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Angels’ Outfielder Kole Calhoun Proves Naysayers Wrong

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OAKLAND, CA - JULY 28: Kole Calhoun #56 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim hits a single in his first Major League at bat against the Oakland Athletics during the first inning at O.co Coliseum on July 28, 2013 in Oakland, California.

Kole Calhoun (Photo Credit: Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)

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By Rich Arleo

CBS Local Sports, in our “30 Players 30 Days” spring training feature, profiles one young player from each Major League Baseball team leading up to opening day.

Kole Calhoun, Outfielder, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

2013 season (minors): 59 G, 240 AB, .354 BA, 12 HR, 49 RBI, 10 SB, 1.047 OPS

2013 season (majors): 58 G, 195 AB, .282 BA, 8 HR, 32 RBI, 2 SB, .808 OPS

Many of the young stars who have come into their own these past few years were touted as “can’t-miss” prospects from the get-go. That was never the case with Kole Calhoun.

Bryce Harper was drafted first overall by the Washington Nationals out of high school. Stephen Strasburg was taken in the same slot by the same team a year before that. Many of the players featured in 30 Players 30 Days, including Gerrit Cole, Kolten Wong and Zack Wheeler, are former first-round picks. International free agents like Xander Bogaerts, Julio Teheran and Jose Abreu were brought in with high expectations of success.

And then there’s Calhoun’s teammate Mike Trout, a former first-rounder who is now one of the best players in baseball.

But when the Angels drafted Calhoun in the eighth round of the 2010 draft, there was no fanfare. Many saw him as a potential fourth outfielder at best. He would be a plus-defender, but at 5-foot-10 with unrefined skills at the plate, his ceiling was low. Fortunately for the Angels, a team without a strong farm system (Trout notwithstanding), none of this has mattered to Calhoun.

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The undersized outfielder impressed in his first year of Rookie ball in 2010. That year, at the age of 22 — Trout’s age entering the 2014 season — Calhoun had a .916 OPS with seven home runs and 42 RBIs in just 56 games. He took a huge leap the following season at High-A ball, hitting 22 home runs and stealing 20 bases with a .957 OPS in 133 games. From there he jumped to Triple-A Salt Lake, where he again showed his power and speed with a high average and on-base percentage. Calhoun had already exceeded expectations, and continued to last season.

Calhoun began 2013 again at Triple-A and put together his best season yet. He hit .354/.431/.617 with 12 homers and 10 steals in just 59 games. Calhoun was clearly ready, and in July the Angels brought him up. His talent at the plate showed right away, as he debuted with a hit and two walks in four plate appearances. Calhoun started in the outfield the rest of the way, and continued to defy critics, even in the majors. His speed, however, didn’t seem to translate; he stole just two bases. Of course he also ran just four times. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Angels unleashed him on the basepaths this year.

Calhoun enters the 2014 season as the Angels’ starting right fielder. He’s quietly, steadily and rapidly passed every test put in front of him. Just four years after being drafted as a fourth outfielder, the 25-year-old has the potential to be a 20-homer, 20-steal threat in the majors for the foreseeable future.

Next up: Brad Miller, Seattle Mariners

Check out our Fantasy Baseball Preview, breaking down the top players at each position.

Rich Arleo is a Marist College alum who has been a professional writer and editor since graduating in 2010. Find him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ for more of his sports musings.

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