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Dodgers, Angels sign their top draft picks

Pitcher Zach Lee gets a $5.25-million signing bonus from Dodgers and pitcher-infielder Kaleb Cowart gets a $2.3-million bonus from the Angels.

August 16, 2010|By Ben Bolch and Kevin Baxter

With the deadline for signing draft picks ticking down Monday, the Dodgers reached a deal with their top selection, Texas high school pitcher Zach Lee, luring him away from the Louisiana State football team with a $5.25-million signing bonus, more than double the largest bonus the team had paid for a draft pick.

The first overall selection in the draft, Nevada junior college catcher Bryce Harper, also waited until the last minutes to come to terms with the Washington Nationals, who gave him a $6.25-million signing bonus and a guaranteed $9.9 million, according to published reports. That's the largest bonus for a position player signing with the team that drafted him.

The Angels also signed their top pick, right-hander Kaleb Cowart, a high school pitcher from Adel, Ga.

Lee, one of the nation's top prep quarterbacks, was regarded as the most unlikely first-round pick to sign after being selected 28th by the Dodgers. But the team changed his mind just minutes before the 9 p.m. PDT deadline by offering a bonus that easily eclipsed the $2.3 million the team gave top pick Clayton Kershaw in 2006.

The money for the 6-foot-4, 195-pound right-hander will be spread out over five years, which protects the Dodgers should Lee decide to return to college and football. But it still marks a major investment for an organization that has been among baseball's thriftiest in the draft in recent years.

"This says when we have the right player, we'll do what we have to do to get the right player signed," General Manager Ned Colletti said.

Lee and Harper were two of at least 10 first-round picks to sign in the final hours Monday, the deadline for reaching a deal. Teams that didn't sign their draft picks by 9 p.m. PDT lost the rights to those players, who must re-enter the draft

Among those who didn't sign was Colorado prep right-hander Kevin Gausman, the Dodgers' sixth-round choice. The team managed to come to terms with the rest of their top 14 picks, however, agreeing earlier Monday with 11th-round selection Joc Pederson, a two-sport standout from Palo Alto who had committed to USC

Pederson will get a $600,000 bonus, four times the amount suggested for players chosen after the fifth round.

The Angels had deals with 13 of their first 15 draft picks after Cowart, the Gatorade national high school player of the year, signed for $2.3 million. Cowart, the 18th player selected in the draft, hit .654 with 11 home runs, 59 runs batted in and 36 stolen bases for Cook County High.

The two players the Angels failed to come to an agreement with were right-hander Jesus Valdez of Hueneme High, the team's fifth-round selection, and left-hander Josh Osich of Oregon State, a seventh-round pick. Last year, the Angels signed 16 of their top 17 picks despite having five selections before the second round.

Other first-round picks who signed Monday included Westlake High outfielder Christian Yelich, the No. 23 pick who signed with the Florida Marlins for $1.7 million, and speedy Cal State Fullerton outfielder Gary Brown, who went to the San Francisco Giants with the 24th selection and signed for $1.45 million.

Right-hander Dylan Covey from Pasadena Maranatha High, who was taken with the 14th selection by Milwaukee, was reportedly on the verge of a deal with the Brewers before a blood test determined he has diabetes. He said he will play the University of San Diego.

ben.bolch@latimes.com

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

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