Most Valuable Player in baseball history -- if he can beat out Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera.
Salmon, like many, was taken aback mostly by the home runs, considering Trout only totaled 23 in 286 career Minor League games. The center fielder credited a more-upright batting stance, which allowed him to get more plate coverage, and manager Mike Scioscia noted that he's still growing into his body.
Salmon has several other theories, too.
"There's a maturation process," he said. "I think the one thing with Mike is just being in an environment with the advanced scouting. Yeah, you're facing tough pitching, but they're giving you more strikes, too. They're around the zone more, the atmosphere is different, he's starting to get books on guys, he has a feel of how guys are going to work him, he's hitting with guys around him in the lineup like Albert Pujols, so maybe he's getting a lot of good pitches.
"Even though your Minor League numbers might not have been very big, you can develop into that. And like everything else, he's developed so much faster than your average Joe Ballplayer."