Looking Back: Recent Twins Drafts
Image courtesy of David McQueen (photo of Alex Kirilloff)What I did was looked at six drafts. I counted how many players the team signed from each draft. I looked at which levels the players have advanced to, and of course, how many players from each class have been released. Some have chosen to retire. There have been some players drafted in the major league and minor league Rule 5 drafts. And, of course, there have been some players who have spent time with the Twins. There are also some top prospects and others who will eventually get there.
Players Signed: 33
Players Releases: 5
Players at Ft. Myers: 5 (Tom Hackimer, Mitchell Kranson, Brandon Lopez, Sean Poppen, Clark Beeker)
Players at Cedar Rapids: 12 (Ben Rortvedt, Griffin Jax, Alex Schick, Shane Carrier, Ryan Mason, Tyler Wells, Tyler Beardsley, Dom Carlini, Caleb Hamilton, Colton Davis, Joe Cronin, Pat McGuff)
Players at Elizabethton: 4 (Jose Miranda, Akil Baddoo, Matt Albanese, Juan Gamez)
Players at the GCL: 6 (Jordan Balazovic, Tyler Benninghoff, Zack Featherstone, Kidany Salva, Matt Jones, Dane Hutcheon)
First-Round Draft Pick: Alex Kirilloff is not listed with any of the teams. He is rehabbing following Tommy John surgery in March.
The One That Got Away: In the 38th round, the Twins selected Brent Rooker. He went back to college, won the SEC Triple Crown, and the Twins used their Competitive Balance pick to take him. He’s already in Ft. Myers, but it does make me wonder what would have happened had he signed. He would have played 2016 in Elizabethton, and probably would have spent all of 2017 in Cedar Rapids. For him,going back to school was absolutely the best move for him.
Summary: The Twins surprised many with their strategy of taking high-ceiling prep players with their first four picks (Kirilloff, Rortvedt, Miranda, Baddoo). In addition, the took high school pitchers Jordan Balazovic and Tyler Benninghoff. Kirilloff was touted by many in the scouting world as the top hitter in the draft. Rortvedt struggled the first two months in Cedar Rapids before being pretty solid the last six weeks or so. Benninghoff had Tommy John surgery right after being drafted and just returned this week.
Hackimer, Poppen and Beeker were senior draft picks. So was Brandon Lopez, but they’ve all been good. Shane Carrier struggled early in Cedar Rapids, but after a stint in Elizabethton, he’s returned to the Kernels red hot.
Griffin Jax only had six weeks to pitch, but he made a good impression with the Kernels before heading to Cape Canaveral. Zach Featherstone was drafted as an outfielder/first baseman. He was transitioned to the mound a few weeks before the GCL season started.
Frankly, it’s just hard to judge this draft yet because of taking so many young players early. Those players are doing fine, of course, but all will need time.
Players Signed: 27
Players Released: 6
Players at Chattanooga: 3 (Tyler Jay, LaMonte Wade, Alex Perez)
Players at Ft. Myers: 9 (Alex Robinson, Chris Paul, Sean Miller, Zander Wiel, Cody Stashak, Anthony McIver, Jaylin Davis, Andrew Vasquez, Brian Olson)
Players at Cedar Rapids: 6 (Travis Blankenhorn, Trey Cabbage, Lean Marrero, Logan Lombana, Hector Lujan, Max Cordy)
Players at Elizabethton: 2 (Jovani Moran, Kolton Kendrick)
First-Round Draft Pick: College reliever Tyler Jay was taken with the sixth overall pick. The Twins, and many other in the industry believed that he could be a starter in pro ball. In fact, when I talked to Keith Law in May, he was disappointed the Twins (and Jay) decided to move him back to the bullpen. He’s missed most of this season, though he pitched in the GCL in a rehab appearance on Wednesday.
Summary: Jay was a questionable and a questioned pick when it was made. Of course Andrew Benintendi being taken one pick later doesn’t help, although that is always a terrible way to judge a draft pick. If healthy (or hopefully when healthy), Jay has a chance to be a Glen Perkins-in-his-prime type of pitcher, which can be incredibly valuable. The jury is out on the rest of the draft. Most of the college players have advanced to Ft. Myers. Alex Robinson appears to have overcome some of his control issues and become a strikeout machine. Chris Paul, Zander Wiel, Cody Stashak and Anthony McIver have put up solid numbers the last couple of years. Jaylin Davis has provided a lot of power.
There is certainly some ceiling in Travis Blankenhorn and Trey Cabbage. Taken in the third and fourth rounds, respectively, they both are tremendous athletes with high ceilings, but still more to learn. Kolton Kendrick and Jovani Moran are still in Elizabethton. Both were very young, raw prospects when drafted, and both have shown some of that talent in 2017.
Two late-round college pitchers have become sleeper prospects this season. Drafted out of Westmont College, lefty Andrew Vasquez and right-hander Hector Lujan have done very nice jobs. Lujan has turned into the Kernels closer and throws 95-96 with two good secondary pitches. Vasquez has been a strikeout machine.
Players Signed: 30
Players Released: 15
Players Retired: 2 (Mat Batts, Alex Real)
Players with the Twins: 1 (Trevor Hildenberger)
Players at Rochester: 2 (Jake Reed, John Curtiss)
Players at Chattanooga: 5 (Nick Gordon, Nick Burdi, Sam Clay, Max Murphy, TJ White)
Players at Ft. Myers: 4 (Keaton Steele, Randy LeBlanc, Tanner English, Michael Theofanopoulos)
Players at Cedar Rapids: 1 (Andro Cutura - TJ in May 2016)
First-Round Draft Picks: Nick Gordon was the Twins choice, and he’s become a consensus Top 40 prospect in all of baseball. Following a strong performance in the Arizona Fall League, he got a big league spring training invitation. He had a great first half, was named a Southern League All-Star, and participated in the Futures Game. Between he and Royce Lewis, the Twins have a 1-2 combo of top prospects who are very exciting.
Summary: Nick Gordon has become an elite prospect. You could have made a lot of money if you had said Trevor Hildenberger, drafted in the 22nd round after five years at Cal-Berkeley, would be the first player from this draft to get to the big leagues. And he looks like he could stick for a long time. Nick Burdi and Jake Reed would likely be in the big leagues now if not for injuries. Reed should be up in September. So should John Curtiss. If not, those two should be givens to be added to the 40-man roster in November. Sam Clay moved back to the bullpen this year, and he’s been terrific. Recently, he was moved to AA Chattanooga.
Players Signed: 28
Players Released: 17
Players Retired: 1 (Alex Swim)
Players with the Twins: Zack Granite (14), Aaron Slegers (5)
Players at Rochester: 2 (Stephen Gonsalves, Mitch Garver)
Players at Chattanooga: 4 (Kohl Stewart, Ryan Eades, Brian Navarreto, Ryan Walker)
Players at Ft. Myers: 1 (Nelson Molina)
Rule 5 pick lost: Stuart Turner
First-Round Pick: Kohl Stewart was the #4 pick out of high school where he was a star quarterback, committed to Texas A&M. The Twins convinced him, with a lot of money, to forgo his football dreams to pursue pitching. He put up solid numbers throughout the lower levels of the minor leagues, though his lack of strikeouts concerned many. But he has advanced pretty quickly. This year, he missed a couple of months due to a knee injury. He’s returned, and he’s still in the Twins plans, as he should be. Kohl Stewart will pitch in the big leagues.
Summary: Zack Granite was hitting over .360 when he was promoted to the Twins. With Rosario, Buxton and Kepler in the daily lineup, Granite is back down in Rochester, but he’s ready to contribute when needed. Slegers was called up to the Twins to be the 26th man and start Thursday’s second game for the Twins.
But the top prospect from this group is certainly Stephen Gonsalves, their fourth-round pick. He may be in line to get his big league promotion for the Twins double- header on Monday. If not then, it will happen in the near future. Mitch Garver probably should be in the big leagues, but he’ll have to wait until the end of the Red Wings season to make his debut.
Players Signed: 27
Players Released: 15
Players Retired: 1 (Dalton Hicks)
Players with the Twins: 5 (Byron Buxton (1), Jose Berrios (1s), JT Chargois (2), Tyler Duffey (5), Taylor Rogers (11).
Players at Rochester: 2 (Luke Bard, Mason Melotakis)
Players at Chattanooga: 2 (Zack Jones, DJ Baxendale)
Players at Ft. Myers: 1 (Alex Muren)
Players lost in Rule 5 draft: Zack Jones (to Milwaukee, but he was returned mid-season)
Players DFAd: 1 - Adam Brett Walker spent a season on the Twins 40-man roster before being DFAd last November.
First-Round Picks: Byron Buxton was the #2 overall draft pick, selected after Houston took Carlos Correa. He moved quickly the first two pro seasons, earning the title of baseball’s #1 prospect. He was likely going to be called up sometime in 2014, but it became an injury-riddled season for him. He debuted in 2015, likely far before he was ready. He’s struggled, including the first six weeks of this season. His defense is elite, and his offense has been pretty good since that slow start. Jose Berrios was taken with the 32nd overall pick. He put up numbers, and slowly his prospect rankings (among Twins raters, and national publications) continued to rise. He finally made his debut in 2016 and really struggled. He’s been much better since his call up in 2017, though it’s clear he’s still working to gain more consistency. Luke Bard was the second supplemental pick. He fought injuries from the time he was drafted until the 2016 season. He’s been quite good, a strikeout machine the last two years, and recently he was promoted to Rochester, just one step from the big leagues.
SUMMARY: The Twins went with youth and high-ceiling talent with their first two picks. After that, they went with a string of college relievers and attempted to convert some of them to starters. Tyler Duffey got to the big leagues as a starter, but has pitched out of the bullpen this year. The others moved to the bullpen full-time earlier. Injuries played a big role in a lot of that as well. Melotakis, Chargois, Zack Jones, Alex Muren have all missed significant time due to surgeries.
I think it would be hard to label the 2012 Twins draft as anything but successful. Buxton and Berrios have taken their lumps in the big leagues, but they’ve experienced success as 23-year-olds this year. Chargois and Duffey can both be very good relievers. Chargois just needs to be healthy. Duffey has success, but will need to be more consistent. Taylor Rogers has been reliable in the Twins bullpen and was fantastic in the first half this year. Also, guys like Luke Bard and Mason Melotakis could still surface with the Twins as soon as September.
Players Signed: 33
Players Released: 26
Players Retired: 1 (Tyler Grimes)
Players selected in minor league portion of Rule 5 draft: 1 (Matthew Tomshaw)
Players with Twins (Jason Wheeler pitched twice for the Twins this year, then DFAd)
Players with Rochester: 1 (David Hurlbut)
Players with Chattanooga: 3 (Levi Michael, Travis Harrison, Dereck Rodriguez)
First-Round Picks: Levi Michael was drafted out of North Carolina with the 30th pick. While he had missed some time that year due to injury, many evaluators, including Keith Law, ranked him much higher than #30. Unfortunately, Michael was hurt much of his early career, and after spending a couple of years at Ft. Myers, he has spent the past three seasons in AA. He plays some second base, but mostly center field. Travis Harrison was drafted with the first of two supplemental picks. He moved up one level at a time, until 2014 when he hit AA. He’s still in AA Chattanooga. He’s moved from third base to the outfield. He is currently on the DL. The other supplemental pick was Hudson Boyd, and that just didn’t work out. He fought issues from weight to substance abuse (including a 50-game suspension). He was released in 2015.
Summary: I think it’s fair to say that 2011 was not a successful draft for the Twins. Six years later, the two remaining first round picks are still in AA. Jason Wheeler got to the big leagues, but after two games, they let him go and he was selected by the Dodgers. He’s now in the Orioles system. Davis Hurlbut was drafted by the Twins in 2010 and 2011. The 28th rounder has pitched quite well in Rochester the last two seasons. The fourth player remaining in the organization from that draft is Dereck Rodriguez. After three years as an outfielder, he was shifted to the mound where he’s done a nice job, and the Twins have been patient with him. He’s split this season between the Miracle and the Lookouts. These four players can become free agents following the World Series, unless they are put on the 40-man roster before then. Rodriguez is a possibility.
This was fun to research and write. I enjoyed remembering so many of the names of players who have been released that I've met over the years.
But hopefully you get something out of this. Maybe, if nothing else, an appreciation for how hard it is the get to the big leagues... and judging from the number of releases, you can see how hard it is to last even just three years in an organization before being released.
- brvama, NoCryingInBaseball, Dance with Disco Dan and 5 others like this