OAKLAND – Having spent three days drafting 55 amateur baseball players with dreams of playing in the Major Leagues, Angels scouting director Eddie Bane wasn’t quite ready to rest Wednesday evening. He was getting in his car, his work far from over.
“Now I’m going to go try to sign some guys – the fun part,” Bane said by phone.
For the second year in a row, the Angels stocked up heavily with premium prospects, armed with early bonus picks from free agency losses. They had five of the top 40 selections in the First-Year Player Draft, and there was excitement in his voice when Bane talked about the potential haul.
If he can be signed, third baseman Kaleb baseman Kaleb Cowart of Cook County High School in Adel, Ga., could be a Chipper Jones-type performer down the road. The upside is enormous for this big kid who also can go to the mound throw fastballs in the 91-94 mph range if his bat doesn’t make loud noises. It’s always nice to have options in life.
Pitcher Cameron Bedrosian of East Coweta High School in Sharpsburg and center fielder Chevez “Chevy” Clarke of Marrieta were the two other Georgians claimed in the opening round, and they also had Bane feeling absolutely peachy.
“Bedrosian reminds me of Phil Hughes,” Bane said. “You can tell he learned a lot from his father [former NL Cy Young Award winner and consistently superb closer Steve Bedrosian]. He throws hard with a clean delivery, and he has a tight breaking ball.
“Chevy Clarke will stay in center. He can really throw, and he’s a burner. You kind of like to dream about the outfield we could have down the road.”
The Angels have two potentially superb center fielders in their system in Peter Bourjos and Mike Trout, both of whom can fly. Bourjos is close to Major League-ready at Triple-A Salt Lake, while Trout has star qualities already in evidence at Class A Cedar Rapids.
Randal Grichuk, taken in the first round with Trout last season, is his teammate at Cedar Rapids and has a chance to be a power-hitting corner outfielder in the big time.
Another outfielder with skills was added to the mix with the selection of Ryan Bolden in the supplemental first round. Bane can envision Bolden, from Madison (Miss.) Central High School, moving to right. Not everyone can play center.
“People don’t realize how young Mike Trout is,” Bane said, referring to the mutli-talented 18-year-old New Jersey product who showed no fear in competition with big leaguers this spring in Arizona. “He’s younger than some of the high school kids taken in this year’s Draft.”
Trout, who bangs the gaps and runs like an anchor leg on a sprint relay team, will be 19 on Aug. 7.
The Angels love to draft shortstops and move them around, knowing that you’ll find the best athletes there and in center field.
Supplemental-round pick Taylor Lindsey of Desert Mountain High School in Scottsdale, Ariz., is a hitter likely to be moved to third or second. But third-round pick Wendell Soto from Riverview High School in Sarasota, Fla., a superlative athlete at 5-foot-9, is destined to remain at shortstop.
The Angels added power arms in the Draft to go with their three compensation-round gems from 2009, restocking the system with pitching to go with all these athletes.
“I’m sure somebody will say we didn’t have a good draft, like they did last year,” Bane said. “But I really like our guys. Our staff worked hard and found a lot of talent. We’ll see what happens down the road, but I’m excited with what we got.”
Now comes the, um, fun part – signing these impressive athletes and arms. – Lyle Spencer
The Angels are back at full strength. Scot Shields has returned to his familiar spot in the bullpen, having returned from the World Baseball Classic to enrich teammates with inside stories about the event.
“The experience was great,” Shields said. “I just wish we could have played one more game.”
Team USA was ousted in the semifinals at Dodger Stadium on Sunday by Japan, which went on to successfully defend its title from the 2006 inaugural event with a thrilling victory over Korea on Monday night.
“Japan’s got a pretty good team,” Shields said, agreeing that its aggressive, old-school style is similar to that of the Angels. “They’ve got good hitters all through their lineup, and three starting pitchers who are excellent. They’ve got speed, they get guys over, they play defense.
“I’m disappointed in how it ended, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Getting to know a whole new team, just about was great. The only guys back from the first one were Chipper [Jones] before he had to leave, [Derek] Jeter and Jake [Peavy].”
The highlight was the dramatic, come-from-behind, 6-5 triumph over Puerto Rico in the second round in Miami that clinched a semifinal berth for Team USA.
“That was one of the best games I’ve ever been involved in,” said Shields, who produced four outs of perfect relief to keep Puerto Rico at bay. “The guys had been together for like a week and a half and were celebrating like we knew each other all year.
“That showed how important it was for us to win.”
Shields has heard and read the criticism of Team USA, that it didn’t care as much about the event as other countries, notably the two finalists.
“We all take pride in having those letters across our chest,” he said. “We really wanted to win. Japan just beat us, that’s all.”
Shields appeared in five of the team’s eight games, yielding two earned runs on seven hits and a walk in 4 1/3 innings, striking out two men.
“I got my work in,” Shields said. “I’m feeling good. I’m ready to go.”