Grichuk still has time to make impact like Trout
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Twenty-four selections were made in the first round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft before the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim selected Mike Trout.
Randal Grichuk was one of the 24.
Grichuk, however, is different.
Not only was Grichuk drafted 24th, directly ahead of Trout, but he, like Trout, was selected by the Angels and is an outfielder.
The two of them became friends as teammates in the Arizona Rookie League in 2009.
After that, however, Trout's career took off.
Grichuk's career was put on hold.
Trout was in the big leagues in the second half of 2011, carrying the label of the best young player in the game.
Grichuk was stalled at the Class A level, the victim of a strange trio of injuries that limited him to 117 games combined his first two pro seasons. He tore a ligament 12 games into the 2010 season at low Class A Cedar Rapids, and after his return, broke his wrist diving for a fly ball. In 2011, his season started late while he recovered from a fractured kneecap, suffered when he fouled a ball off the knee during Spring Training.
"We took two different paths," said Grichuk.
Grichuk said comparisons to Trout "never bothered me. I just knew I needed to stay on the field."
Eddie Bane, now a special assistant to Boston general manager Ben Cherington, was the Angels' scouting director who made the decision to select Grichuk and Trout.
"I know he was hurt, but I also think it's human nature for a competitor to prove things, and he may have gotten out of doing what he does best," said Bane. "He got himself back on track last year. He got back to doing what Randal Grichuk is capable of doing. And he can do plenty."
Grichuk put together a solid season at high Class A Inland Empire in 2012, earning California League Player of the Week honors the first week of August. He hit .298 with 18 home runs, 71 RBIs and 16 stolen bases, earning an invite to big league Spring Training this year. He was recently ranked the Angels' No. 7 overall prospect. He was one of the Angels selected to play during the offseason in the Arizona Fall League.
Bane feels comparisons of Grichuk and Trout are unfair.
"But that is part of the game," he said.
That brought back memories of a 1985 spring day in Lakeland, Fla. Kansas City was playing Detroit in an exhibition game. Gene Lamont, the Triple-A manager for the Royals, was with the big league team, and he was hitting ground balls to infielders during batting practice.
"Hey Lamont, you bum," an elderly fan shouted. "We could have had [Johnny] Bench and got stuck with you."
Lamont, the Tigers' No. 1 Draft pick as a catcher in 1965, the year Bench went in the second round to Cincinnati, smiled.
"Nice to be remembered, I guess," he said.
Grichuk still has plenty of time to create his own memories.
He, however, has found himself faced with unfair comparisons to Trout that has to make Bane wonder at times if he would have been better off drafting Trout before Grichuk. The Angels, after all, did have Trout rated higher.
Heck, Bane said, Trout was easily the No. 2 player on his Draft list, behind only Stephen Strasburg, who went to Washington with the first pick.
Bane said there was no debate in the Angels' Draft room about taking Trout in the first round. The debate was on whether to gamble on Grichuk slipping to the sandwich round, where the Angels had the 40th and 42nd pick overall.
"We went back and forth on Randal, Tyler Skaggs and Garrett Richards for the first-round pick [along with Trout]," said Bane. "We just felt we better take [Grichuk] if we wanted him."
The Rockies were the other team that showed strong interest in Grichuk, and they had both the 30th and 32nd picks in the Draft. They could have picked the Angels' pocket and taken Grichuk.
As for which order to take Trout and Grichuk, it came down to more a bargaining chip than talent.
Craig Landis, the agent who was serving as Trout's adviser, was making "rumbles of wanting way-over-the-slot money," said Bane. "I felt, 'OK, we'll go the other way.'"
It worked. Both signed for slot money. Grichuk received $1.24 million, and Trout, one pick later, $1.215 million. And Bane was able to get all four players he wanted, selecting Skaggs 40th and Richards 42nd.
Skaggs, one of four players the Angels traded to Arizona for Dan Haren, made his big league debut for the D-backs in 2012. Richards made his big league debut in '11, and he was with the Angels the second half last season.
Now it's up to Grichuk to make it a big league foursome from those early Angels picks in 2009.
"He'll be there," said Trout. "The name of the game is staying healthy. You can't do anything in the trainer's room. He's had to deal with that, but he fought through it."
He showed the flashes last year of what he is capable of when healthy.
And Grichuk has a chance to build off that in 2013.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.