Draft Series - Part 1: Locals
This is the first in a series of weekly installments leading up to the June 5th through 7th draft. The focus is intended to be very Twins-specific.
As we are all well aware, the Twins have been very active in drafting players out of their own backyard. While this includes Joe Mauer and Glen Perkins, it's also happened 10 times in the last five drafts. [PRBREAK][/PRBREAK]
That is only the players drafted directly from the state and doesn't count players such as Madison Boer and Brandon Peterson, two players who played in the state as preps before moving out of state to play collegiately. All told, the Twins still seem smitten by the talent that's developed in-state and while they don't necessarily take these players early in the draft, they still seem to take them.
The point of the following list is to make you aware of some players who are competing locally who are considered draft prospects for the 2014 draft. The Twins may select one, three, five or none of them. But it's fun to know about them nonetheless.
There are no Ryan Boldts or Logan Shores in this draft. Or even Mitch Browns. But there still a handful of preps to keep your eyes on as the early June draft approaches.
Sam Hentges (LHP, Mounds View HS) is a big-bodied (6-6, 240) lefty who is committed to going to Arkansas next fall. Though Hentges doesn't possess the blazing fastball you might expect from such a big guy (mid-80s who occasionally hit 88 last fall), he does have good mechanics and good control. He's also developing a decent curveball. Hentges also handles the bat well (as a first baseman), so it wouldn't be at all surprising to see him take his two-way ability to Fayetteville for three seasons. The #1-ranked prep in the state according to Perfect Game, Hentges could slip into the back half of the Top 10 rounds if he shows a willingness to sign, though the likelihood is he won't sign and that will push where he gets drafted into the 20-30 round range (much like it did to Shore last year).
Nick Rooney (OF, Minnetonka HS) checks in as Perfect Game's #2 prospect in the state. Rooney was Minnetonka's starting quarterback on the football team and is known for his confident - we'll call it - flair. Rooney, who isn't committed anywhere in either football or baseball, shows up to school each day decked out in a suit and tie. Not overly big (6-1, 185) or fast, Rooney gets the most out of what he has and will be someone to keep an eye on this spring. It wouldn't be surprising to see him take his two-sport ability to St. Cloud State, where both his parents attended and his dad played football.
Connor Herd (LHP, Holy Family (Victoria) Catholic HS) is a long, projectable (6-4, 180) lefty who is committed to Mercer.
Some other preps to keep an eye on in the state of Minnesota are: C Toby Hanson (Delano HS committed to Minnesota), LHP Dalton Lehnen (Lakeville HS committed to Cincinnati) and RHP Michael Baumann (Mahtomedi HS committed to Jacksonville).
The player who may be the best "local prep" out of this class, though, falls just on the other side of the Mississippi from Winona.
Jeren Kendall (OF, Holmen (WI) HS) is the son of former Phillies farmhand Jeremey Kendall. The Minnesota tie - if proximity isn't good enough - is that his dad was drafted out of Winona State. Though his mom attended school there too, it's not going to be enough to keep him (near) home. If he forgoes signing - which he's recently said he isn't even thinking about - he'll spend the next three seasons at Vanderbilt, a school which traditionally gets most of its commits to sign.
Kendall is already showing sub-4.0 second speed from home to first and that speed plays up on the basepaths and in center field. That just leaves his bat to question and even that has shown a lot of improvement. Kendall currently isn't showing up in National Top 50s, but once his season gets going, we could see a guy who starts to get Top 2 Round consideration. Do the Twins need another center fielder? Well, if they make their first two picks count with impact arms, Kendall could be a steal in Round 3 regardless of what's already on the Twins' shelves.
There is also one more very intriguing name. And it's intriguing because his grandfather was one of, if not the greatest Minnesota Twin ever: Harmon Killebrew.
Grant Hockin (RHP, Pomona, CA) is a 6-3, 195 righty with good baseball in his genes. He's not overpowering, but he throws four solid pitches that he commands well. Doesn't this just sound like something the Twins need to do? Already 18, Hockin is committed to UCLA. Let's just make him a Twin right now.
There are also some college guys with Minnesota pasts to know about as the draft comes around:
Pat Kelly (2B, Nebraska by way of Red Wing HS) was probably the lead recruiter when it came to getting Ryan Boldt to Lincoln. But Kelly's not a bad ballplayer himself. He just returned to his home state and helped the Cornhuskers sweep the Gophers. While he didn't do a ton offensively over the course of the series, he's still batting over .300 as the cleanup hitter. Kelly might be best off returning for his senior year of college, but could easily be someone that piques the Twins interest on the 3rd day of the draft.
Ben Meyer (RHP, Minnesota by way of Totino-Grace HS) is a tall, skinny (6-5, 180) pitcher who is probably the only draft-eligible Gopher to make a positive impression on area scouts. LHP Dalton Sawyer (Waconia HS) is only a sophomore, but he will be sure to draw attention next season.
If you have any questions or comment, please feel free to leave them below. I'll also take suggestions on where you'd like to see this series go next.
Thanks to the Twins win over the Royals on Sunday, it means that on Monday you can get 50% off a Large or Extra Large pizza when you use the “TWINSWIN” promotion code at PapaJohns.com.