Former Angels scouting director Eddie Bane cringed after soliciting help from one of his evaluators in 2009.
"Around the time of the draft, I asked our scouts to give some comps on the guys we drafted," recalled Bane, whose team made New Jersey high school outfielder Mike Trout the 25th pick of the draft that year. "Our local scout (Greg Morhardt) who recommended Trout said Mickey Mantle."
Bane responded in disbelief.
"I said, 'We're not doing that. We're not putting pressure on the kid,' " he said. "(But) he was right."
The numbers Trout has amassed with his freakish blend of power and speed have earned him comparisons to Mantle and other Hall of Famers despite the fact he is only 26. This season he will make his seventh consecutive appearance in the All-Star Game — a franchise record.
Trout and fellow Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell are the only players in major-league history with at least 25 home runs, 10 stolen bases and 75 or more walks before the All-Star break.
Trout's 61.1 career WAR (Wins Above Replacement) is the highest in major-league history through 1,018 games.
This season, Trout is on pace for a 12.3 WAR, according Baseball-reference.com. The best single-season WAR in major-league history is Babe Ruth's 14.1 in 1923.
And Trout joins Joe DiMaggio, Ivan Rodriguez, Rod Carew and Mantle as the only AL players to start at least six All-Star Games before turning 27.
"It's pretty cool just to be in the same conversation," Trout said last week. "They are guys who paved the way, and to be in the same comparison is pretty cool."
Said hitting coach Eric Hinske: "The names he's involved with are crazy. People ask me what are the most impressive things about him. To me, it's (lowering) his chase rate and how fast he is. You see him play on an everyday basis, in center field and rounding the bases and say 'Wow!' He's a very powerful human being."
Trout has a chance to draw more walks than strikeouts for the second consecutive season. And entering the weekend, his percentage of contact on pitches swung at — 84.5 percent according to StatCorner.com — was the same as on-base maven Joey Votto of the Reds.
And Trout's rate of swinging at pitches out of the strike zone has shrunk from 21.8 percent in 2016 to 17.2 this season, according to StatCorner.com.
"I sit down each spring and see what I need to improve on and just try to get better each and every day," Trout said. "You work hard to know your (strike) zone. You don't want to swing at bad pitches. When you're going through tough times and not seeing the ball well, you swing at those pitches. You have to stick with your strike zone."
Longtime observers notice that Trout, who struck out a league-leading 184 times in 2014, no longer is as vulnerable to chasing high pitches.
"He has closed the gap," said Bane, now a special assistant with the Red Sox. "He has an incredible eye. When he's down in the count 0-2, he's thinking everything is even. His mind works ahead all the time — like all the superstars. He's ahead of the game."
White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper paused and shook his head in disbelief as he recalled Trout battling back from an 0-2 count to hit a game-tying grand slam on a changeup on a 3-2 count off now-Red Sox ace Chris Sale in the eighth inning of a 6-5 comeback victory on June 7, 2014.
"That was a dynamite-located changeup," Cooper recalled. "This guy hits everybody — the best. That pitch sticks out to me. That would have been an out for most humans. Not only did we not get him out, but we didn't keep him in the park. That opened my eyes a lot more for him.
"If he keeps doing what he's doing, he's a Hall of Famer. He has power and speed, and everyone is intrigued by power and speed in any sport. He has it all. That speed plays in the outfield. Speed plays on the bases, running down to first, hitting doubles. That's it."
One veteran scout added, "If he smells something, he kicks it in gear. He was running 3.9 (seconds) from home to first. Now it's 4.1. I wouldn't say he's a Bo Jackson, but he's still a 4.1-4.5 runner. And he's a big-boned guy."
Bane credits much of Trout's desire to improve from the foundation built by his father Mike, a former minor-league infielder who played in the Twins organization with Morhardt, and his mother, Debbie.
"Everyone meshed so well," Bane recalled of his family visit to Millville, N.J., before the draft. "It was what you'd want to see out of a family."
With 25 home runs in his first 97 games, the 6-foot-2, 235-pound Trout is on track to surpass his career high of 41 homers in 2015.
"We saw some of the (power) before the draft," Bane recalled. "But we didn't see that unbelievable power until after the draft. And then we saw it in the Arizona League.
"We didn't expect this."
Trout hasn't committed an error in his first 83 games in center field, and he acknowledged observations by scouts that his arm is getting stronger.
"As outfielders, we push each other," said Trout, who credits a long-tossing program. "After watching Kole Calhoun, I told myself I needed to get stronger and better."
Said Bane: "He's just like Barry Bonds. Don't tell him something he can't do."
Another scout added: "This year he has improved so much. He might have lost one step because he put on some age weight. But he has made a concerted effort to put himself into the elite. He wants to be a Mantle, a (Willie) Mays."
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.