The Minnesota Twins has to make the most out of every player they acquire through the draft. You can say that about every team in Major League Baseball but, some of those teams have the ability to make up for a bad draft every now and then. They can stretch the payroll to go get top tier free agents or make a big trade to acquire players who have already established themselves as great players.
Those teams are the exception, not the rule. That’s really the only way of going to get the sure thing, though. See a great player or an ace pitcher and go get them, either in free agency or in a trade. To be honest, though, none of those teams really want to do that. They would rather draft a player and develop them and have a farm system that consistently brings results then have to overspend. It’s hard to tell what a prospect will turn into as a major league player. His talent may be a lot better in the minor leagues but, as he works his way up the ladder, that gap closes a little at each level.
For the teams where free agency isn’t as much of an option, the MLB Draft is priority number 1 when it comes to acquiring players. It happens every year and they have to be prepared. They have to know what kind of players they want and what kind of players & pitchers they need and then go get those players. They can’t relax if the current team or the current prospects are doing very well at any time or any position. They can’t pick for need, either, or, at least, they can’t pick for the need of the Major League team. They can pick for an organizational need to strengthen some of the weaker positions in the organization but that’s something that should probably be done in the later rounds. Players acquired in the draft won’t help the major league team for years.
The old adage of pick the best player available is likely the best way to go, especially in the early rounds. That also means the best player available in their minds based on the reports from their scouts and from their own opinions as a group. It has nothing to do with the best-rated player available. They should Trust the Process, trust their philosophies and trust their draft board.
There should always be prospects coming who are close to ready for a chance to move into the lineup, rotation or bullpen as soon as possible to see what they can do, how they handle it and if they need more work to get there. They should be forcing the front office to promote them and pushing the veterans for their position and their spot in the lineup. That increases competition for each spot on the roster and makes everyone know they have to earn their spot. Competition brings the best out of everyone because every player knows they have to keep getting better to keep their spot.
Deep to Every Part of the Field
There’s always a possibility of having too many players for one position. If they are all ready to play at the major league level, then the front office can use the depth to make a trade to strengthen another position. A team can never have too much depth. They dream of having depth at every position. It’s a good problem to have if the organization has a difficult job figuring out who makes the team and who has to be sent down to the minors.
When teams are taking players in the draft, there is no way of knowing how long it will take them to develop into major leaguers. That’s if they even make it at all. Very few players go right into the big leagues. They all need a little seasoning in the minors nowadays. There’s no way to predict how any prospect will do no matter how good they were before turning pro.
Nobody knew Mike Trout would be Mike Trout or he wouldn’t have fallen to the 25th pick in the 2009 Draft. He would’ve been taken 1st*, yes, even ahead of the first pick by the Washington Nationals, RHP Stephen Strasburg. There are probably aren’t many drafts where the #1 overall pick ends up being the best overall player. The best player usually ends up being a player picked lower than #1. (Hmm….another post, another time.)
*The Twins took RHP Kyle Gibson with the 22nd pick in the first round, if you were wondering.
The Minnesota Twins Takes
“With their 1st pick, the Minnesota Twins take…”
You could probably guess the Minnesota Twins haven’t done very well in the draft, recently. If they had, they wouldn’t be where they are right now. They wouldn’t have over 90 losses in 5 out of the last 7 seasons. They wouldn’t have had to fire the GM. They wouldn’t have had to make some of the trades they made, hoping they would work out. They wouldn’t have had to force players into the lineup who may not have been ready. They wouldn’t have had to use 36 pitchers in one season to see what they can do and then risk losing them to waivers.
For a long time, the Minnesota Twins were known as a team that would draft well and always had a good farm system. It became known as the Twins Way and was part of the reason they won 6 division championships between 2002 & 2010. They knew how to develop players. In those same years between 2002 & 2010, they may have lost their way when it came to drafting well and developing players and most of all, pitchers. Here’s what they got from the drafts from 2002 to 2010:
2002: OF Denard Span, RP Jesse Crain, RP Pat Neshek
2003: SP Scott Baker
2004: 3B Trevor Plouffe, RP Glen Perkins, SP/RP Anthony Swarzak
2005: SP Matt Garza, SP Kevin Slowey, SP/RP Brian Duensing
2006: 1B/OF Chris Parmelee, 3B Danny Valencia, SP Jeff Manship
2007: OF Ben Revere
2008: OF Aaron Hicks, RP Michael Tonkin
2009: SP Kyle Gibson, C/1B/OF Chris Hermann, SS/2B Brian Dozier
2010: SP/RP Alex Wimmers, SP Pat Dean, SP Logan Darnell, OF Eddie Rosario
So, in 9 years, all they produced for the rotation were Scott Baker, Matt Garza* and Kyle Gibson. Three middle of the rotation pitchers in 9 years. You could include Kevin Slowey, Anthony Swarzak, Brian Duensing and even Glen Perkins in there as well. They all began as starters and were then moved to the bullpen. They did alright with relievers Jesse Crain & Pat Neshek and also developed some pretty decent players in OF Denard Span, OF Ben Revere, OF Aaron Hicks, 2B Brian Dozier and OF Eddie Rosario.
*They traded possibly the best of them in Matt Garza to TB with SS Jason Bartlett for OF Delmon Young & SS Brendan Harris. Garza became a very good starting pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays. He helped lead them to the 2008 World Series and won the ALCS MVP.
Brick by Brick
The draft is a foundation for building great teams. It’s not the only part teams need to do right to build a winner but it’s a great place to start building. It’s hard to say what kind of production any team expects to come out of every draft. It’s something like an average of 2 players out of every draft* making it to the major leagues. That’s just making it there, too. Not if they’re starters or All-Stars, it’s any player who makes it to the major leagues. It could be an All-Star player, a #1 pitcher or a utility player or middle reliever.
*I couldn’t find anything concrete on this. I’ve heard that before, though.
It’s done slowly, building the foundation and adding to that foundation until they’ve built a champion. If you look at most championship teams, they have players who’ve been there for a long time who were acquired through the draft. Then they’ve continually added pieces from year to year to finally build a team that has everything they need to win a championship. They have depth at every position so they can survive any injuries or other challenges that come up during the season.
If you look at the 1987 World Champion Minnesota Twins, they slowly built that team. They drafted 1B Kent Hrbek in 1978 and he was one of the first pieces for that team. Then from 1979 to 1984, they kept adding more pieces to that team.
1978: Kent Hrbek
1979: Randy Bush, Gary Gaetti (June-2nd Phase), Tim Laudner
1980: Jeff Reed (Traded for Jeff Reardon)
1981: Frank Viola, Steve Lombardozzi
1982: Alan Anderson, Mark Davidson, Kirby Puckett (January Draft)
1984: Jay Bell (traded for Bert Blyleven), Gene Larkin
So the 1987 Twins drafted starters at 1st, 2nd, 3rd, Catcher and Center Field along with #1 starter Frank Viola and bench players Randy Bush, Mark Davidson & Gene Larkin and relief pitcher Alan Anderson. They also used draft picks to acquire a majority of the other pieces from that championship team.
Most people probably never think about that when it comes to the draft. In almost every trade a player who was acquired through the draft is involved. There are some trades that are just players signed through free agency or who were acquired through another trade. Also, the majority of those drafted players included in those trades never make it to the big leagues. They end up being throw-ins to get the trade done. The teams obviously believed they’d be more than that or they wouldn’t have asked for those players but, it still points to how important the draft is for building a team into a champion.
Are they building another champion with pieces drafted since 2009?:
2009: SP Kyle Gibson, 2B Brian Dozier
2010: OF Eddie Rosario
2012: SP Jose Berrios, RP Tyler Duffey, RP J.T. Chargois?, RP Taylor Rogers, CF Byron Buxton SP Luke Bard? RP Mason Melotakis
2013: SP Stephen Gonsalves, C Mitch Garver, OF Zack Granite
2014: RP John Curtiss, RP Trevor Hildenberger, SS Nick Gordon
2015: RP Tyler Jay?
2016: OF Alex Kiriloff
2017: SS Royce Lewis, OF Brent Rooker
There are some pretty nice pieces on this list. They have starters at 2nd base, left field, center field, a few pitchers for the starting rotation & some good arms for the bullpen as well. It’s definitely a good start.
The 5th Rule of Drafting
The Rule 5 Draft was put into place so teams couldn’t stockpile talent on their minor league rosters. It forces teams to commit to keeping players who have been in their organization for 4 or 5 years depending on the age they were signed, 5 years if they were signed before they turned 19 and 4 years if they were signed after they turned 19. Players not protected by being placed on a team’s 40-man roster are available to be picked by other teams who have spots open on their 40-man roster.
The drafted players cost the drafting team $100K and must stay on the active 25-man roster for the entire next season or be offered back to the original team for $50K. Most of these players are not yet ready for the jump to the Major League so it’s a bit of a risk. It’s also another way for teams to find players who’ve already been in the minors for 4-5 years so they have a pretty good track record for teams to judge them on.
Rule 5 picks rarely make a big impact but sometimes it can work out quite nicely. Roberto Clemente is probably the biggest example of success but there are others, too. Twins fans surely remember LHP Johan Santana, who wasn’t actually picked by the Twins. They traded their 1st pick, Jared Camp, to the Florida Marlins in the 1999 Rule 5 Draft, who selected Johan from the Houston Astros. Other good examples for the Twins are OF Shane Mack in 1989 and C Mark Salas in 1984 (he was traded straight up for P Joe Niekro (with a nail file) in 1987. LHP Scott Diamond looked like a pretty good pick from 2010. He pitched well for a while but fizzled out and was released in 2014.
Recent examples of successful Rule 5 picks from the rest of the league are OF Joey Rickard for the Baltimore Orioles and 1B Justin Bour for the Miami Marlins. We view success as adding a piece to your major league roster that either helps you win or helps you acquire another piece that helps you win.
The Last Pick
That’s all for the history of who the Minnesota Twins have taken in the MLB Draft. They had a bad run there for awhile but they may have made up for it in more recent drafts. It helped to have higher picks because of the losing seasons. A philosophy change on what kind of pitchers to target from Terry Ryan may help the new regime get to the promised land, too.
In the next article, we’ll delve into how the Twins have done with International Signings. The BIG one that stands out is Miguel Sano but that’s because he’s the most recent success. We’ll see how they’ve done and if they’ve improved in this area throughout their history.
Thanks for reading our TwinsTakes on the Draft History of the Minnesota Twins! We’d love to hear your ‘Takes on the subject! Please comment below, on TwinsDaily.com or the posts of this article on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and/or Google+!
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