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Signed, Sealed, Delivered

June 3, 2003
By Bill Shaikin

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico--There will be no summer holdout for the Angels' top draft pick. The Angels selected shortstop Brandon Wood with the 23rd overall pick in Tuesday's draft, then immediately signed him to a bonus believed to be close to $1.3 million.

The Angels have awarded a larger bonus to a high school player just twice in franchise history--$2.08 million to lefthander Joe Torres, drafted with the 10th overall pick in 2000, and $2.075 million to first baseman Casey Kotchman, selected with the 13th overall pick in 2001.

The Angels, drafting the best available player in each round rather than addressing the organizational weakness in the outfield, did not select an outfielder until the fifth round, when they took Florida State's Blake Balckom.

Wood, 18, hit .504-20-58 in 113 at-bats this season for Horizon High in Scottsdale, Ariz., scoring 65 runs. By signing with the Angels, he turned down the scholarship he had accepted to the University of Texas.

As a freshman, he was the stereotypical good-field, no-hit shortstop, so much so that his team used the DH to bat for him. But his defense always was stellar, and scouts wondering whether he would ever hit for power were more than satisfied this season, when he finished two home runs shy of the state record, as his frame blossomed to 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds.

"We'll keep him at shortstop as long as we can," Rowland said. "There's a chance, as he continues to grow, he might mature out of the position. If he does, he projects as a front-line third baseman."

Wood said he hoped to make the major leagues in three to four years--"If it happens sooner, that would be awesome," he said--and said he was thrilled the World Series champions drafted him after being bypassed by the hometown Diamondbacks, who also scouted him extensively.

"There's no disappointment at all," he said.

The Angels chose Wood after several targeted outfielders--and Louisiana State shortstop Aaron Hill--were selected earlier in the first round.

The organization exhibited a balanced draft approach on the first day, taking 10 pitchers and 10 position players among its first 20 picks. Nine were college players--the first being fourth-round pick Bob Zimmermann, a righthander out of Southwest Missouri State--three junior-college players and eight high school players. The Angels also had signed nine draft-and-follow players from their 2002 draft.

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