Jump to content

Providing independent coverage of the Minnesota Twins.
Subscribe to Twins Daily Email

The Forums

Game Thread: Twins @ Tigers 9-24 11:10 AM CT

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 10:41 AM
ANNND Welcome back! To Minnesota Twins Whine Line: Cocktail Lounge Edition! I am your waiter for the afternoon, Van Benoit. The Twins are...
Full topic ›

Article: MIN 10, DET 4: Twins Blow Out Tigers Bullpen

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 10:41 AM
One moment it looked like the Twins were going to blow a quality start from Ervin Santana, the next moment they were blowing out the Tige...
Full topic ›

Twins fire Dougie Baseball

Twins Minor League Talk Today, 10:38 AM
http://m.startribune...?section=sports   Bummer. He sounds pretty pissed about it. Best of luck to him in the future.
Full topic ›

Buxton's ability to learn

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 10:38 AM
Besides winning, the most fun I've had is watch Byron Buxton blossom right in front of us. A couple great articles lately chronicling......
Full topic ›

It's Never Too Early for Magic Number

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 10:26 AM
Just a little Spreadsheet fun for those interested in knowing how many wins/losses the Twins need to clinch a playoff spot  ...
Full topic ›

First Round Busts?

For the Minnesota Twins, two events in this past week bookend a disappointing era for first-round draft picks.

On Friday it was announced that the team’s 55th pick overall in 2011, pitcher Hudson Boyd, was suspended for 50 games for a second violation of a drug of abuse. Two days later, Chris Parmelee, who was drafted 20th overall in 2006, signed a minor league contract with the Baltimore Orioles after he was released by the Twins earlier in the offseason.

Without much to show from their first-round picks from 2006 through 2011, how bad has it been for the Twins compared to other teams?
When you consider the production provided from 11 first-round picks in those six years, the Twins are near the bottom of the league. The 6.5 wins above replacement (WAR) is the sixth-lowest return on investment among all the major league teams in that span. Only the Indians, Rockies, Padres, Red Sox and Phillies managed to get less value out of their first round picks.

Posted Image


To make matters worse, it is not just the fact that first-round picks have failed to perform for the Twins, it is that they have had troubles even reaching the game’s highest level. Just four of the 11 picks have made it through the system. Only the Atlanta Braves, San Diego Padres and Tampa Bay Rays have churned out a lower percentage of major league players than Minnesota.

Draft position factors in quite a lot as to what level of talent is available, but having a high pick does not guarantee success either. For instance, in those six years the Kansas City Royals found themselves selecting at a median spot of fourth but wound up with 15.7 runs above replacement for seven players in what were highly coveted draft positions. On the other hand, the Cincinnati Reds drafted at a median spot of 15 and had a return of 44.5 wins above replacement (the fourth best in that time) on their nine players.

“You cannot go into the draft saying, ‘we’re going to take position players this year,” said Roy Clark, a former Atlanta Braves scouting director and recent national cross-checker for the Los Angeles Dodgers, in the book ‘Scouts Honor’. “And then all of a sudden, we’re picking seventy-first, and all of the position players are gone or all of the good pitchers are gone. You never know who is going to be there. I like picking thirtieth every year. I want to pick thirtieth every year.”

Based on that, Clark surely must have been envious of the Reds’ recent draft positions which were huddled in his sweet spot of the first rounds. Those selections turned into major league contributors in Drew Stubbs, Devin Mesoraco and Yasmani Grandal and resulted in the fourth most wins above replacement in that time frame. Meanwhile, in the same period, the Twins were drafting slightly lower than Clark’s ideal spot - and certainly further down the list than the Reds.

****

It didn’t always used to be this way for the Twins. While sitting in Terry Ryan’s office earlier this winter, the topic of the 1989 amatuer draft came up.

When reviewing the first four picks by the Twins at Baseball-Reference.com, one cannot help but be impressed by the fruit that that draft bore. It was a work of art in the scouting world -- probably something veteran scouts talk about over bourbon and cigars.

That year’s draft provided the Twins with two vital components to their eventual World Series title in 1991: a top of the lineup catalyst and an excellent defender at a key up-the-middle position in Chuck Knoblauch (1st round, 25th overall) and a 20-game winner in Scott Erickson (4th, 112th overall). In between was left-handed pitcher Denny Neagle (3rd, 85th) from the University of Minnesota, who would later be flipped to Pittsburgh in 1992 so the Twins could acquire 20-game winner John Smiley, and go on to have a solid career of his own.

Of course, in addition to noticing the noteworthy careers of Knoblauch, Neagle and Erickson, one cannot also help but be drawn to the one name on the Baseball-Reference.com list that does not include a hyperlink to a major league career: John Gumpf.

“Gumpf,” Ryan said to himself in his office while reminiscing about the draft that helped lay a foundation for the organization’s second World Series title. He shook his head and seemed to be kicking himself all over again. He and his staff had gone three-for-four but swung and missed badly on that second pitch.

As the team’s scouting director, Ryan was at the helm of his third amateur draft in 1989. They were looking to supplement the farm system with power and Gumpf’s name surfaced in the war room while the team was on the clock. Reports on the high school kid from Riverside, CA said he had plenty of pop in his bat. With the fifty-fifth overall pick -- the same spot in which the Twins would take high school pitcher Hudson Boyd twenty-two years later -- they added their slugger.

Or so they thought.

Gumpf’s professional career never amount to much. Over four seasons in the minors, he knocked out 15 home runs in 291 games and retired with a .329 slugging percentage over his minor league career.

How did that happen? How did the Twins who were on a roll miss so poorly with their second pick? Ryan shrugged. Couldn’t make an adjustment here or didn’t make an adjustment there or maybe the reports were overblown. Either way, Gumpf was out of professional baseball and that year’s draft was a resounding success.

Sometimes you just miss.

****

Did the Twins scouting department lose its innovative edge from the era in which they were winning drafts? Have they since been outmaneuvered by other teams who have found ways to exploit the draft? Did the development system fail the players? Is this simply a case of bad luck in what is after all a small sample size?

Going back to 2006 through 2011, teams with picks in the top ten -- the Rays, the Giants, the Dodgers -- were able to lock in marquee picks like David Price, Madison Bumgarner and Clayton Kershaw. Naturally they wound up getting plenty of value from those players. Those outside of that area either had to spend additional money (like the Tigers in landing Rick Porcello) or just simply had to be better than everyone else at evaluating talent. The St. Louis Cardinals seemed to exemplify that.

With their lowest pick at 13th, much like the Minnesota Twins, the majority of the Cardinals' first rounders came on the wrong side of 25. Nevertheless, they were able to generate 23.7 WAR while graduating 72% of their first rounders so they could help the parent company. Part of it helps to be lucky but, like Branch Rickey touted, luck is the residue of design.

As a team that was selecting players in the latter portions of the draft, the Cardinals found success by ensuring the lines of communication were open among all departments.

“[W]e had a great interaction between scouting and player development,” former Cardinals scouting director and now Astros’ GM Jeff Luhnow told FoxSports.com in regard to what made his 2009 draft class so special. “[Cardinals chairman and CEO] Bill DeWitt’s responsible for that; it’s his vision. My first charter was to coordinate between different silos – there was a scouting silo, a player-development silo; it happens – so I took everyone on an international trip. Eventually there was a process in place. Analytics, scouting, medical, mechanics: Ultimately everything has to come together in a ranking. It’s not absolute, but a guide. Partly art, partly science.”

****

Despite losing Parmelee for nothing, the Twins still have several players who could provide value to rescue their numbers.

Kyle Gibson (22nd overall, 2009) is coming off a year where he became a stabilizing force in the rotation and could make big steps forward in 2015. Meanwhile, from 2006 to 2011, the highest the Twins drafted was 14th in 2008 and that resulted in Aaron Hicks. At his age, Hicks still has every opportunity to provide positive value but has plenty of adjustments to make in order to do so. Same goes for Levi Michael, Travis Harrison, Alex Wimmers and Boyd. But picks like Matt Bashore, Carlos Gutierrez and Shooter Hunt are forever filed under missed opportunities.

The cyclical nature of the draft seems to have paved the way for a brighter future for the team. After several years of underperforming because of poor returns in the first round, the Twins were able to make selections when premium talent was still on the board. Byron Buxton, Jose Berrios, Luke Bard, Kohl Stewart and Nick Gordon have the makings to provide a solid foundation.

Of course, if and/or when the team begins to win again, learning from mistakes and ensuring that the draft continues to provide major league talent should be a top priority.


  • Share:
  • submit to reddit
Subscribe to Twins Daily Email

Subscribe to Twins Daily Email

103 Comments

The Twins draft struggles in that period are directly related to the results we've seen the last few years.However, I would've liked to see you weight for draft position.There's some anecdotal mentions of it, but no data analysis.Knowing the huge variation in expected success rates for a top-5 pick compared to a compensation pick, I think the impact is underrepresented here.

 

I think '06 and '11 were your cutoff points due to Parms and Boyd, but it's interesting to see Garza, Perkins and Plouffe in the two years before that and, whlie they haven't made an MLB impact yet, Buxton and Berrios in 2012.

    • glunn, birdwatcher, PseudoSABR and 1 other like this

Yeah, I'm not as worried about it as I think the beginning and end points are somewhat arbitrary and it doesn't take into account the different types of players drafted (HS pitcher, prep bat etc) or injuries but I do think it's fair to look at Johnson's drafts (08 on) as opposed to what we were doing before.  Johnson has made a strong push for flamethrowers whereas Radcliff was much more likely to draft the college control arm.  I preferred the Radcliff way but I'm in the minority.  But fireballers means you have to take your shots on guys like Hunt and they don't always work out.  (And I know it's an oversimplification - Johnson did take Wimmers and Radcliff did take Garza, for instance, but their drafts did have those tendencies). 

    • glunn likes this
Photo
Parker Hageman
Jan 28 2015 09:40 AM
However, I would've liked to see you weight for draft position.

 

 

And I would have liked to have been paid for my work. We can't always get what we want.

 

I completely agree with you though while running my analysis, there are plenty of questions raised that if one were to look at why things went wrong, they would want to take a look at. If I were on a research team, I would be doing that type of analysis. However, for just a story highlight the fact that the team has grossly underperformed, this will suffice.

 

I will tell you that 12 teams had a higher median draft position in the first round during that time. Only three of those teams have had less success than the Twins.

    • glunn, James, jay and 4 others like this

And I would have liked have been paid for my work. We can't always get what we want.

 

I completely agree with you though while running my analysis, there are plenty of questions raised that if one were to look at why things went wrong, they would want to take a look at. If I were on a research team, I would be doing that type of analysis. However, for just a story highlight the fact that the team has grossly underperform, this will suffice.

 

I will tell you that 12 teams had a high median draft position in the first round during that time. Only three of those teams have had less success than the Twins.

What was the Twins median pick?  How many teams behind them did better?

    • glunn likes this
Photo
Parker Hageman
Jan 28 2015 09:51 AM
What was the Twins median pick?How many teams behind them did better?

 

 

The Twins selected at 28th. Nine of the 12 teams selecting at a higher position did better in that time. 

    • glunn likes this
Photo
Cap'n Piranha
Jan 28 2015 10:00 AM
I think this is one of those articles where higher level analysis is irrelevant to the main thrust of the article. The point is, the Twins have been bad for four straight years, and whiffing on high level draft picks for 6 straight years, thus depriving the team of fresh talent or attractive trade chips, is a big reason why. It's not necessary to run a statistical regression to determine the impact compared to other teams. Good article Parker.
    • glunn, Mike Sixel, James and 4 others like this

Sometimes I wonder if we're expecting too much from the MLB draft. A large plurality of MLB players are international signs. You can do a great job with player development by scouting well internationally and miss on all of your draft picks.

    • glunn likes this

If your strategy is to be median salary, and to rely on your farm, you NEED to be BETTER than others at it, or you will be bad. It isn't enough to be "as good as" expected. It doesn't work with your strategy.

 

Lots of excuses, but the truth is, they missed a lot for several years in a row. Those are the outcomes produced....and that's why they are bad.

    • glunn and jokin like this
Photo
twinsfanstreif
Jan 28 2015 10:35 AM

I was furious at the Gutierrez, Hicks, and Bashore picks I wanted Conner Gillespie and Brett Lawrie bad. However I did think that Levi Michael was gonna be a good pick and Shooter Hunt looked like a steal. You win some, you lose some. The Twins however seemed to lose them all

    • glunn likes this

I think this is one of those articles where higher level analysis is irrelevant to the main thrust of the article. The point is, the Twins have been bad for four straight years, and whiffing on high level draft picks for 6 straight years, thus depriving the team of fresh talent or attractive trade chips, is a big reason why. It's not necessary to run a statistical regression to determine the impact compared to other teams. Good article Parker.

But I'm not sure if this isn't an oversimplification (or even fair to say they whiffed for six straight years b/c they didn't).  We aren't looking at entire drafts, just the first round - which varies in number of selections each year.  The end points are arbitrary (although I do think looking at Johnson's drafts would be more valid b/c we see a team change their draft philosophy).  Looking at the 06-11 first round picks ignores the value the team got out of Valencia and Dozier.  It also ignores the value they got from trading some of those players they drafted.  And there are still some players in those drafts that could end up helping the team.  A few years ago, people used to complain about the 04 draft but now that Plouffe has emerged, it doesn't look as bad.  And you'd have to look at all teams drafts to figure things out.

 

I do think it's safe to say that the Twins bombed the 06 draft, just as the Cards bombed the 04 draft. 07 and 09 seem like pretty good drafts though, considering where they were picking. 08 and 10 don't look good although Hicks and Rosario could change them.  It's probably too early to call 11 a bust but it looks like the best case scenario of that draft would be a utility infielder and maybe a few relievers.

    • glunn, birdwatcher and Major Leauge Ready like this
Photo
Parker Hageman
Jan 28 2015 11:20 AM
We aren't looking at entire drafts, just the first round - which varies in number of selections each year.The end points are arbitrary (although I do think looking at Johnson's drafts would be more valid b/c we see a team change their draft philosophy).Looking at the 06-11 first round picks ignores the value the team got out of Valencia and Dozier.

 

 

Again, if this were a comprehensive review of the performance of the entire draft, all of that would be valid. This is just a look at the shortcomings of the first round picks from 2006-2011. Is it because of the staff? Or luck? Or development? Or whatever? More analysis is needed to address that.

 

If you want to do a more comprehensive analysis and dive into the why the 2006-2011 first round picks came up short, we would enjoy having a blog post on that subject at Twins Daily.

 

I do think it's safe to say that the Twins bombed the 06 draft, just as the Cards bombed the 04 draft.

 

 

I should add that the 2004 draft for the Cardinals was the year before Jeff Luhnow took over the drafting. Whether or not that was a factor -- or just coincidence -- the team's drafting improved greatly when they adjusted that system.

    • glunn likes this

I think this is a great analysis. As has been mentioned above, this is just looking at first round picks, and it doesn't differentiate between a #4 pick, a #14 pick or a #30 pick (like Levi Michael was). But for this analysis, it doesn't have to.

 

A guy like Hudson Boyd being selected at #55, at least in my mind, isn't the same as a Top 5 pick in terms of whether they would be a bust or not. But if we want to say that Levi Michael can't be considered a bust because he was drafted at 30, we also need to give the team credit for JO Berrios at 32. 

 

The draft is a strange thing. Scouts can watch players over and over again, and get to know the player and their families and be as comprehensive as they can possibly be. They can look at whatever stats factor in as well. And, there is still no way to know how it's going to turn out. It's impossible. It's easy to say that they need to be better than other teams... the reality is that they need to be luckier than the other teams.

 

Like Parker said, if anyone wants to dig deeper into this and put together a blog entry, that would be awesome!!

    • glunn and brvama like this

Part of that "luck" does involve injury too.

 

Who knows what Kyle Gibson's WAR may be if he hadn't needed Tommy John surgery in late 2011 and missed the 2012 season. He would have been up by about July of 2011 if he was healthy. Instead, he wasn't up until later in the 2013 season.

 

Matt Bashore was throwing left-handed and 97 at Indiana before the draft. That's a guy you'd want, right? He just couldn't get healthy.

 

That doesn't alter the results. The results are what they are... but the other half of the analysis would have to be some reasoning.  And again, blog articles on that topic would be very interesting for any of you interested in researching and publishing your thoughts/results. 

    • glunn likes this
Photo
Parker Hageman
Jan 28 2015 12:14 PM
Matt Bashore was throwing left-handed and 97 at Indiana before the draft. That's a guy you'd want, right? He just couldn't get healthy.

 

 

There's going to be plenty of unknown factors if we try to understand the process of a team's draft. On paper, Bashore seemed fantastic. But you wonder what a medical staff or someone analyzing mechanics may have advised. I'd love to hear from the Twins and see what they may have changed when preparing for the draft.

    • glunn and birdwatcher like this

Part of that "luck" does involve injury too.

 

Who knows what Kyle Gibson's WAR may be if he hadn't needed Tommy John surgery in late 2011 and missed the 2012 season. He would have been up by about July of 2011 if he was healthy. Instead, he wasn't up until later in the 2013 season.

 

 

Who knows what would have happened if we had passed on Gibson all together and got the OF from Millville HS :-)

    • glunn, jokin and nytwinsfan like this

This was a very good article.  It was an interesting analysis, and made some very good points.

 

I'd be curious to see how this changes post 2012 bonus pool limits.  I have a feeling that some teams probably didn't select a player because they wanted more money than their recommended slot bonus, which may have left the door open for a higher revenue team to spend more at a later draft position.  Hence, some team may have gotten a 10 5 or 10 talent much later in the draft because they could outspend smaller market teams on bonuses.  

 

I haven't looked at all the signing bonus data, so I don't know if this is the case or not though.  I think I remember the Twins not liking to go over the slot recommendations during that time though.  Jut another possible factor to mention.

    • glunn likes this
Photo
Parker Hageman
Jan 28 2015 12:18 PM
I haven't looked at all the signing bonus data, so I don't know if this is the case or not though.I think I remember the Twins not liking to go over the slot recommendations during that time though.Jut another possible factor to mention.

 

 

The Twins were fairly consistent with the signing bonus recommendations with the exception of Ben Revere. He signed for well below slot. 

    • glunn likes this

The development aspects were but briefly mentioned--but it is crucial to success.Unmentioned is the correlation of the skills evaluation (consensus opinion) of the player and how closely that they fit with the organization's ("The Twins Way") use of said skills.I cringe when I read that the organization wishes to make major changes in a player's mechanics (swing, delivery, approach, etc.) because it renders much of the initial evaluation useless, ergo, why this guy was selected so early in the draft.

    • glunn likes this

The Twins were fairly consistent with the signing bonus recommendations with the exception of Ben Revere. He signed for well below slot. 

That's what I remember.  What I was wondering was if other teams that drafted in similarly high positions (and got more eventual WAR from their draftees) were also spending close to the signing bonus recommendations, or did some regularly spend more allowing them to sign players that other teams had passed on due to "signability" issues.  

 

I don't think that would completely explain why it looks like the Twins did not do as well in the draft.  I'm just wondering if that was contributing factor.  I mean, even high priced prospects end up being busts, right?

    • glunn likes this

Who knows what would have happened if we had passed on Gibson all together and got the OF from Millville HS :-)

 

Twins Fans would have been IRATE at the Twins Scouting staff for drafting yet another toolsy outfielder... ha!

    • ChiTownTwinsFan, glunn, birdwatcher and 4 others like this

Twins Fans would have been IRATE at the Twins Scouting staff for drafting yet another toolsy outfielder... ha!

probably, though had we already developed a big history of doing that by the time the Trout draft came along?

 

We might be getting a look at him right about now at the major league level too :-)

    • glunn and jokin like this

Great Article.

That's what I remember.  What I was wondering was if other teams that drafted in similarly high positions (and got more eventual WAR from their draftees) were also spending close to the signing bonus recommendations, or did some regularly spend more allowing them to sign players that other teams had passed on due to "signability" issues.  

 

I don't think that would completely explain why it looks like the Twins did not do as well in the draft.  I'm just wondering if that was contributing factor.  I mean, even high priced prospects end up being busts, right?

Under the old system, certain teams absolutely went over the recommended slot a lot.  Boston probably did it the most but Detroit got Porcello (a top end talent who dropped) one pick in front of us.  By 2010, I think the majority of teams went over slot, while the Twins didn't - Carl Pohlad was very loyal to Selig on that issue, as was the Mets owner.  It was a really contentious issue on most message boards for a while.  Players like Span and Revere were seen as "safe" picks - both of those picks were panned almost immediately from prospect gurus.  

    • glunn, birdwatcher and James like this

I think this is one of those articles where higher level analysis is irrelevant to the main thrust of the article. The point is, the Twins have been bad for four straight years, and whiffing on high level draft picks for 6 straight years, thus depriving the team of fresh talent or attractive trade chips, is a big reason why. It's not necessary to run a statistical regression to determine the impact compared to other teams. Good article Parker.

 

I don't think anyone disagrees about the impact of the draft and that it's a big part of the "why" to our recent terrible teams.That's an easy conclusion.The next question of "why didn't we find better talent those years" is far more interesting to me.

    • birdwatcher likes this

I don't think anyone disagrees about the impact of the draft and that it's a big part of the "why" to our recent terrible teams.That's an easy conclusion.The next question of "why didn't we find better talent those years" is far more interesting to me.

 

A point where people seem to disagree is that the Twins should expect to do poorly drafting so late.....vs some who say that is not an acceptable expectation.....

 

It is hard to know if it is all drafting, all development, or what percent of each. It is hard to know how they really make decisions. All we can really know is the outcomes vs other teams......

    • glunn, jokin, markos and 1 other like this