Monday, June 22, 2009
Twins Draft Thoughts
∑ Quickly, Jesse Spector from the NY Daily News touched base with Chris Coste. Itís a good, entertaining interview.
∑ Here is Travisís choice as the Twins #7 prospect.
∑ Be sure to read Rogerís Weekly Minor League Update.
It was about ten days ago that the MLB Draft finished up. The Twins made 51 selections over the three days (And 50 rounds) of the draft. This blog posting is probably a week over due, but before I posted anything, I wanted to get some opinions from people much closer to it than myself. This article is a compilation of thoughts from several people in and around the Twins organization and others.
The Twins went in to the draft with several organizational needs to address. I think we all knew that they needed to get some middle infielders, but also needed to stock up on some pitchers. We talked about how the Twins have a bunch of #3 and #4 pitchers in the minor league system, but donít have many that really ever project to be top of the rotation starters. The Twins bullpen the last two seasons has taught us that having guys who are able to bridge the gap between the starter and the closer is something we grew to overlook, we were spoiled for several years.
The first three rounds of the draft occurred on Tuesday, June 9th. The Twins had four picks due to a supplemental first round pick for losing Dennys Reyes to free agency. All four picks were college pitchers. (I will discuss all four in more detail below) Was that a surprise? Well, it was not something that was intentional. Simply stated, all four were at the top of the Twins draft board when their pick came up. The strength of this draft crop was pitching, and as we mentioned, it was something that the Twins needed and were looking to acquire. They were looking to add velocity, and got four guys who, when right, have very good velocity.
The Twins first pick was a right-hander from the University of Missouri named Kyle Gibson. He fell some in the draft due to injury. He had a fracture in his forearm. The Twins doctors have obviously reviewed all of his information and believe there will be no long term affects. The injury is not to his elbow or shoulder, so it is just a matter of healing and rest and he should be just fine. He is a very talented yet still projectable (6-6) college performer. Even through this injury, he continued to pitch and succeed. That also speaks to the type of competitor that he is, and again, could add to a thought that he could be a top of the rotation type of starter. He really knows how to pitch. He mixes his pitches well, heís got very good control, and in general, just knows how to get hitters out. All reports indicate that he is a person with very strong character. The Twins were surprised that he was still available with the 22nd pick which made it a very easy selection. The team expects to sign him and think he will still pitch in 2009. How much is still to be determined. It depends upon when he would sign, but we also have to remember that he has already thrown 106 innings this year.
With their supplemental first round pick, the Twins went with left handed starter Matt Bashore from the University of Indiana. He pitched as well as any left-handed pitcher in college the last six weeks of the season. He has displayed very good stuff and the ability to pitch. He throws his fastball between 89-94 (and pitches generally at 90-91), with a good curveball. Due to his size, stuff, innings and control, there is a good chance that he could be a Major League starter.
Brian Bullock was someone who some teams believed was the Top Relief pitching prospect. Now, Drew Storen went to the Nationals with the 10th overall pick, but heís been a reliever. Bullockís transition to the bullpen is more recent. This was his first year as the closer at the University of Florida. He is a fastball/slider guy. His velocity spiked this year, up to 97-98 miles per hour. His slider improved over the course of the season and could be a potential strikeout pitch.
You have likely heard the story of Ben Tootle. He got sick this season and lost 15-20 pounds that he really didnít have to lose, so his stock fell some in some eyes. But when he is healthy, he has two above average pitches. He has a darting fastball between 93 and 95 miles per hour. He also have a very hard breaking ball that could be a strikeout pitch. He has very strong makeup and throws a lot of strikes. That makes him versatile in the Twins eyes. Theyíre not certain if he will be best used as a starter or out of the bullpen. My guess is that he will pitch out of the bullpen much of the rest of this season just to keep his innings for the year down. I would guess he will be given a chance to start in 2010 but over time, if he can be best utilized out of the bullpen, they wonít, and shouldnít, hesitate to develop that.
It is likely that each of these four pitchers (assuming they sign) would start at Elizabethton. As I posted yesterday, Bullock has already signed and will start out with the E-Twins. But donít be surprised if one of more of them would end up pitching for the Beloit Snappers at some point. Brad Stillings was the Twins 7th round pick out of Kent State, and he will start in the E-Twins bullpen. But several believe that he could be a big league starter.
As you also saw yesterday, the Twins will send Minnesota native and former Gopher Derek McCallum to Elizabethton where he will primarily play 2B. It is believed that he profiles as an offensive 2B, but he has the hands to play shortstop from time to time. Although he will maybe play some SS this summer, it is likely his future lies at 2B.
The Twins then took catchers with their fifth and sixth round picks. In the fifth round, they took Tobias Streich out of the West Virginia University. Then in the sixth round they took Chris Hermann out of the University of Miami. For a team that has Joe Mauer as its starter for (hopefully) the long term, has Wilson Ramos as a potential high ceiling catcher, and have several catchers that are defensive specialists (Butera, Christy, de San Miguel, Lehmann, etc.), it was surprising to see the Twins take two catchers this early. However, catchers traditionally go off the board quickly. If you want some quality catchers, you get them fairly early. The Twins believe in having catching depth throughout the minor leagues. Like pitching, you can never have enough catching. The position is so demanding that attrition tends to deplete many from the position before they get near the big league level. Streich is a defensive guy. He has a very strong arm and a durable body. Hermann provides some versatility. As I mentioned yesterday, he is already signed and will play in Elizabethton where he is currently listed as an outfielder. . He will likely get at bats this summer in the corner outfield positions as well as 2B and 3B. But the hope is that eventually he could be a left handed hitting catcher with top of the lineup hitting potential.
8th round pick, James Dozier from Southern Mississippi, is another guy that may have gone higher in the draft if he were healthy. A broken collarbone meant that he could not play for quite some time during his senior season, and even when he came back, he was used as a DH. If he signs, he could be a steal this late.
When the Twins drafted outfielder Steve Liddle in the 15th round, you had to do a double take. Was this one of those nepotism picks? Those usually donít happen until the late rounds. Then you realize that Liddle, the son of the Twins bench coach with the same name, was one of the top hitters at Vanderbilt. He is a very good player. He is a good corner outfielder with a strong and accurate arm. He has a very good swing, and has a strong hitting presence. He has the type of swing that should develop more power over time. Although it is uncertain if he wants to sign, the Twins drafted him with every interest in signing him.
Erik Decker was obviously one of the more interesting names drafted by the Twins. The Gophers football (and baseball) player was drafted for the second straight year in the baseball draft despite teams knowing that his #1 sport at this time is football. As one of the top wide receivers in college football, Decker will enter his senior season for the Gophers this fall and will likely be drafted in the NFL somewhere between the third and fifth rounds, maybe even higher if he can stay healthy all season. So, what does this mean for baseball? He is a very good baseball player, particularly with the glove. He has good baseball speed and knows the game. He is intriguing because he has never played baseball full-time and his athleticism and strength make him a very intriguing prospect. Now, does he have any interest in playing baseball this summer? I donít know. Could the Twins find a way to sign him creatively, allowing him to continue playing football and pursuing that career, but inking him so that he does not go back into the draft in another year. One thing to remember is that dual sport athletes can receive their signing bonus over five years, which could alleviate some of the concern. It will be interesting to see what happens.
In the 28th round, the Twins drafted another guy that, in my mind, is very intriguing. Pat Light was selected out of Christian Brothers Academy in New Jersey. He is 6-5 and just 195 pounds, so very projectable. He was consistently in the high 80s and low 90s, topping out at 93. His out pitch may be his slider and he has a changeup. His curveball is still a work in progress. He has signed to play at Monmouth where he could be a top pitcher already next season since their #1 and #2 pitchers were selected in the 8th and 10th rounds this year. This is a guy that, as Twins fans, we should watch whether he signs with the Twins as the summer progresses.
The Twins selected Aaron Senne with their 12th round pick three years ago out of Rochester Mayo High School. Instead of signing, he went to the University of Missouri where he has spent three seasons. He was All-Big 12 in his sophomore season. He fell back during his junior season although he hit .305. He hit just six home runs. The Twins drafted him in the 32nd round this year. The Twins really like his offensive potential. He had a disappointing year, but the power is still there. Hopefully he will seriously consider signing with the Twins, but he may want to go back to school and have a better senior season and move back up the draft. Itís a tough decision, but I was told that he certainly is strongly considering signing, and the fact that it was the Twins that drafted him, could factor into his decision.
Another local draftee was Ryan Abrahamson. The Twins drafted the 6-3, 200 pound Tartan High School outfielder in the 37th round. The Twins will meet with him and his family to discuss options. The odds of him signing with the Twins is probably small. He definitely is looking forward to playing for the Gophers.
Just a couple other notes Ė The Twins took Marc Bourgeois in the 39th round out of Chipola Junior College. That is the same school that fellow Canadian Rene Tosoni was drafted out of. His skill is his bat, but we probably shouldnít expect similar results. The Twins drafted David Gutierrez out of the University of Miami in the 34th round. He was a senior and brother of Twins #1 pick in 2008 Carlos Gutierrez. Both pitchers rely on their sinkers, but David does not throw as hard as Carlos. Still well worth the risk.
One player that the Twins would really like to sign is Ronnie Richardson. The Twins were able to draft him in the 11th round because he fell due to signability concerns. He has signed a letter of intent to play for the University of Central Florida. He is a tremendous athlete with good skills and a very quick bat. His best skill is his incredible speed. At just 5-7 and 171 pounds, speed is his game, but he does have some gap power as well. On my podcast last week, Richardson told us that although the signing bonus will play a huge role in if he signs, he said that he will listen and other things will factor in. He specifically said that if he could get his college paid for that would help.
Following a draft, every team believes in their draft and the players that they selected. In reality, we wonít know for five or more years how good the Twins draft of 2009 really was. Once signed, those in player development have to go to work to make these guys what they can become. The Twins went in hoping to replenish their pitching and specifically a few power arms. This year, the overall draft crop was very mediocre, but the strength was in pitching. The Twins were also happy to get a quality middle infielder (McCallum) in a draft where there wasnít too many. ††††
So what do you think now? Did the Twins draft as they should have, or is there no way to know that, as we said, for five years or more? Who are some of the names and/or stories that you are most intrigued by. Let me know what you think.