Angels looking for more gems

Angels looking for more gems

ANAHEIM -- The Angels are winners before even the first selection is made in this year's First-Year Player Draft, or it will at least seem that way.

That's because with nary an hour to spare at last Monday's deadline, they came to terms with their top choice from last season when right-handed pitcher Jered Weaver agreed to a Minor League deal after lengthy negotiations.

"We're happy to have him," general manager Bill Stoneman said of landing Weaver. "He's local; he went to a local college. He's known locally and he was the top college pitcher last year."

Had the Angels not come to terms with Weaver, he would have been eligible to re-enter this year's draft, which takes place over two days, today and Wednesday.

The Angels do not have a first-round pick this season, sending the 23rd overall selection to Boston as compensation for signing free agent shortstop Orlando Cabrera. They will get a sandwich pick, however, in the supplemental phase between rounds one and two.

As compensation for losing free agent reliever Troy Percival to Detroit, they will have the 37th choice overall and will pick up a second round pick (60th) as further compensation for Percival.

The 2005 draft features some good talent among position players at the collegiate level and also some power arms both in college and high school. But when it comes to a preference, as far as from which level to choose, the Angels have none -- they'll look anywhere.

"We think we should look at all levels," director of scouting Eddie Bane said. "High school, junior college, college. We'll take a look at everybody."

Stoneman takes a pragmatic approach.

"Our criteria are simple," Stoneman said. "Whoever is out there that we think can become the best Major League player, that is who we will pick."

At the Major League level, the Angels have taken a bit of an anti-"Money Ball" approach. They are not at the plate to get walks; they're going to take their hacks. That philosophy trickles down to how they mine for talent; they're not simply enamored with a stat sheet.

"If we're going to take a look at a hitter, we're not just going to look at numbers," Bane said. "We want to hear the crack of lumber. We want to see some balls banging off the fence."

The Angels have had their share of successes in the draft. Prior to Weaver, shortstop Brandon Wood and left-hander Joe Saunders were top choices in the last two drafts, respectively, and both players are advancing through the system.

In the last 10 years, former first-round draft choices include Casey Kotchman (2001), Chris Bootcheck (2000), John Lackey (1999), Troy Glaus (1997) and Darin Erstad (1995).

On the current big league club, Garret Anderson, Dallas McPherson, Robb Quinlan, Scot Shields, Jarrod Washburn, Jake Woods, Bootcheck, Lackey and Erstad are all homegrown. Catcher Jeff Mathis, right-handed pitcher Steven Shell, Kotchman, and Saunders, who are all on the 40-man roster, are also products of the draft.

Two players on the 60-day disabled list, Tim Salmon (third round, 1989) and Matt Hensley (10th round, 2000), have known no other professional organization.

The Angels are also active in the international market and have had success in the lower rounds. Last season they signed Kendry Morales, who is now at Single-A Rancho Cucamonga after a lengthy delay as he awaited processing in the Dominican Republic. And last August, they were able to lure local product Mark Trumbo away from a scholarship offer at USC and sign him to a lucrative deal after drafting him in the 18th round.

First-rounders from the last three drafts:

Jered Weaver, RHP, 2004, Pick #12: Weaver went 37-9 with a 2.43 ERA and 431 strikeouts in three seasons at Long Beach State. Weaver has largely been out of action since last summer. He might report to Class A Rancho Cucamonga as the organization assesses his fitness and level of development.

Brandon Wood, SS, 2003, Pick #23: Wood split time at two rookie league stops in 2003 and last season to low Single-A Cedar Rapids, where he hit .251 with 11 homers and 64 RBIs. Promoted to Single-A Rancho Cucamonga this season, Wood has excelled. In 47 games, Wood is hitting .311 with 16 doubles, while leading the Quakes with 17 homers, 46 RBIs and a .673 slugging percentage. He has also committed eight errors.

Joe Saunders, LHP, 2002, Pick #7: Saunders was invited to big-league camp this spring and along with right-handers Ervin Santana and Shell formed a strong nucleus of young pitchers at Double-A Arkansas. Santana is now at Triple-A after making two starts with the Angels. After going 5-2 at two stops in 2002, Saunders missed all of 2003 with fraying of the labrum in his left shoulder. He rebounded to go 13-10 at Rancho Cucamonga and Arkansas last year. Saunders leads the Travelers this season in innings pitched while posting a 4-2 mark with a 3.93 ERA in 100 starts.

Mike Scarr is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.