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The 2010s Twins and 1st Round Heartbreak

Sometimes it’s fun to look back into baseball’s past and consider alternate timelines. Drafts are often a different story, as for every team that hits on a superstar, it feels like four or five teams completely whiff. This was especially true for the Minnesota Twins in the early 2010s.
Image courtesy of © David Berding-USA TODAY Sports
For this painful trip down memory lane, I decided to look at the Twins first round draft picks between 2011-2015. This timeline looks to be a sweet spot of players that would likely still be with the team in the present day. We’ll take a look at the Twins picks, the pick that they should have made, and other top players drafted during that year, all being displayed with their fWAR next to their names just to drive the point home. Brace yourselves Twins fans, this is going to get ugly.

2011:
Twins Pick: Levi Michael (0)

The Redraft: Mookie Betts (40.2)

Other Options: Trevor Story (17.9), Joe Musgrove (8.2), Blake Snell (11.6), Josh Bell (3.5), Mike Clevinger (11.8), Tyler Glasnow (4.0), Marcus Semien (18.6)

I told you this would be painful. Michael never made it to the majors and is no longer with the organization. Meanwhile, Mookie Betts just signed a nine-figure extension with the Dodgers and will get MVP votes for years to come. In this case it’s fair to point out that every team whiffed on Mookie multiple times, as he was drafted in the fifth round. Even with the Twins stockpile of outfield talent, I’m pretty sure we could have made room for Mookie Betts. The same can be said for any other name on this list. Terry Ryan and company were one of those teams that flat out missed in the first round in 2011.

2012:
Twins Pick: Byron Buxton (8.7)

The Redraft: Corey Seager (20.1)

Other Options: Max Fried (5.1), David Dahl (2.9), Lucas Giolito (6.8), Corey Seager (20.1), Marcus Stroman (15.8), Joey Gallo (9.5), Lance McCullers (10.9), Edwin Diaz (7.3), Josh Hader (6.3)

This one was tough for me, as I wanted to stand by the Twins draft selection here. They took the most athletic player in this draft, and we’ve seen it play out when Buxton has been on the field. The issue is Buxton remaining on the field. He could easily be leading the entirety of the 2012 draft in fWAR if not for injury. That being said, it’s hard not to dream on a franchise shortstop like Corey Seager. He may not be a gold glover, but Seager would be the face of a franchise if not for playing in a lineup full of other stars. That being said, it’s hard to fault the Twins for taking Buxton, who’s been one of their more successful recent draft picks.

2013:
Twins Pick: Kohl Stewart (.2)

The Redraft: Cody Bellinger (16.7)

Other Options: Austin Meadows (4.0), Tim Anderson (9.9), Aaron Judge (18.8), Sean Manaea (7.8), Jeff McNeil (8.4), Luke Voit (5.7)

Another yikes here. While Stewart did make it to the majors, what else can you say? He was released last offseason and picked up by the Orioles who also had no role for him. While Judge has been the more valuable player, Bellinger hasn’t had the injuries and is an athletic player who can switch between 1B and OF. For what it’s worth, the Twins were interested in Bellinger in the trade market when dangling Brian Dozier. If only they had shown their interest a bit earlier.

2014:
Twins Pick: Nick Gordon (0)

The Redraft: Trea Turner (17.1)

Other Options: Aaron Nola (19.2), Michael Conforto (16), Matt Chapman (16.7), Alex Verdugo (3.7), Spencer Turnbull (4.7), John Means (3.3)

Gordon could still carve a nice career out for himself. Unfortunately that probably won’t play out with the Twins after injuries have buried him in the depth chart. Again we see plenty of options here, but for the sake of the Twins getting a franchise shortstop, it would have worked out nicely to grab the speedy Turner in the first round. Matt Chapman being a slugging all world defensive 3B wouldn’t have hurt either, but he recently had a significant hip surgery that ended his season. You’re starting to see the trend here, nailing a draft pick isn’t an exact science.

2015:
Twins Pick: Tyler Jay (0)

The Redraft: Walker Buehler (8.4)

Other Options: Andrew Benintendi (8.5), Ian Happ (6.7), Mike Soroka (4.9), Triston McKenzie (.6), Brandon Lowe (5.8), Harrison Bader (6.5)

Another swing and a miss here, as the Twins gave Tyler Jay away to the Reds for cash considerations a few years back. This is at least a draft where missing wasn’t uncommon, as the list of slam dunk picks after Jay is thinner than a lot of the others we’ve seen. Buehler is in contention for the ace of the Dodgers who just won the world series which makes this choice pretty simple. Buehler is also another player the Dodgers refused to move in Brian Dozier talks a few years ago.

So as you can see, not a ton of success from the front office in the first round during these five years. Worth noting however is that Derek Falvey took over shortly thereafter and the early returns have been promising. At the very least the Twins look like they’ll avoid complete whiffs like we saw all too often in the past. There’s not much we can do about past decisions, but it’s interesting to dream on what could have been if the Twins made a few different decisions. Do you agree with the redraft decisions? Would you have chosen anyone else? Let us know below!

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12 Comments

A very odd mix of overly conservative picks and flat-out gambles. I stuck with Terry Ryan longer than some, but this resume is pretty bad, especially considering that Ryan came from the scouting department when he was elevated to the GM role. The gambles didn't pan out, and ironically the safe picks didn't even achieve the assumed floor. I don't know if it was a failure of evaluation, or of development. Total System Failure covers both, though.

    • Danchat likes this
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tony&rodney
Nov 21 2020 08:43 AM

Remember these all quite clearly. Debates raged about college players and flame throwing high school pitchers. The one that really hurt, because it seemed the available information was present, was choosing Tyler Jay. From my couch I preferred Buehler and then Benintendi. My third choice was McKenzie. Still, what did I know? A little video, game reports, watching a few games, and blogs were my only sources. Terry Ryan spoke at a coaches' clinic at St. Olaf's College every winter and it was understood that anything he said was kept among us. He also brought along a young player each year. The most cocky, and funny, but also well spoken was A.J Pierzsinski. Ryan was always real direct. His baseball knowledge was beyond compare as was his integrity. Terry Ryan is a gentleman in all respects; the consummate baseball man, respected by all across the league.

Something about the baseball draft swings wildly for many teams, back and forth, from success to failure. The 2012 draft brought Byron Buxton and every single team in baseball would have taken him that year.

Lately, the Twins have taken a number of DH/!B/corner OF types. Once again, only the future will exonerate or refute these decisions. One thing I am confident of - Ryan and Falvine and their team of scouts and talent evaluators are more knowledgable than me.

    • DocBauer likes this

Did you have to remind us of their drafting success, Cody?

 

One superstar (#2 pick) who has trouble staying on the field. That was a great pick that still could work out. But most of the other four were also higher in the round and they have nothing, zip, nada to show for it. Where would the Twins be had they hit on one star, one solid starter and one valuable reserve out of those four?Yuck!

    • alphanumeric likes this
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Doctor Gast
Nov 21 2020 11:28 AM

You`re right, drafting isn`t rocket science. We can`t always go solely by stats either, there are intangibles also to consider like drive for excellence &to win. We really missed it thoseyears except Buxton (hard to figure in accidents) aside from the accidents Buxton is a super star. You can say Buxton has too much drive, going all out which makes his body vulnerable. Tony Oliva played all out & wrecked his knee which stole many productive years from him which maybecost him the HOF selection. I admire those who play w/ all their hearts. 

    • Seth Stohs and DocBauer like this

I always think these are a bit weird... I mean, if they did a re-draft in 2010, Mookie Betts isn't close to available at #30. He might go one or two... and the player that would rank #30 by WAR or whatever, probably is a 2-3 WAR player, so there's that. 

 

 

    • DocBauer, rdehring and Cody Pirkl like this

I always think these are a bit weird... I mean, if they did a re-draft in 2010, Mookie Betts isn't close to available at #30. He might go one or two... and the player that would rank #30 by WAR or whatever, probably is a 2-3 WAR player, so there's that.


Agree here 100%. It's interesting and fun in a dark way to re-visit past drafts in any sport. But drafts are always a bit of a crapshoot, especially in baseball. And for every whiff in the first round, many teams have a stud player from each class drafted later on.

Stewart was considered a great athlete with tremendous potential and about as sure of a thing as you can get in a HS pitcher. Raw, but tremendous potential. He wasn't a reach at the time.

No offense to Gordon who I still believe can carve out a decent career as a solid utility player with some offense, but I just never saw him as a good pick that early. (Though some early success made me optimistic). I really liked Turner in that draft. But as I recall, he had a down season and slid down the boards. He was a guy I really wanted.

Tremendous disappointment for Jay. But again, as I recall, it was considered a poor draft that year and the Twins needed arms. He was one of the most talented ones that year and should have been a quality RP at worst. HUGE bummer there!

No way I can downgrade the Buxton selection as there was no way to predict injuries and set backs. He's a stud when he plays. And he's still young enough to believe we haven't seen the best of him yet.
    • rdehring likes this

By starting the discussion with 2011, this article does not do justice to the Terry Ryan'sTwins first round draft ineptitude but does avoid reminding us of many additional years of draft futility.The first round failures

Matthew Moses 2003
Steven Waldrop2004
Matthew Fox 2004 Supplemental
Jay Rainville 2004 Supplemental
Henry Sanchez 2005
Chris Parmelee 2006
Carlos Gutiérrez2008
Shooter Hunt 2008 Supplemental
Matthew Bashore 2009
Alex Wimmers 2010

Successes or partial successes in this time frame include
Aaron Heilman 2000 (drafted but did not sign)
Joe Mauer 2001
Denard Span 2002
Trevor Plouffe 2004
Glen Perkins 2004
Matt Garza 2005
Ben Revere 2007
Aaron Hicks 2008
Kyle Gibson 2009

 

From 2000 - 2016, about 48% of the Twins first round picks had some type of decent career in the majors.(I put Luke Bard in the disappointment category).There were in this time frame multiyear stretches of futility. I am not sure if this number is historically bad compared to other teams.Revisionist history is not the proper way to evaluate draft selections.In hindsight everyone knows that Mike Trout and Mookie Betts should have been selected.However, most other teams also passed on these talents.A proper way to judge the draft would be compare the Twins long term draft results to other teams based some pre-defined objective criteria.My choices for this criteria would include:Did they make it to the majors, 3 highest years of WAR, number of years played and total war.I would also be interested in median as well as mean results. 

 

My instincts are aligned with the theme of the article in that the Terry Ryan was doing a poor job in selecting the Twins first round pick(s) each year.However, I have not seen statistical data comparing his success/failures to those of other MLB teams.Most of the current starting team was signed by Ryan.And there are still promising players in the minors that were drafted under Terry Ryan (such as Jordan Balazovic and Ben Rortvedt)

Presently, it looks like Thad Levine’s is running at about at least a 60 - 80% success rate.Keoni Cavaco is likely to be a disappointment (although he is still young)and it is too early to determine the outcome of Aaron Sabato’s selection.However in order to achieve a higher success rate, they have sacrificed defensive value by choosing mostly bat first college players.There are some long term limitations of this strategy.Some of Levine’s non-first round picks such as Ryan Jeffers are likely to have decent MLB careers.Levine also seems to be doing better in getting value in trades.

    • DocBauer likes this

I think if you ran the same analysis on any major league team, you would find the same hit and miss track record on their high picks. 

 

By only picking out the failures, you fail to see the picks that turned out to be quite good, given where they were picked and what the other options were around them.Scott Baker, Denard Span, Ben Revere, Aaron Hicks, Kyle Gibson(if he hadn't been picked in front of Mike Trout).

 

And you have to consider that a great number of the picks failure was due to health reasons

I saw Matt Bashore mentioned here. He, too, could not stay healthy and was eventually released. But years later, I saw him pitch for either the Sioux Falls Canaries or the team they were playing that night. He was fabulous. And not long after the Yankees signed him to a new minor league deal. He pitched quite well for them in 2012, then he was gone again. Probably injured again.

 

As someone else said, this is a lot of times a shot in the dark. Mookie Betts was definitely a shot in the dark. And many others as well.

 

I personally would have picked someone other than Nick Gordon or Tyler Jay. But people with far more expertise than I made those picks. And of course, they too have been felled by the injury bug.

    • DocBauer likes this
Is it partly because the Twins keep players in the minors too long?
    • Eris likes this
Or give up too easily (Hicks) or can’t/couldn’t develop them?

 

A very odd mix of overly conservative picks and flat-out gambles. I stuck with Terry Ryan longer than some, but this resume is pretty bad, especially considering that Ryan came from the scouting department when he was elevated to the GM role. The gambles didn't pan out, and ironically the safe picks didn't even achieve the assumed floor. I don't know if it was a failure of evaluation, or of development. Total System Failure covers both, though.

Worth noting that despite Ryan being gone for over 4 years Rogers, Duffey, Colina, Stashak, Thorpe, Berrios, Bolazovic, Sano, Rosario, Rortvedt, Rooker, Wade, Polanco, Kiriloff, Kepler, Gordon, Garver, Buxton, Blankenhorn & Arraez, more than half of the 37 guys currently on the 40 man roster are Ryan gets.

    • DocBauer likes this

FWIW, Stewart wasn't "without a role" last year. He opted out of the season.