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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- There will be no summer...

June 04, 2003|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- There will be no summer holdout for the Angels' top draft pick. The Angels selected shortstop Brandon Wood with the 23rd overall pick in Tuesday's draft, then signed him for a bonus of $1.5 million.

The Angels have awarded a larger bonus to a high school player just twice in franchise history -- $2.08 million to pitcher Joe Torres, drafted with the 10th overall pick in 2000, and $2.075 million to first baseman Casey Kotchman, selected with the 13th overall pick in 2001.

The Angels, drafting the best available player in each round rather than addressing the organizational weakness in the outfield, did not select an outfielder until the fifth round.

Wood, 18, hit .504 in 113 at-bats this season for Horizon High in Scottsdale, Ariz., hitting 20 home runs, scoring 65 runs and driving in 58. By signing with the Angels, he turned down the scholarship he had accepted to Texas.

As a freshman, he was the stereotypical good-field, no-hit shortstop, so much so that his team used the designated hitter to bat for him. But his defense was always stellar, and scouts wondering whether he would ever hit for power were more than satisfied this season when he finished two home runs shy of the state record, as his frame blossomed to 6 feet 3 and 185 pounds.

"We'll keep him at shortstop as long as we can," Donny Rowland, Angel director of scouting, said. "There's a chance, as he continues to grow, he might mature out of the position. If he does, he projects as a front-line third baseman."

Wood said he hoped to make the major leagues in three to four years -- "If it happens sooner, that would be awesome," he said -- and said he was thrilled the World Series champions drafted him after being bypassed by the hometown Arizona Diamondbacks.

"There's no disappointment at all," he said.

The Angels chose Wood after several targeted outfielders -- and Louisiana State shortstop Aaron Hill -- were selected earlier in the first round. Their second-round pick, West Virginia high school left-hander Anthony Whittington, has a fastball above 90 mph but lacks a good second pitch and a good delivery. Their third-round pick, Miami high school shortstop Sean Rodriguez, might end up at second base or catcher.

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Outfielder Garret Anderson, an All-Star last year, and third baseman Troy Glaus, an All-Star two years ago, each gave thumbs down to the latest marketing scheme devised by major league officials. In the All-Star game this year, players will wear their regular caps but not their regular jerseys. Instead, they will wear National League and American League jerseys, in part to see whether fans will buy them.

"I don't understand why they would want to change that," Glaus said. "It's not really relevant to the game. We're proud of the teams we play for, and we're proud of the uniforms we wear."

Said Anderson: "It goes back to when you were a kid and you wanted to represent your team. If it just comes down to money, that's weak. I don't like it. We pride ourselves in being a traditional game. It's cool to see all the different uniforms."

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