Feeling The Draft: Analyzing Minnesota's Stellar Early Returns
For the first time, the organization had the analytics department put together a model to kind of inform us of some of the decisions we can make in the draft, and just big picture, without getting into too many details. If you tell us what the percentage chance was of the player appearing in one of the next three picks that we had, if you don't take them in the second round, what are the chances he'll be in the third, fourth, or fifth round.
This method likely helped facilitate the key maneuver that defined Minnesota's draft: making a surprise pick at No. 1 in Royce Lewis, then using the savings from that selection to later take high school right-hander Blayne Enlow at the top of the third round and sign him with a hugely over-slot bonus.
Those two teenagers are both experiencing incredible success in their introductions to the pro ranks, making the Twins look very savvy.
Lewis reported to the rookie-level Gulf Coast League and dominated at the plate over 39 games before earning a promotion to Class-A Cedar Rapids last weekend. For a prep pick to reach a full-season league in the same year he was drafted is exceedingly rare (not even Carlos Correa, who we're all dreaming on as a Lewis comp, did it), but it speaks to the 18-year-old's extremely advanced game.
The shortstop has made himself right at home as one of the Midwest League's youngest players, going 7-for-13 in his first three games with the Kernels. The last top draft pick for the Twins, Joe Mauer, reached the majors shortly before his 21st birthday, and no younger player has debuted for the franchise since. Lewis is now on track to beat him – maybe handily.
Enlow, too, has been sensational in his initial sample. Through four appearances in the GCL, he has a 1.29 ERA and 0.74 WHIP. The righty has faced 54 batters and allowed only three walks and seven hits (five of them singles) while striking out 14 with a 57 percent grounder rate. It doesn't get much better than that.
It was surprising that Enlow, ranked as the 33rd best prospect in the class by Baseball America ahead of the draft, fell all the way to the Twins at No. 76 overall, especially because he was widely reputed to have the best curveball of any high schooler in the draft and that pitch has increasingly become a central focus in the game.
But it worked out, and the analytics system Levine alluded to may have played into that.
Oh, and about that beautiful curveball. Enlow himself likes to admire it, and who can blame him?
Looking beyond Lewis and Enlow, nearly every other high-end draft pick from this class is showing positive early signs.
Brent Rooker, the collegiate slugger taken with their second pick at No. 35, has already moved up to High-A Fort Myers, and was just named Player of the Week in the Florida State League following a monster stretch for the Miracle. The polished 22-year-old hitter is on the fast track and could conceivably be in Minnesota next year. His presence looms large since the Twins have an upcoming vacancy at first base, and had no particularly attractive long-term solution before Rooker joined the organization.
Second-round prep right-hander Landon Leach has looked very sharp in the GCL. Fourth-round left-hander Charlie Barnes has excelled and earned a promotion from Elizabethton to Cedar Rapids. Fifth-rounder Andrew Bechtold, a third baseman out of the University of Maryland, is hitting .311/.414/.472 through 32 games in the Appalachian League.
Other pitchers taken in the top 10 rounds, Ryley Widell (7th), Bryan Sammons (8th) and Calvin Faucher (10th) are – without exception – off to terrific starts as pros, racking up strikeouts and shutting down opponents.
We're barely two months past the 2017 MLB Draft, and these players have sample sizes so small it would be absurd to draw any definitive conclusions from what we've seen. Still, it's impossible to look at Minnesota's class at this point and not be reaffirmed in your belief in this new regime.
The Twins followed a strategy that was viewed by many at the time as unconventional and controversial. Right now, it's looking awfully smart.
So far, their batting average in this draft is even higher than Lewis's in the Midwest League.
- James, Monkeypaws, mikelink45 and 1 other like this