Mar 11, 2012; Goodyear, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Angels right fielder Kole Calhoun (77) following a double during the second inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Goodyear Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-US PRESSWIRE
Although he doesn't have the All-World tools of teammate Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels outfield prospect Kole Calhoun is a sleeper to watch closely.
Kole Calhoun first reached the public eye as a junior playing for the Arizona State Sun Devils in 2009, hitting .313/.435/.583 with 12 homers and 42 walks in 211 at-bats. He was even better as a senior in 2010, hitting .321/.478/.616 with 17 homers and 64 walks in 224 at-bats. The Angels drafted him in the eighth round as a budget-choice senior, giving him a $36,000 bonus.
He adapted quickly to wooden bats in pro ball, hitting .292/.411/.505 with 39 walks in 202 at-bats for Orem in the Pioneer League. However, lots of college seniors tear up the Pioneer League, and without superior tools, Calhoun generated some skepticism. He eased some questions with a strong 2011 season in the High-A California League, hitting .324/.410/.547 with 36 doubles, 22 homers, 20 steals, and 73 walks in 512 at-bats.
Calhoun saw frequent action for the Angels in spring training this year, hitting .354/.392/.542 in 48 at-bats, giving the team the confidence to jump him directly to Triple-A to begin the year, skipping Double-A completely. So far he is performing quite well for Salt Lake, hitting .292/.352/.542 with five walks and 11 strikeouts in 48 at-bats.
A 5-10, 200 pound left-handed hitter and thrower, the 24-year-old Calhoun lacks premium running speed and athleticism. What he does have is physical strength, along with a good feel for the strike zone and solid hitting skills. So far he hasn't found any level of college or professional pitching that he can't adapt to, although it is true that his leagues have been friendly for hitting. On defense, Calhoun's best attribute is a strong throwing arm. His running speed doesn't impress, but he has great instincts and the Angels have been willing to give him some playing time in center field.
Mike Trout sucks up most of the attention in the Salt Lake outfield, but Calhoun should not be underestimated, and if he keeps hitting he'll see the majors sometime later this year or in 2013.