Free Agent Frenzy Keeps Angels On Draft's Sidelines





LOS ANGELES—The way Angels scouting director Ric Wilson figured it, the Angels' 2012 draft was already a success.

"Our first two picks were Albert (Pujols) and C.J. (Wilson)," Wilson joked. "I'll take that any year."

The Angels surrendered their first- and second-round picks in this year's draft as compensation for signing Pujols and Wilson as free agents last winter. Ric Wilson wasn't able to make his first selection in the draft until the third round, 114th overall.

"It's going to be a long day," Wilson said before watching the first round play out without him. "You're going to be watching all those names coming off the board and thinking about a lot of time and a lot of nights in hotels scouting for this draft.

"But that's okay. It's worth it. I'll take the two guys we got (Pujols and Wilson). They're going to mean an awful lot to our ballclub for years."

When the Angels did start picking, they took college reliever R.J. Alvarez out of Florida Atlantic with their third-round pick, Ole Miss second baseman Alex Yarbrough in the fourth round and Division II Rockhurst (Mo.) righthander Mark Sappington in the fifth round.

In fact, 12 of the Angels' 13 picks on the second day of the draft (Rounds 2 through 15) were college players.

That was a big part of the plan going in, Wilson said. That was the case a year ago as well when the Angels made Utah first baseman C.J. Cron the first college position player they'd taken in the first round since Troy Glaus (UCLA) in 1997.

"As you guys all know with the trades we've made and some things we've done, our system is not loaded anymore," Wilson said. "So what we're trying to do is jump-start the system a little. Jerry (Dipoto, Angels general manager) and Scotty (Servais, assistant GM) and I talked about trying to jump-start the system a little, to get some of these better baseball players that can grind their way through and don't need as much development."

Alvarez, in particular, could be a "quick mover" who might start "a little bit higher" in the Angels' system after he signs, Wilson said. The righthander was 5-0, 0.53 with five saves in 21 appearances for Florida Atlantic as a junior with the kind of strikeout-to-walk ratio (45-9 in 34 innings) that Dipoto targets.

"We had a plan going into it and we had to stay disciplined to do it," Wilson said. "A couple times you want to reach over there and grab one of those high school kids. But you had to say, 'Ah, let's stay with the plan and do this instead. We'll see how this goes.'

"We got some really interesting players, from some good places, winning programs, very low-maintenance guys. They go out and do their thing. They grind out at-bats. They throw strikes."

Angel Food

• High Class A Inland Empire outfielder Travis Witherspoon hit for the cycle on May 24. That was part of a week that saw Witherspoon, 23, go 15-for-22 (.682) with two doubles, two triples, a home run, five RBIs and eight runs scored.

• The firing of Angels hitting coach Mickey Hatcher in May had a trickle-down effect throughout the Angels' organization. Triple-A Salt Lake hitting coach Jim Eppard was promoted to the major league staff to replace Hatcher. Francisco Matos moved up from Double-A Arkansas to fill Eppard's spot at Salt Lake. Replacing Matos as the Travelers' hitting coach is former Angels outfielder Nathan Haynes. A first-round pick (32nd overall) of the A's in 1997, Haynes, 32, made it to the majors for 60 games with the Angels in 2007 and the Rays in 2008 before retiring after that season.