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Angels Draft Report

By Bill Shaikin
June 5, 2002

ANAHEIM--For a kid who grew up in Virginia, Joe Saunders has experienced Edison Field in a way that is quintessentially Southern Californian.

He passed the ballpark while driving along the freeway.

As a freshman at Virginia Tech, Saunders pitched for the Hokies in the NCAA regionals at Cal State Fullerton, a few miles from Edison Field. The Angels' ballpark looked "awesome" from the outside, Saunders said, and now the Angels hope he can find his way inside the stadium and onto its mound.

The Angels selected Saunders, 20, as their first pick in the draft. The junior lefthander went 9-2, 2.86. In 98 innings, he allowed 103 hits and 22 walks while striking out 102.

Saunders, a fifth-round pick of the Phillies in the 1999 draft, emerged as a potential first-rounder in the Cape Cod League last summer, where he had a 1.02 ERA in 53 innings, with 11 walks and 61 strikeouts.

Angel scouting director Donny Rowland said Saunders combined a 90 mph fastball with movement, a breaking ball and a changeup particularly effective against righthanders. And, Rowland said, "He's got ice running through his veins."

Saunders said scouts had compared him to Tom Glavine and Eric Milton. But his polish, exceptional command and finesse style also evoke comparisons to Brian Anderson, whom the Angels selected in the first round of the 1993 draft. Anderson made his major league debut that year and established himself as a fine No. 3 or No. 4 starter, if not an ace.

Saunders likely will sign for a bonus in the range of $2.2 to $2.4 million. The Angels considered selecting high school lefthander Scott Kazmir, a projected top five pick who slipped past them at No. 12 to the Mets at No. 15, but decided Saunders was almost as good and would sign for about half of Kazmir's apparent asking price.

In the second round, the Angels selected one of the draft's hardest throwers, righthander Kevin Jepsen of Bishop Manogue High in suburban Reno. Jepsen's fastball touched 98 mph earlier in the spring, though he was more in the low 90s for most of the season. In the fifth round, Anaheim selected infielder Javy Rodriguez out of Miami, who led the nation in stolen bases as a junior in 2001, helping lead the Hurricanes to the College World Series championship.

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