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Angels prospects steal Futures show

Angels prospects steal Futures show

ANAHEIM -- The Angels' Hank Conger, who launched a three-run homer and caught five innings for the triumphant U.S. team, was thrilled to claim the Most Valuable Player award for the annual XM All-Star Futures Game on Sunday at Angel Stadium.

Conger was more than happy to share the stage -- and the plaudits -- with super-prospect Mike Trout, who put on a dazzling show as the youngest player in the game.

"He's a tremendous talent," Conger said. "This was an unbelievable experience -- a great day for the young Angels."

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Conger, Trout and third baseman Luis Jimenez of the World team all took full advantage of their time on the big stage, combining for four hits, three RBIs and three runs scored in the 9-1 U.S. triumph.

Before strapping on the gear and catching for the U.S. against the World in Sunday's annual showcase, Conger said the player he was most looking forward to seeing in action was Trout, from his own organization.

Trout didn't wait long in making an impression.

Rising swiftly as one of the Majors' premier prospects, Trout, who turns 19 in August, entered in the first inning as a pinch-runner for another super prospect when Phillies outfielder Domonic Brown tweaked a hamstring.

Trout, a three-sport high school star in Millville, N.J., quickly turned on the jets.

He showed his blinding speed in center field, running down fly balls in both gaps, and also out of the batter's box, twice forcing errors on sharply struck grounders to shortstop and third base before beating out an infield hit to shortstop and slamming a double to right center.

"He can fly," Conger said.

Trout was caught stealing in third inning after reaching first, but in the fifth, with two away, he forced an error on third baseman Alex Liddi with two away and trotted home when Conger unloaded a 1-2 pitch into the right-field seats for a three-run homer and 5-0 lead for the U.S.

Eric Hosmer's third hit -- the Royals prospect would add a fourth -- had kept the inning alive after Trout reached safely.

"I'm going to Rancho [Cucamonga] after this," Trout said before the game, having gotten word of his elevation to high Class A after tearing it up for low Class A Cedar Rapids in the first half. "I'm just playing it by ear, seeing what happens. I'm having a pretty good season, and I hope to keep it going."

Trout has leaped to the forefront of the game's prospects after he was snapped up by the Angels and scouting director Eddie Bane with one of the club's two first-round picks in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, along with fellow outfield Randal Grichuk.

At Cedar Rapids, Trout was batting .362 with a .454 on-base percentage and .526 slugging percentage. He demonstrated his plate discipline in working counts in his at-bats on Sunday, getting into favorable hitting situations before drilling bullets.

He introduced himself to the Angels in the Cactus League this spring by smashing a gap double in his first at-bat. He continued to rip away and play quality defense whenever manager Mike Scioscia nodded in his direction.

"Trout has tremendous upside," Scioscia said. "He can really run, and he can do a lot of things on the field, offensively and defensively. Obviously, we're extremely high on him."

Conger has been making a very nice impression on his own in the Pacific Coast League for Triple-A Salt Lake.

While advancing steadily behind the plate, knowing that's his primary responsibility with Scioscia in charge, Conger is batting .279 for the Bees with five homers and 27 RBIs.

"I'm feeling more comfortable behind the plate," said Conger, a switch-hitter with pop from both sides. "Being around guys like Mike [Napoli], Jeff [Mathis] and Bobby [Wilson] during Spring Training has been a big help. My big challenge has been learning to call a better game and handle a pitching staff."

Conger, 22, was the team's first-round pick in 2006 out of Huntington Beach (Calif.) High School, right down the road from Angel Stadium. He had a fairly large collection of family members and friends in the crowd Sunday, and he acknowledged their presence after crossing home plate on his big drive to right.

"I'm just trying to put together a good year," said Conger, whose defensive progress early in his professional career was delayed by right shoulder issues. "I'm really pleased with how things have gone.

"Knock on wood, I haven't had any problems with the shoulder. I'm trying to keep on top of my shoulder exercises."

Jimenez, 22, from Santiago, Dominican Republic, lined a single in two at-bats Sunday. He has spent his fourth professional season with Cedar Rapids and Rancho Cucamonga, carrying a .284 average at the moment in the California League.

If they keep at it, Conger, Wood and Jimenez could be sharing the same home clubhouse at Angel Stadium on a full-time basis in the not-too-distant future.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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