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2005 Draft Notebook: Angels Exercise Patience

Compiled By Allan Simpson
July 14, 2005


See Also: June 30 Notebook

Eddie Bane’s scouting ties are rooted in Southern California, where he grew up, and Arizona, where he was a college baseball star.

As the Angels' scouting director, he has emphasized drafting players from those baseball hotbeds, in part because he is familiar with the territory and in part because he and his scouts are more familiar with the talent.

“I don’t want to be pigeonholed into thinking that all the best players are in Arizona and Southern California,” Bane said, “but our scouts know those kids a little better than others. A lot of the top kids in Southern California have played on our Angels Elite scout team. Our national crosschecker (Ric Wilson) is from Arizona.”

But familiarity may have bred contempt this year. Tapping into Arizona and Southern California hasn’t given the Angels the advantage Bane thought they had. Six weeks after the draft, the Angels having more trouble signing their early-round picks than any other big league club. Seven selections in the first 12 rounds had not signed, and every one was from Southern California or Arizona.

The Angels had no first-round pick, and had yet to sign three of their first five selections, including righthander Trevor Bell, a supplemental first-rounder.

The Angels were reportedly less than $100,000 apart on both players, but they have been more difficult to sign than Bane expected. In the case of Bell, the Angels were offering $900,000—slot money for the 37th overall pick--while Bell was looking for $1 million.

They were further apart on their next two unsigned picks: righthander Sean O’Sullivan, a Southern California high school product drafted in the third round, and Arizona prep lefthander Brian Matusz, a fourth-rounder.

O’Sullivan’s situation is complicated because he expected to be drafted in the first round at the start of the season, only to slip as his velocity fell during the spring. The Angels took him because they believed they knew him better than other clubs; he had pitched on their scout team. O’Sullivan was looking at a bonus offer of $325,000, far from first-round money. He has a commitment to San Diego State for leverage.

Matusz, meanwhile, was seeking a bonus of $1.425 million—roughly five times what the Angels were offering. Bane acknowledged his chances of signing Matusz were slim, and that he likely would end up at the University of San Diego.

In addition to those four, the Angels had yet to sign shortstop Matt Hall, an eighth-rounder from Arizona; outfielder Peter Bourjos, a 10th-rounder from Arizona; and outfielder Tim Murphy, an 11th-rounder from San Diego.

Taking Their Time

Bane says the pace of signing the players stems from his club’s approach to signability.

“As an organization, we don’t make it a practice of contacting players on the day of the draft to ask what they’ll sign for like other teams do,” Bane said. “That may be something we have to look at a little more closely in the future.

“Our priority has been trying to get to know the players better. We feel it helps us get a better read on their ability, but maybe not on their signability.”

A year ago, the Angels selected Long Beach State righthander Jered Weaver in the first round but didn’t sign him until a week before this year’s draft. They didn’t sign their next pick, fourth-rounder Patrick White, who opted to play football at West Virginia. White was the highest-drafted high school player in the 2004 draft not to sign.

The Angels have made up for failures like that by getting players in later rounds who were deemed unsignable. They gambled their 14th-round pick a year ago on Maryland high school righthander Nick Adenhart, a first-round talent who fell because of Tommy John surgery. They also took a flier on righthander Mark Trumbo, a potential first-round talent who slipped to the 18th round because of his college commitment. Adenhart signed and was already throwing in the low 90s again in the Rookie-level Arizona League, while Trumbo is one of the top sluggers in the Rookie-level Pioneer League.

The Angels also chose Stephen Marek in the 40th round and signed the Texas junior college righthander to an $800,000 deal in May as a draft-and-follow after his stock skyrocketed.

This year, the club’s potential fallback picks aren’t as obvioius, but Deunte Heath (23rd round), Blair Brejtfus (28th) , Brent Milleville (39th) and Buster Posey (50th) all slipped lower than their talent warranted because of injury or signability concerns. The Angels could make a run at any or all of them if they struggle to sign their early-round selections.

For now though, Bane will focus on getting those picks signed. “We’re just trying to stay positive,” he said. “The sense of urgency isn’t quite there yet.”

DRAFT NOTES

• The Angels were definitely an anomaly this year, as all but six first-rounders had signed. Among the unsigned were the top three: shortstop Justin Upton (Diamondbacks), third baseman Alex Gordon (Royals) and catcher Jeff Clement (Mariners). Negotiations with Upton have moved slowly, with Arizona making an initial offer of a reported $4 million. The Royals have offered Gordon $3.5 million, and the Mariners offered $3.1 million to Clement.

• As expected, the three Scott Boras clients the Diamondbacks considered for the No. 1 pick had not signed. The Mets selected Wichita State righthander Mike Pelfrey with the ninth pick overall, the Red Sox took St. John’s righthander Craig Hansen 26th and the Dodgers selected Tennessee righthander Luke Hochevar 40th overall. Several Boras clients, however, had signed for slot money, including shortstop Tyler Greene (30th overall, $1.1 million bonus) and Baylor righthander Mark McCormick (43rd overall, $800,000 bonus), both of whom went to the Cardinals. Georgia Tech righthander Jason Neighborgall, a third-rounder, signed with the Diamondbacks for $500,000.

• The Devil Rays had not announced the signings of third-rounder Bryan Morris and fourth-rounder Jeremy Hellickson, but the two high school righthanders reportedly agreed to deals substantially above the slots recommended by Major League Baseball. Sources said Morris agreed to a contract with a $1.3 million bonus. Teams signing players above slot money generally wait to announce the signings, so they won’t incur the wrath of MLB and affect other signings in that round. Eight third-rounders remained unsigned.

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