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.

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