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Kershaw, Conger Don’t Wait Too Long for Calls

From Times Staff Reports

Logan White’s strong track record as Dodgers scouting director is indisputable. Rookies Russell Martin, Matt Kemp and Jonathan Broxton are walking, talking advertisements for his expertise.

White also is predictable -- and doesn’t mind a bit.

In his fifth amateur draft Tuesday, he was true to form, using the Dodgers’ first three picks on two pitchers and an infielder whose father was a major league star.

Their top prize was left-handed pitcher Clayton Kershaw, taken with the seventh overall pick. Kershaw, the first high school player chosen, reminds scouts of former New York Yankees pitcher Dave Righetti.

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Kershaw was 12-0 with a 0.77 earned-run average and 139 strikeouts in 64 innings for Highland Park High in Texas.

The Dodgers had the 26th and 31st picks as compensation for the Angels signing free-agent pitcher Jeff Weaver, and they took right-handed pitcher Bryan Morris and high school infielder Preston Mattingly.

Morris was drafted a year ago by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and reportedly sought an offer of $1.5 million. He played at Motlow State Community College in Tennessee, going 9-1 with a 0.91 ERA.

Mattingly, the son of former Yankees great Don Mattingly, was taken higher than projected, but the Dodgers didn’t have a second- or third-round pick and wanted him.

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“Bloodlines show up in the big leagues all the time,” White said. “These kids have been around the clubhouse and aren’t intimidated. It’s an intangible we look for.”

In recent years, the Dodgers have signed the sons of former major leaguers Ivan DeJesus, Andy Van Slyke and Dave LaRoche. Mattingly said he would sign even though he signed a letter of intent with Tennessee.

White said Kershaw, Morris and Mattingly all probably would agree to terms without contentious negotiations.

The Dodgers selected 18 players Tuesday and the draft will conclude today. A late-round pick with potential was right-handed pitcher Alex White, who has signed a letter of intent to play at North Carolina, yet was picked by the Dodgers in the 14th round.

“He’s a long shot to sign,” Logan White said. “It was worth the risk where we got him.”

The Dodgers couldn’t sign their top pick last year, pitcher Luke Hochevar, who was the first player selected Tuesday, by the Kansas City Royals.

White was happy to see it because it triggered a domino effect that helped the Dodgers. “If they didn’t take Luke, Kershaw might not have fallen to us,” he said.

-- Steve Henson

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The Angels dipped into the Southern California talent pool for their top pick for the third consecutive year, selecting switch-hitting catcher Hyun Choi “Hank” Conger, Gatorade’s 2006 California player of the year from Huntington Beach High, in the first round.

As the 25th overall pick, with the leverage of a scholarship offer to USC, Conger could command a signing bonus in the $1.5-million range. The 6-foot-1, 215-pounder, who was tabbed by Baseball America as the top high school power hitter in the draft, made it clear during a conference call he has little intention of becoming a Trojan.

“Most likely, I’ll be signing,” said Conger, who has been an Angels fan since his family moved to Orange County 13 years ago. “This is what I’ve wanted to do all my life. This is my goal. I want to start playing pro baseball as soon as possible.”

There has been speculation that Conger, who hit .449 with 11 home runs, 27 runs batted in and 25 runs in 78 at-bats, would move to third base, first base or the outfield, all positions he has played.

“But I see him staying at catcher,” said Eddie Bane, scouting director for the Angels. “He’s a switch-hitter with plus power and a plus arm. He’s gotten bigger, but in a good way -- he’s grown to be a man. He has good work ethic, good makeup. We thought that was a pretty attractive package.”

Conger, who follows in the draft footsteps of Crescenta Valley pitcher Trevor Bell and Long Beach State pitcher Jered Weaver, the Angels’ top picks in 2005 and 2004, respectively, was given the nickname Hank by his grandfather in honor of home run king Hank Aaron.

Conger’s power emerged six years ago when, as a 12-year-old, he hit 34 homers for an Ocean View team that fell one victory shy of the Little League World Series.


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