Angels get good news on Walden

When Eddie Bane got word that right-handed pitcher Jordan Walden had opted for junior college, making him eligible as a draft-and-follow player for next year, he opted for understatement.

"That would be great for us," said the Angels' scouting director.

Indeed it would. Jordan Walden is a hard-throwing pitcher out of Mansfield, Texas. He lit up radar guns and rocketed up draft boards last summer, but injuries derailed his senior year and caused him to slip all the way to the twelfth round.

"We've shown we're not a team that's afraid to do the draft-and-follow with Steve Marek and Sean O'Sullivan," said Bane.

And in both cases, a year of junior college paid off well not just for the organization, but for the player. Each collected more than half a million dollars as a signing bonus nearly a year after they were selected.

Walden decided this week to enroll at Grayson County College, a two-year school not far from his home. The decision allows the Angels to retain his rights until a week before next year's draft.

"We saw him throw 97 (miles per hour) the second game back," said Bane of Walden's play this summer. "Jordan and O'Sullivan are very comparable ... Jordan's fastball is better, but Sean's command is light years ahead of any 19-year-old. But the similarity in what happened in their seniors year is there." For Walden, what happened was a real letdown. After starting in the Aflac All-American game in the summer of 2005, he saw a significant drop in velocity through the summer.

Despite striking out 95 hitters in 49 innings during his senior year, scouting directors voiced concerns over injuries because of his inconsistent performance and the player who was once considered by some the top prep in the country just kept sliding.

With their track record of success gambling on high-upside performers, including the 14th-round selection of Nick Adenhart in 2004, he was a natural fit when the club's turn came after they'd completed 10 rounds.

Now, with Walden's decision to attend Grayson, the club will have another full year to watch and evaluate the 6'4" hurler.

"We expect him to get better and to be worth (the signing bonus) he's looking at," said Bane. "We think it's a good gamble by him and the right thing to do to go to junior college."

If Bane is right, it will also set up another successful draft-and-follow opportunity next year. NOTES: Walden isn't the club's only potential draft-and-follow player. As they have frequently in years past, the Angels used many of their late-round picks to select from a deep Florida junior college pool. Outfielders Brian Hobbs (Chipola) and Rian Kiniry (Broward) will both get close looks next spring, as will a mysterious pair of pitchers.

Dwain "Lou" Green, 19, was originally supposed to play at the University of West Virginia in 2006 after opting not to sign with the Braves out of high school, but a falling out with the coaching staff led to him withdrawing from school there. He has since had elbow surgery and is still months away from throwing a baseball, but he'll get a look at Chipola next year.

Righty Dylan Lindsey, last pitched competitively for tiny Garrett College in Maryland in 2004 before disappearing from the radar. He resurfaced in a tryout with Broward late this spring and Angels' scout Mike Silvestri recommended him for the draft. At 21 years old, he will have to move quickly if the Angels pursue him next year, but he was reportedly throwing in the mid-90's this spring.

Silvestri and Tom Kotchman make a powerful scouting team in Florida for the Angels. Silvestri coached at Broward before joining the Angels' staff and Kotchman has been involved with baseball in the state for over 30 years.

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