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The Twins 2018 Draft Class is Loaded with Talent

Following their first postseason appearance since the inaugural season of Target Field, the Minnesota Twins found themselves in an unfamiliar position, as they didn’t have their first selection until the 20th pick of the 2018 MLB Draft. Factor that in with it being the first draft following the Twins taking Royce Lewis with the first overall selection in 2017, and it makes sense that not a lot of Twins fans were overly excited for this draft. However, that doesn’t mean that the Twins weren’t able to acquire some quality talent and now a season and a half later it appears that the Twins did just that.
Image courtesy of © John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
Now that the Twins 2018 Draft Class has had a chance to play their first full season of professional baseball, we are starting to get a clearer picture of how the they are shaping up. While some of these players haven’t had a number of opportunities to show what they can do, the ones that have had the opportunity have really impressed. Let’s take a look at some of the more notable players from this class.

Trevor Larnach

With their first-round pick, the Twins took soon to be national champion outfielder Trevor Larnach out of Oregon State University. After a strong professional debut in 2018, Larnach began the 2019 season in High-A Fort Myers. In 84 games with the Miracle, Larnach hit .316, with and .842 OPS, both of which were easily league highs among qualified hitters in the very pitcher-friendly Florida State League in 2019. This performance led to Larnach’s call up to AA Pensacola mid-season, where he continued to hit the ball well over the final couple months of the season. This helped Larnach secure the ranking as Twins Daily’s 3rd highest ranked prospect in the Twins farm system.

Ryan Jeffers

In the second round, the Twins turned some heads when they supposedly reached on UNC Wilmington catcher Ryan Jeffers. Jeffers was thought of by many scouts as a great hitting college catcher, who would have a tough time staying behind the plate as a professional. However, the Twins scouts thought differently, and have since been proven dead right. Not only has Jeffers mashed in his 698 career professional plate appearances, but he has also proven to be more than capable enough to hold his own as a catcher defensively, all of this leading to Jeffers being ranked the 7th best Twins prospect here at Twins Daily. Look for Jeffers to knock on the MLB door in the near future and give the Twins a dynamic duo behind the plate with Jeffers and Mitch Garver.

Cole Sands

The first pitcher that the Twins took in this draft didn’t come until the fifth round, when they took Florida State right-hander Cole Sands. After not pitching professionally in 2018, Sand made his professional debut at Cedar Rapids in 2019, and quickly moved his way up to make one start at AA Pensacola before the end of the season. Among the 545 pitchers who threw at least 90 innings in affiliated minor league baseball in 2019, Cole Sands’ 2.45 FIP was the 5th lowest. This was due in large part to his tremendous 5.68 strikeout to walk ratio. This is a number that even the great Johan Santana couldn’t top during his time with the Twins. I expect great things from Sands again in 2020, which could vault him way up the Twins prospect ranking leader board by seasons end.

Josh Winder

The second pitcher that the Twins took in the 2018 MLB draft was Josh Winder out of the Virginia Military Institute. After a solid pro debut in Elizabethton in 2018, Winder was one of the best pitchers in the Midwest League in 2019. In 21 starts for the Cedar Rapids Kernels, Winder tossed 125 2/3 innings to the tune of a 2.65 ERA, which was the fourth lowest mark among Midwest League pitchers with at least 100 innings pitching in 2019. In 164 1/3 combined professional innings, Winder has struck out 160 batters, while allowing just 36 walks and 11 home runs.

Chris Williams

Taken as a college senior in the eighth round of the 2018 MLB draft, Clemson 1B/C Chris Williams signed with the Twins for just $10,000, which was well below the $162,100 slot value for that pick. However, Williams hasn’t played like just some random-pick-to save-money, as he quickly established himself as a legit power threat at the professional level, belting 26 home runs in just 545 pro plate appearances. While Williams didn’t spend anytime behind the plate in 2018, he almost exclusively caught in 2019. If he can stay behind the plate, he has potential to make a splash, with his rare power behind the plate.

Willie Joe Garry Jr.

It has been a bit of a slow start from a production standpoint for the Twins ninth-round pick in the 2018 MLB draft, but Willie Joe Garry Jr. did show signs of improvement in 2019, and with his raw athletic ability the ceiling is very high for this young high school prospect out of Mississippi. Seth Stohs did a great piece on Willie Joe Garry Jr. earlier this week, if you want to learn more about this young Twins prospect.

Other Notable Prospects

- 15th-round pick Kody Funderburk struck out 9.9 batter per nine innings and had a 3.25 FIP in 50 innings pitched for Cedar Rapids in 2019.
- 17th-round pick Erik Cha has a 2.21 ERA, with 65 strikeouts and 21 walks in 61 innings pitched out of the bullpen, pitching mostly for the GCL Twins and in Elizabethton.
- 18th-round pick Andrew Cabezas has made 31 starts in his two seasons of pro ball, accumulating a 3.31 ERA in 160 1/3 innings pitched.
- 19th-round pick Austin Schulfer has made 41 appearances (20 starts) in his two seasons at the professional level. In that time, Schulfer has posted a 3.27 ERA and has struck out an impressive 158 batters in 137 2/3 innings pitched.
- 21st-round pick Gabe Snyder blasted 19 home runs for Cedar Rapids in 2019. That was good for second most among all Mid-West league hitters last season.
- 31st-round pick Zach Neff pitched 39 innings for Cedar Rapids in 2019, before getting called up to Fort Myers, where he threw another 33 2/3 innings. Neff’s 2.11 FIP for Cedar Rapids was the fifth lowest among the 251 Midwest league pitchers who threw at least 30 innings pitched last season, while his 2.27 FIP for Fort Myers was the 17th lowest among the 178 Florida State League pitchers who threw at least 30 innings in 2019.

As you can see, there are a number of good prospects in the Twins farm system that came from that 2018 Draft Class, even though the Twins weren’t blessed with a number of high-end selections. This upcoming season will be a great year to follow these guys, as they are now mostly settled into the professional ranks and are looking to move their way up the Twins minor league system.

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10 Comments

I think the 2012, 2016 and 2018 draft classes are going to be huge for us.

That was great, Andrew! Thank you!

Larnach has looked very good. While we haven't quite seen the full power display/potential yet, I think he's been a better "hitter" early on than I expected. I still think there is just something "special" about Kirilloff, but I think Larnach is nipping at his heels.

I admit to being very surprised, and maybe a bit disappointed by the Jeffers pick based on all the pre-draft rankings. But I recall how high the FO was after the draft. Boy, they keep surprising me with how smart they are.

For some crazy reason, I keep thinking Winder was selected a year or two earlier. Mental block? To realize/remember he's only a year and a half in to his pro career makes me re-analyize his status.

Sands could be a HUGE surprise. I have to reflect to the recent OP about the Indians and their ability to develop SP talent when thinking about him. With the exception of Bauer, who was traded for, most of the Indians pitching talent were drafted 4/5th round or later. Sands seems to fit this plan. Makes me wonder even more about the kid drafted last season who didn't pitch last season from UCLA was it? Name slips memory right now.

As I recall, Williams had a shoulder issue that mostly kept him from catching his senior year at Clemson. I believe he mostly played 1B and DH, which is what he did initially his rookie year. I guess I didn't realize he spent most of 2019 behind the plate. If he can bring that bat potential and legitimately play catcher, the depth in the system becomes the envy of most of MLB when you look at what else is there.

Again, thanks for the recap! As much as I love to follow the system, you sometimes lose track.
    • glunn, Dman and gagu like this

Thanks for this article I remember being very worried that we might not have a good draft after we sold our 2nd round pick and lost our third for signing Lance Lynn.We weren't picking high in the draft and it didn't appear we would have much money to move around in the draft. 

 

After the draft I did not feel like they had a "good" draft.I was just hoping Larnach would turn out OK so that the draft wouldn't be a complete loss.I guess I was wrong about a lot of these guys.

 

As I've said many times I bought into the pundits view of Jeffers and didn't like the pick at the time.He made me eat crow from Elizabethton to Pensicola.Seeing where he is right now I think that was an outstanding pick.

 

Sands number from college didn't give me much hope that he would be anything better than reliever and probably take a long time to get there.Again I couldn't have been more wrong as he has really been dominant to this point in his professional career.  

 

I didn't even know who Windor was and given he came from a small school didn't give him much of a chance to be successful.I liked his frame and could see potential there but he didn't throw throw real hard and he was in need of third pitch if I remember correctly.Not bad for 7th round pick but certainly no guarantee to work out either.

 

I really didn't care for the Willie Joe Garry pick either.He didn't have a good hit tool and it I thought most of his other tools were average.He started the year out pretty hot and it looks like he has 5 tool potential although the bat could hold him back.Still a good grab at 9 where the Twins always seem to find a little something.I actually liked the Reggie Grace pick at 10 better.He has had control issue's but hoping he come around this year.

 

Anything after 10 is crap shoot but I have to say I definitely didn't see Zach Neff moving as fast as he did.  

 

It is going to be a fun class to watch and hopefully the Twins can find a way to replicate that success as they again are without there 2nd and 3rd round picks this year.

 

    • glunn, DocBauer and gagu like this

To maintain a wining team the draft needs to provide 3-4 players. It looks good so far. I wouldn't call it loaded as your draft should be providing 7-i players who look good in the first 2 years. Anything else is a bad draft

GREAT article !!It's easy to get lost in all the prospects not named Kiriloff, Lewis or Larnach.I think BOTH Kiriloff and Larnach are going to be very good major league hitters.It's why Eddie Rosario's days are probably numbered even if his defense rebounds somewhat and he has a good year hitting this year.When extensions for Berrios, Buxton, Sano, Arraez etc...start to come an affordable LF'er will be necessary.Question about Jeffers...is he a left handed hitter ?I seem to remember him being a right handed hitter but if he's a lefty it would make for an awesome platoon with Garver.

    • glunn likes this

Thanks for a great read.

 

I have always believed that if a team can get three players out of each draft to become a part of the team for multiple years, they have done well.And of those three, at least one has to be a very good starting player, not just a utility guy...someone who really contributes to winning.Still to early to know for sure, but certainly looks like this draft should surpass those requirements.

 

GREAT article !!It's easy to get lost in all the prospects not named Kiriloff, Lewis or Larnach.I think BOTH Kiriloff and Larnach are going to be very good major league hitters.It's why Eddie Rosario's days are probably numbered even if his defense rebounds somewhat and he has a good year hitting this year.When extensions for Berrios, Buxton, Sano, Arraez etc...start to come an affordable LF'er will be necessary.Question about Jeffers...is he a left handed hitter ?I seem to remember him being a right handed hitter but if he's a lefty it would make for an awesome platoon with Garver.

 

Jeffers bats righthanded.

    • glunn likes this

Thanks for the info. I always look at the draft as a crapshoot after the first 3 rounds. Baseball is one of the very few sports where players seemingly need to go through 2-4 years in the minors before getting their chance in the majors. That leaves players to having a very good year that could be followed by a not so good year or maybe vice-versa. Even high rated prospects can drop off the table in a year or two or the reverse can happen. Kiriloff looks ready to play in the majors. I'm not sold on Lewis. 

If we can get at least a couple MLB starting players out of the group that is all you can ask for.Sometimes you will get all-stars, and even fewer you will get Hall of Famers, but if each draft you can get 2 decent starters or more, it really is a good draft. 

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Carneal&Gordon
Mar 10 2020 08:07 AM
Great article Andrew, I love these look backs at specific draft classes as I often forget who was drafted when and in what round.

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