A Look Back: Recent Twins Draft History, Part II

With the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft on the horizon, this is the second of two articles looking at the Twins’ most recent drafts. The first part looked at the first round picks of the last fifteen years and how they are faring (or have fared) in professional baseball. This week I will look at the Twins minor leagues and how the draft has been used to stock the Twins system.

In the last five years the Twins have drafted 59 players in the first ten rounds. Of those 59, 45 are currently playing (or on rosters) within the Twins organization (76%). Breaking these picks down by position shows the Twins love of young arms. 30 pitchers, 4 catchers, 6 first basemen, 6 second basemen/shortstops, 3 third basemen, and 10 outfielders were taken. This pitching fixation peaked in 2004 when 11 of the 14 players taken in the first ten rounds were pitchers. Sorting the draft picks by current level in the minors gives the data shown in the chart below:

Not surprisingly, the recent draft picks populate the low echelons of the minors. All in all it seems to be an orderly progression through the minors. Except when it comes to pitching.

Level (# of top picks)
Major Leagues (5) – Slowey, Baker, Crain, Neshek, Perkins

Rochester, AAA (6) – 3 pitchers
New Britain, AA (7) – 6 pitchers
Fort Myers, A (10) – 4 pitchers
Beloit, A (10) – 2 pitchers

If the Twins draft and sign a pitcher early in the draft, chances are they will be progressing more rapidly through the system than the other positions. From the 60 picks of our data set, the only prospects to reach the majors are pitchers, and of the four non-pitchers closest to the bigs (Span, Moses, Deeds, Plouffe), barring injury at the major league level, none have a realistic shot at significant major league experience this year. Is this evidence that the Twins scouting staff is significantly better at evaluating pitching talent than hitting prospects? Or is this just another effect of the fact that you will always need good pitching? I want to go with the second option, but the Twins farm system doesn’t seem to be producing quality hitters where the major league club has its biggest holes. Even from that previous list of the four highly drafted prospects closest to the majors, I wouldn’t characterize any of them as a legitimate major league bat at this point.

Other interesting notes are that none of the 2002 draft class are populating the minor leagues at a level lower than AAA. Apparently you have 3 or 4 seasons to prove yourself or you’re out. That means things don’t look good for David Shinskie (Ft. Myers, drafted ’03) or Johnny Woodard (Beloit, drafted ’03). I don’t know for sure the rules about service time and minor league free agency, but I’m pretty sure that plays a role in this.

Of course, the draft is about more than just the top few picks. The Twins current farm system is littered with players drafted by the Twins in rounds after the tenth. 93 players in the system from the A level to the major league club were originally drafted by the Twins, including 17 who were signed as undrafted free agents. Over half of those 93 are at the A level (either Beloit or Fort Myers), where nearly the entire rosters are made of recent Twins picks. The full distribution is shown below.

Level (# of draft picks)
Major League (14) – Cuddyer, Hunter, Kubel, Mauer, Miller, Morneau, Slowey, 4 pitchers mentioned above, and 3 undrafted free agents (DePaula, Rincon, Rodriguez)
Rochester, AAA (11) – 1 undrafted free agent
New Britain, AA (18) – 5 undrafted free agents
Fort Myers, A (22) – 3 undrafted free agents
Beloit, A (28) – 5 undrafted free agents

Again, it’s notable that players drafted before ’02 are not a significant presence in the minors. This is probably a good thing for the organization, as career minor leaguers do very little to help the success of the major league club.

Throughout the system, the Twins draft picks are used as the main source of players for every level. Of course there are those picks that will fall by the wayside on their progression from the lower levels to the top levels, but the Twins have shown the ability to keep enough of their draft picks around so that they form a nucleus around which the upper levels of the organization are built. For an organization with financial restrictions like Minnesota, this an important skill that has no doubt fueled the recent success of the franchise.

This is not a look forward at what kind of draft the Twins are looking to have this year, but through these looks back we can see that the Twins have relied on their draft to provide a large part of their talent pool in the recent history. Thus, it is easy to conclude that many Twins fans will have a vested interest in the results of the upcoming draft.

Series Preview in Blog: Toronto Blue Jays

Minnesota Twins (22-24) v. Toronto Blue Jays (21-25)

The Twins return home after a nine game road trip, on which they went 4-5. They started by being swept by the Indians before taking two of three from Milwaukee and Texas. Toronto will finish off their own nine game road trip with this series. They are 3-3 thus far, losing 2 of 3 to Philadelphia last weekend and winning 2 of 3 from Baltimore this week. The Blue Jays have a 9-14 record on the road, while the Twins have a slightly better 10-13 record at home. The Blue Jays are currently third in the AL East, 10 games back of the Red Sox and a half game back of the second place Yankees. The Twins remain in fourth place in the central division, 7 games back of Detroit and 2.5 back of third place Chicago.

This has little to do with the Jays, but Happy Birthday to Jason Kubel (Friday). Hopefully someday he will make it off the bench on the “Born on May 25” team.

On to the Jays:

The only thing I don’t understand about this list is how Corey Koskie was on this team for a full season and managed to not make a single appearance.

The Jays have shown signs of life recently, but for a while, they looked terrible (I’m sure some of you can relate). That stretch included a nine game losing streak and a stretch of 5-14 baseball. As this interview with Jays manager John Gibbons shows, there’s no need to worry he’s on top of all the important things. Here’s a more serious analysis of some of general manager J. P. Riccardi’s moves this season.

The Blue Jays pitchers for the series will be Jesse Litsch (called up on Tuesday), Tomo Ohka, and A. J. Burnett. Saturday’s matchup of Ohka vs. Ortiz should be interesting. Ohka was removed from the rotation earlier this month after going 0-2 with a 6.35 ERA in May. Saturday marks his return to the rotation after 11 days rest. Burnett has won his last three starts and has been the rock of the rotation in recent times for Toronto. The Twins will not be seeing Roy Halliday this series as he is still recovering from an appendectomy.

Offensively, Lyle Overbay has continued his slow start, which could be cause for concern for Jays fans. You can also add Vernon Wells to that list.

The Blue Jays all-time top 50 has some familiar faces for Twins fans. Specifically #21, #33, and #38. No, I didn’t get those numbers wrong, Paul Molitor is really only #38 on that list. Here’s the authors defense of that placement.

Finally, while the Jays are here at the Dome, I’m sure that Twins fans will be well behaved. However, if they aren’t nice to Vernon Wells, they may get a souvenir out of the deal. More on the story here.

That’s it from me, if you find anything interesting, feel free to post it in the comments. Thanks for reading.