TEMPE, Ariz. — Baseball America has called Mike Trout the best athlete in the Angels' farm system.
In 2009, at age 19, he was named the Topps Minor League Player of the Year.
Several publications see him as the top minor league prospect.
The back-slapping goes on and on.
That's good, to a point. Getting noticed sets you apart, gives you the inside track.
But honors also bring pressure. They paint a bull's-eye on your back.
Ask Brandon Wood.
After being named Best Prospect in the Minor Leagues for two years and showing great promise in Salt Lake City, Wood unceremoniously floundered at the Major League level.
But Trout, who'll begin the season with the Bees, pays it all no mind.
"I really don't feel it," he said the last week of spring training at the Angels' spring training facility in Tempe, Ariz. "I just want to go out there and play. When I get out on the field, I just worry about the baseball game. I don't worry about being a prospect and stuff. With the Bees I'm just looking to have some fun and put some good numbers up."
Born in Vineland, N.J., Trout was a "natural" from Little League up. His father, Jeff Trout, played in the Minnesota Twins farm system and coached New Jersey high school teams.
"When I was growing up he was always there," said Mike. "He was always giving me tips and getting me to work hard."
As a high school senior in New Jersey, Trout set the state record with 18 home runs. He also moved from shortstop to the outfield, which, he says, has worked out well. In 2010 he batted .362 for Cedar Rapids in the Angels farm system. Last year, with Arkansas, he tied for the league lead in hitting with a .326 average and cracked 11 home runs.
Toward the end of the year he was called up to the Angels where he became the youngest Angel to hit two home runs in one game. (By the way, he didn't play enough to kill his chances for winning American League rookie of the year honors at some point).
Many felt Trout would start the 2012 season with the big club, but injuries and illness sidelined him for most of spring training. At one point he battled a virus and lost 15 pounds.
"It's frustrating because you want to be out there on the field," Trout says. "But I've gained 12 pounds back. I'm ready to go."
Baseball pundits with USA Today think Trout will start out with Salt Lake City, but around mid-season will probably get a summons from Anaheim, where he'll end up for good.
Right now, however, "the kid" — as most 20-year-old ballplayers are called — just wants to play, anywhere.
"I've never been to Salt Lake City," he says. "This will be my first time. I've heard about the mountains and how nice it is there."
In the end, if Mike Trout can keep that old bugaboo about being a prospect at bay, Bees fans may want to catch a game early in the season if they want to see him.
Given his attitude, history and skills, he might not be around for all that long.