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Angels Take a Different Path

With only one pick in the first three rounds of the draft, Anaheim will emphasize athleticism in its selections.

June 06, 2004|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

If the Angels select anyone you have heard of in baseball's annual draft Monday and Tuesday, you might well recognize the name from a sport other than baseball.

As a growing number of teams emphasize performance over projection and lean toward proven college players ahead of high school prospects, the Angels are prepared to head in a radically different direction. They're looking for the best available athletes, with baseball experience preferred but not necessarily required.

"We've already worked out some guys who were shocked when we called them on the phone," Angel scouting director Eddie Bane said.

The Angels' approach combines creativity and necessity. The organization is woefully deficient in outfield prospects, and the Angels forfeited their second- and third-round picks as compensation for the free-agent signings of pitchers Bartolo Colon and Kelvim Escobar.

The Angels plan to take the best available player with their first-round pick, with no guarantee that an outfielder would be worth that pick. They select 12th, and Baseball America does not include an outfielder among its top 18 prospects. The Angels do not select again until the 113th pick.

So, for consideration in the late rounds of the draft, Bane and his scouts have worked out what he calls "athletes with tools" -- prospects gifted with speed and strength, in the hope the Angels can persuade several of them to play baseball and teach them the finer points of the sport in the hope that one or two might actually pan out.

The possible draftees include high school athletes with football and/or basketball scholarships, most unaware of a possible future in pro baseball until the Angels called.

"We'll take some guys who might be more comfortable playing football," Bane said.

Under former scouting director Bob Fontaine, the Angels once drafted Notre Dame quarterback Tony Rice, who thanked the team for its interest but declined to sign.

Bane acknowledged the Angels would prefer not to select a pitcher in the first round but might do so anyway.

"We would like to take a position player. Our guys have known that since January," he said. "But that doesn't mean we won't take a high school right-handed pitcher if he's better than anyone else at that spot."

The Angels could select a local product, right-hander Philip Hughes of Santa Ana Foothill, or fellow high school right-handers Homer Bailey (La Grange, Texas) or Mark Rogers (Orr's Island, Maine). The Angels also are believed to be interested in high school shortstops Matt Bush (El Cajon) and Chris Nelson (Decatur, Ga.)

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