Utah first baseman C.J. Cron acknowledges a good play by a teammate during… (Bob Levey / Getty Images )
The Angels did not let a little shoulder tear deter them from their top target in the first round of Monday's draft, using the 17th overall pick to select college slugger C.J. Cron.
The 6-foot-4, 230-pound first baseman hit .434 with 15 home runs, 26 doubles and 59 runs batted in as a junior at Utah despite playing the entire season with a tear in his right (throwing) labrum.
Cron, 21, said the injury "didn't affect my swing much," but when asked on a conference call if it would require surgery, Cron said, "Yeah, something will have to be done eventually." Such a procedure could delay Cron's professional debut until 2012.
"We want to make sure he's healthy — that's the key to this whole thing," Angels scouting director Ric Wilson said. "He's played all year long with it. We knew what was going on. It's not as huge a deal as people think it is. It's a testament to his grit and his guts that he wanted to be out there playing."
Cron, who is being advised by former Angels pitcher Scott Sanderson, said he is "going to sign very quickly," a strong indication he will receive a bonus commensurate with his slot.
The 17th pick in last year's draft, high school outfielder Josh Sale, signed with Tampa Bay for $1.62 million.
Cron, the son of former Angels first baseman/outfielder Chris Cron, was among the best pure power hitters in the draft after leading the nation with an .804 slugging percentage and earning Mountain West Conference player-of-the-year honors.
The Angels so coveted Cron that they picked him despite having two young power-hitting first basemen in Kendrys Morales, who will miss this season because of an ankle injury, and Mark Trumbo, a rookie who leads the team with 11 home runs.
"You can never have enough depth," Wilson said. "You never know what's going to happen from year to year and day to day. Things can change with one swing of the bat. You get the best guy available and let what happens happen."
Cron is the first college player the Angels have picked in the first round since Long Beach State pitcher Jered Weaver in 2004 and the first college position player they've chosen in the first round since UCLA third baseman Troy Glaus in 1997.
The Angels leaned heavily toward high school players under previous scouting director Eddie Bane, but Wilson, who replaced Bane last October, said choosing a college player who is closer to the big leagues did not signal a philosophical shift.
"I was very on board with what we've done in the past, but a lot of our picks were in the lower part of the first round, and we didn't have the chance to get a guy like C.J. there," Wilson said.
"We had a better idea this year of the guys who would be there, and this was the perfect match for us."
Mike Scioscia held a rare pregame meeting, his first of the season, Monday afternoon, but the manager claimed it was more of a "pep talk" than an admonishment of players who have grown increasingly frustrated with their sluggish bats.
The Angels entered Monday ranked 13th in the American League with a .230 average with runners in scoring position and last with a .167 average with the bases loaded.
Several players they rely heavily on — Torii Hunter (.225), Howie Kendrick (.216) and Maicer Izturis (.222) — have not performed well in the clutch.
"The bottom line is these guys are playing very hard," Scioscia said. "There are a lot of things we're doing well out there that are being swallowed up by our inability to get that hit with runners in scoring position, which is costing us some games."