Minnesota Wild 2007 Draft Class

The Wild were eliminated from the playoffs this year by a physical Ducks team that steamrolled not only Minnesota, but everyone in the NHL on their way to the Stanley Cup. Clearly that experience weighed on the minds of the Wild front office as all their selections were players known for their physical presence. In fact, in the first round, they passed over some smaller skilled players to get the grinding forward they were looking at. The Wild also drafted heavily from the Canadian ranks taking 4 of their 5 picks from the Western Hockey League of our neighbors to the north.

These guys won’t be suiting up for the Wild next season (none of the 2006 draft class have even been signed yet), they’ll probably remain in their respective leagues for at least another year as the Wild have two years to ink them to a deal. Hopefully, someday in the not too distant future we’ll see these guys suiting up for the Wild.

Here’s a look at who the Wild drafted this weekend:

1st Round (16th overall pick) – Colton Gillies, 18 years old, 6’3, 189 lbs., Center, Saskatoon Blades (WHL)

The Minnesota Wild traded their first (#19) and second (#42) round picks to the Anaheim Ducks in order to move up three spots in the first round and draft 18 year old Colton Gillies of the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades.

“I didn’t see it coming.” said Gillies, who was thrilled with his future destination. “I had 26 meetings with teams but today’s meeting went well and here I am. I’ve been told that it is an unbelievable hockey city. I’m really excited to be a Wild.”

With a couple of other big names still sitting in the audience in Columbus (Cherepanov and Esposito for example), I have to wonder if the Wild could have stayed put and allowed Gillies to fall to them in the 19 slot. But at least one mock draft (ESPN) had him going to Calgary at #18, and indeed it seemed that the Flames had some interest. So the Wild just wanted to make sure they got their man.

“He’s definitely one of the best skaters in the Draft. He plays with a physical edge and he plays hard. The way the game is going, you have to have some size up front that can play. We feel that is a need in the organization and we feel he fits that need better than anyone in the Draft. You can’t just have big guys that can’t get there. They have to be able to skate and they have to play with an edge to them.”

-Tom Thompson, Minnesota Wild Assistant GM

In his last season with Saskatoon, Gillies netted 30 points (13 goals, 17 assists) while being assessed 148 penalty minutes in 65 games. Saskatoon was a very young team who struggled at times during the season and missed the WHL playoffs, so the supporting cast probably didn’t help Gillies out too much. He also played through a couple of nagging shoulder and ankle injuries which may have decreased those point totals as well.

Colton is the nephew of former Islanders winger Clark Gillies (who was the bruiser on a line with Trottier and Bossy) although he’s never met the guy. He grew up in British Columbia cheering for the Canucks (we’ll have to work on that). He was highly regarded coming into the WHL (drafted 2nd overall in WHL entry draft) but that enthusiasm has tempered somewhat due to back to back low offensive output seasons. Still he was rated the 12th overall prospect by the International Scouting Service.

There may be more difference of opinion on Gillies than on any other player expected to go in the first or second round.

-Jon Press, at AOL Fanhouse

The general consensus is that Gillies is a very good skater, who will lay some hits, work hard, play well in the defensive zone and get physical. People are much more divided on his hockey sense and scoring touch. His skating speed came up again and again as being very special for a player of his size. The difference betwixt the opinion of him in the defensive zone (where he’s very good), and the offensive zone (where reviews are mixed at best) is very sharply divided. Some have begun to propose a switch to defense for the young center to maximize the impact of his skills and given the Wild’s success with a similar move for Brent Burns, I can’t say I would be shocked to see the switch.

Central Scouting Service had this to say about Gillies:

A power forward with great size… out muscles his opponents and has the ability to land punishing hits… has great speed and is very consistent… uses his reach to his advantage and is good on the penalty kill… needs to get better around the net and at times to improve his positioning.

Finally, one last scouting report from NHL Draft Buzz:

Saskatoon’s young Colt is an impressive, towering centerman with elite skating ability… the ease with which he skates is a pure joy to watch … smooth accelerator with powerful crossovers … can blow by guys with straight line speed and can rotate from forwards to backwards at the drop of a hat … plays in all situations: 5 on 5, PK, and PP … already wears an A … is able to make plays on the penalty kill with agility, reach, and hustle … is a burgeoning threat on the rush … looks like a human freight train when dumping/banking the puck and chasing … owns a quick release that is not the most accurate or well placed … has good offensive sense and anticipation when the puck is on his stick … has fairly soft hands, receives passes well, and can stickhandle … adept at processing defender’s gap control and knows when to get rid of the puck … as a result makes some pretty passes from time to time … loves contact and finishes every check hard … is great along the boards with good puck protection and has the acceleration to roll out quickly for an offensive breakout/chance…could stand to think the game a hair quicker as he tends to chase the play a little too often … did not look comfortable or meshed with his linemates, which may have skewed his stats some … needs to be more consistent in driving to the net …can play defense as well, which shows attractive versatility … Gillies is a tantalizing blend of many talents who needs to show a little more confidence and ability to control the game.

2nd Round (no picks)

3rd Round (no picks)

4th Round (110th overall pick) – Justin Falk, 18 years old, 6’5, 211 lbs., Defense, Spokane Chiefs (WHL)

A big defenseman out of Snowflake, Manitoba, Justin led Spokane in plus/minus last year while scoring 3 goals and 12 assists and amassing 88 penalty minutes in 62 games. Offense is not his strong point obviously, but he has earned praise for his physical defensive play.

Profile and interview

5th Round (140th overall pick) – Cody Almond, 17 years old (18 in July), 6’2, 194 lbs., Center, Kelowna Rockets (WHL)

Either everybody in this draft was 6’2 or that was the Wild’s main criteria as this is the first of three picks who are listed at that height. Another big guy, the center out of Calgary showed some offensive ability leading his team in scoring with 15 goals and 28 assists in 68 games last season for a team that struggled offensively (2.17 goals/game).

Interview

6th Round (170th overall pick) – Harri Ilvonen, 18 years old, Defense, 6’2, 187 lbs., Tappara (Finland)

Ilvonen was the only Wild draft pick from the second day present in Columbus, as he expected to be taken in the third or fourth round. Instead he had a long day of waiting before the Wild snagged him in the sixth round. Harri was ranked as the #7 European defenseman (21st European skater overall) in the draft by Central Scouting Services.

Ilvonen is known as a smart player who is a good passer and skater. Another big guy who isn’t afraid to throw his weight around. Apparently he doesn’t have the quickest feet but he scored 9 goals and added 21 assists in 39 games last season while picking up 38 penalty minutes.

Scouting Video (5:30)

7th Round (200th overall pick) – Carson McMillan, 18 years old, 6’2, 200 lbs., Forward, Calgary Hitmen (WHL)


One last big guy, Carson, out of Manitoba, has played two seasons in the WHL with the Hitmen, last season he accumulated 7 goals, 15 assists and 78 penalty minutes in 72 games. Carson isn’t afraid to mix it up a bit, as he’s already the proud owner of a fight card at hockeyfights.com. That’s hard to believe because he looks like such a nice guy.

Short Bio

There you have it, the 2007 Entry Draft for the Minnesota Wild. The slogan this year must have been “Go big, or go home” because they certainly loaded up on physical players. I’ll be keeping an eye on these guys as they develop and in a couple of years I hope to welcome them to the NHL.

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.

A Look Back: Recent Twins Draft History, Part I

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

In the last 15 years, the Twins have drafted 22 players (including the supplemental first round). Of those 22, they have signed 20 of them (91%). They have drafted 9 pitchers, although recently there has been a larger focus at that position as five of the last eight first round picks have been pitchers. 4 outfielders and 3 catchers have also been drafted in the first round by the Twins.

Ten of these players have already made their major league debut with the Minnesota Twins, while eight more remain in the farm system awaiting their chance. That leaves two players (B. J. Garbe ’99 and Ryan Mills ’98) who never made it to the major league level after being drafted in the first round by the Twins. Incidentally, The Twins current roster (and disabled list) contains four of their first round picks (Hunter, Cuddyer, Mauer, and Perkins).

Of the ten players who have made it to the bigs, Matt Garza and Adam Johnson were the fastest, reaching the majors in their second season in the Twins organization. The average time from draft to debut was 3.8 years for those ten picks.

To satisfy all your curiosity, here are some words and numbers about each of the Twins first round draft picks in the last 15 years:

2006 – Chris Parmelee – (20th overall – OF)
currently with Beloit (A)

Parmelee turned heads with his fast start last year. He hit 8 home runs in 45 games last year at the Rookie level before a late promotion to Beloit. Overall he hit .273/.369/.500 last year which resulted in his being listed as the #94 prospect in Baseball America’s top 100 prospects of 2007. So far this year, he’s hit .226/.305/.374 at Beloit with two home runs. Some eyebrows have been raised by his high strikeout total (38 SO in 115 AB) but he’s only 19 years old, so he’s still got plenty of time to develop. His mix of patience and power are the attributes that lead to the Twins selecting him in the first round.

2005 – Matt Garza – (25th overall – P)
currently with Rochester (AAA) – 1 ML season

Garza’s unbelievably fast rise through the farm system last year caught a lot of attention, and he was ranked #21 in Baseball America’s top 100 prospects of 2007. He began last season with Fort Myers and pitched his way to promotions to New Britain and then Rochester, and finally, Minnesota. In nine starts with the Twins, Garza pitched 50 innings, allowing 32 earned runs (5.76 ERA) while striking out 6.8 per nine innings. He began the 2007 season at Rochester and is currently boasting a 3.86 ERA with 8.4 K/9 through his first nine starts. It’s only a matter of time until Garza dons a Twins uniform again.

2005 – Henry Sanchez – (39th overall – 1B)
currently with Elizabethton (Rookie), 3rd minor league season

Sanchez was drafted out of high school and spent some time at Beloit last year. That stint, combined with his time in rookie ball gives a career line of .211/.274/.351 coming into this year. Sanchez is currently recovering from an injury, and so I couldn’t find any stats from this season. It doesn’t seem like he’s on the fast track right now, but only time will tell.

2004 – Trevor Plouffe – (20th overall – SS)
currently with New Britain (AA), 4th minor league season

Drafted out of high school as the first of 5 first-round picks for the Twins in 2004, Plouffe has spent the last two seasons at A level before his promotion this year. In the previous three seasons he has hit .244/.321/.353. So far this season, Plouffe has hit .250/.306/.402 with the uptick in power due mostly to an increased number of doubles (11 2B out of 33 hits). Plouffe’s defense has also been improved according to scouts, which adds to the overall optimistic picture for this prospect.

2004 – Glen Perkins – (22nd overall – P)
currently with Minnesota Twins, 2nd ML season

After being drafted from the University of Minnesota, Perkins made his debut in the stretch run for the Twins last season and was called up early this season, where he stayed until a recent injury put him on the disabled list. In those two stints, Perkins has 16 appearances, all out of the bullpen, with an ERA of 3.38, a 1.19 WHIP, and 6.75 K/9. In the minors, Perkins moved quickly, never spending more than one year at any level. He started 60 games while posting an ERA of 3.36, a 1.24 WHIP, and 9.63 K/9

2004 – Kyle Waldrop – (25th overall – P)
currently with New Britain (AA), 4th minor league season

Waldrop was recently promoted to New Britain after getting off to a good start this year. In eight starts, he averaged 5.5 IP, had an ERA of 2.86 while striking out 41 in 44 innings. His first start at AA also looked good, as Waldrop allowed one earned run in seven innings. Since signing with the Twins, he has spent a year at rookie ball, followed by two years split betwixt Beloit and Fort Myers at the A level. In his minor league care
er, Waldrop has an ERA of 3.83, a WHIP of 1.21, while maintaining a SO/BB ratio of 4 to 1 and striking out 6.3 batters per 9 innings.

2004 – Matthew Fox – (35th overall – P)
currently with Beloit (A), 3rd minor league season

Originally drafted, but not signed, in 2001 by the Arizona Diamondbacks, Fox attended the University of Central Florida before being drafted by the Twins. 2007 represents his first season above rookie level due to a injury to his labrum which took his 2005 season. He’s only appeared in one game thus far this year as he spent time at extended spring training, but he did pitch a scoreless inning in that appearance.

2004 – Jay Rainville – (39th overall – P)
currently with Fort Myers (A), 3rd minor league season

Jay Rainville was drafted out of high school and began with one season at the rookie level, followed by parts of a season with Beloit and Fort Myers. In those two seasons, his ERA was 3.06 and his WHIP was 1.20. He would miss the entire 2006 season with an arm injury before returning this year where he left off, at Fort Myers. Rainville has eight starts this season for the Miracle, he has a 3.22 ERA in those starts with a 1.27 WHIP while averaging 4.5 IP/start.

2003 – Matt Moses – (21st overall – 3B)
currently with Rochester (AAA), 5th minor league season

The Twins drafted Moses out of high school, and he spent a little more than a season at each level through the Twins system hitting .261/.323/.402 over the last four seasons. This is his first year at AAA, and he’s hitting .244/.264/.341. On a positive note Moses posted his highest home run total last season at New Britain (15, 31.6 AB/HR) which is a good sign for one of the Twins power hitting prospects.

2002 – Denard Span – (20th overall – OF)
currently with Rochester (AAA), 5th minor league season

Span has long been tagged as Torii Hunter’s successor in centerfield for the Twins. Due to Mr. Hunter, Span hasn’t progressed to the majors as quickly as others on this list, but in his four previous seasons in the minors (none above AA), he has hit .288/.359/.346 while stealing 76 bases in about 1600 plate appearances. In his first season at AAA this year, Span is hitting .226/.282/.299 with 10 stolen bases.

2001 – Joe Mauer – (1st pick overall – C)
currently with Minnesota Twins, 4th ML season, .323/.403/.472

Mauer started the season with the Twins in 2004 after the departure of A. J. Pierzynski. Unfortunately, due to injury, he would only appear in 35 games that year. Since then, Mauer has become a hitting machine, he won the batting title last season and posted a career high average (.347) and OBP (.446). Last year, Mauer won numerous accolades, including the Silver Slugger Award, an All-Star selection, and he garnered enough votes to place 6th in the AL MVP race. Mauer is currently on the disabled list with a leg injury but prior to that was still hitting well (.353/.446/.480).

2000 – Adam Johnson – (2nd overall – P)
2 major league seasons, 10.25 ERA, 2.05 WHIP

Johson shot through the minor leagues, reaching the Majors after short stops at A, AA, and AAA in 2001. He would appear in seven games for the major league club including four starts, posting an 8.28 ERA and a 1.8 WHIP. After spending 2002 at AAA, Johnson made another brief appearance with the Twins in 2003, appearing in two games, pitching 1.1 innings and allowing eight runs. After another season in the minors, Johnson was released by Twins in 2005 and signed by the Oakland A’s. After a couple of seasons in the Oakland farm system, Johnson is out of professional baseball.

1999 – B. J. Garbe – (5th overall – OF)
6 minor league seasons

Garbe was drafted out of high school by the Twins and spent two years each at the A and AA levels of the Twins organization. He hit .218/.298/.294 in those four seasons before he was traded in 2004 for Pat Borders. Garbe spent time in the Mariners and Marlins farm systems until 2006, but I couldn’t find a current team for him this season.

1998 – Ryan Mills – (6th overall – P)
7 minor league seasons

Mills was originally drafted by the Yankees in the 13th round of the 1995 draft, but instead attended Arizona State University until the Twins drafted him in the first round. Mills would spend about two years at each level of the minors (as a starter at A and AA; and in the bullpen at AAA) but didn’t excel at any of them, as he posted a record of 17-40 with an ERA of 5.79 and a WHIP of 1.73 while walking 5.9 batters per nine innings. After 2004, the Twins released Mills and he hasn’t resurfaced anywhere else that I can find.

1997 – Michael Cuddyer – (9th overall – SS/1B/2B/3B/OF)
currently with Minnesota Twins, 7th ML season, .269/.341/.454

Cuddyer had his breakout year last year when he hit 41 doubles and 24 home runs with a .284/.362/.504 line. It’s probably not coincidental that last season marked the first time Cuddyer played more than 95 games at any one position (142 games in right field). He made his debut in 2001, but spent significant time in the minors each of the next three seasons.

1997 – Matt LeCroy – (50th overall – C)
currently with Rochester (AAA) – 7 ML seasons

The Mets drafted LeCroy initially in 1994, but he went to Clemson University instead for three seasons before the Twins drafted him. LeCroy made his debut with the Twins in 2000 and played six seasons with the Twins before he was granted free agency after the 2005 season. In those six seasons, LeCroy hit .275/.346/.460 with the Twins while averaging about 240 plate appearances per year. His best year was 2003 (coincidentally the year he got the most at-bats) when he hit 17 home runs while posting a line of .287/.342/.490. After a year in Washington, LeCroy returned to the Twins in the off-season as a free agent and is currently hitting .197/.256/.291 at AAA Rochester.

1996 – Travis Lee – (2nd overall – 1B – did not sign)
9 year ML career, .256/.337/.408
1995 – Mark Redman – (13th overall – P)
currently with Atlanta Braves, 9th ML season

Redman spent time with the Twins in three seasons from 1999 to 2001. However, the only consistent action he saw was in 2000, when he started 24 games and posted an ERA of 4.76, 7.0 K/9, and a 1.41 WHIP, which was good enough to place him 6th in the AL Rookie of the Year voting. Those numbers only differ from his career numbers in the frequency of strikeouts (5.5 career K/9, 4.75 ERA, 1.42 WHIP). He was traded to the Detroit Tigers at the deadline of the next year for Todd Jones. After leaving the Twins, Redman has been named an All-Star once (’06 with Kansas City) and won a World Series (’03 with Florida).

1994 – Todd Walker – (8th overall – 2B)
currently with Oakland Athletics, 12th ML season

Walker made his debut with the Twins in 1996 and spent four seasons with the Twins, including a spectacular 1998 season where he posted career highs in BA (.316), OBP (.372) and OPS+ (119). In his Twins tenure, he hit .285/.341/.413 which corresponds with his career line of .289/.348/.435. He was traded to Colorado for another Todd, Todd Sears, in July of 2000.

1993 – Torii Hunter – (20th overall – OF)
currently with Minnesota Twins, 11th ML season, .271/.324/.469

Hunter has patrolled center field for the Twins for the better part of the last nine seasons. In that time, his best performance to date was the 2002 season when he hit .289/.334/.524, won a start in the All-Star game, and came in 6th in the AL MVP voting. This year Hunter is demolishing all those numbers hitting an astronomical .318/.353/.611 so far. Hunter has also won six Gold Gloves and has been widely regarded as one of the best defensive centerfielders in the game.

1993 – Jason Varitek – (21st overall – C – did not sign)
currently with Boston Red Sox, 11th ML season, .269/.349/.449
2-time All-Star (’03, ’05), Silver Slugger (2005), World Series (2004)
1992 – Dan Serafini – (26th overall – P)
six major league seasons

Serafini had a six year career in the major leagues starting with three seasons with the Twins from 1996 to 1998 before his contract was purchased by the Chicago Cubs. With the Twins Serafini appeared in 35 games and for a couple stretches filled in as a starter. He started 14 games, posting a 5.45 ERA while averaging 5.1 innings per start with a 1.57 WHIP and 4.7 K/9 in those games. Overall with the Twins, Serafini posted a 5.88 ERA and a 1.67 WHIP.

Enormous thanks to TwinsCards.com, which is where I found all these images.