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DRAFT DAY: Twins Myth #3448: Outfield Depth

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Tonight at 6:00 central time, the MLB Draft will commence. We have heard now that the Astros will select Stanford right-hander and Houston native Mark Appel. That means that the Minnesota Twins will have their pick of every other eligible player.

I have freely said that I will not be at all disappointed if the Twins take a college pitcher like Kyle Zimmer or Kevin Gausman, the college catcher Mike Zunino or high school bats like OF Byron Buxton or IF Carlos Correa. In fact, although there is a bunch of risk, I would be just fine with the Twins taking a shot on high school RHP Lucas Giolito.

Many fans and media types really want the Twins to use the #2 pick on a college pitcher. This makes a lot of sense as the Twins need pitching at every level, and the four pitchers mentioned above all reach into the upper-90s with their fastballs.

The general consensus appeared to be that the Twins will take Byron Buxton, the talented high school outfielder. Buxton is a very toolsie talent who is already considered strong defensively, with great speed and range and a strong arm. Scouts believe he will hit, but there are plenty of questions about what his upside is. Will he hit for power? We will find out in about four to six years.

Reading through the comments here and other places, I frequently read about how the Twins don’t need another toolsie outfielder. That is generally followed by a comment speaking about how much outfield depth the Twins have in the minor league system. A year ago, I may have agreed with that, but now? Let’s consider:

  • Denard Span and Josh Willingham have long-term contracts and are both under contract to fill two of the three outfield positions for the next three years. However, these two are the Twins most tradeable assets right now, so we don’t know if one or both of them will be around long-term.
  • Ben Revere, while being very good defensively (range-wise), has struggled with the bat and with getting on base. Of course, he still has room to improve and hopefully he will.
  • Rene Tosoni was the first outfielder to be called up to the Twins in 2011, and although he struggled until September, he did show some power. He went to AAA to start this season again, and was injured early. He returned in May and before the month was over, he was demoted to AA New Britain because he was hitting well under .200.
  • Joe Benson has hit very well in AA the last two years ago, and last September, he was called up to the Twins. During that time, we saw the good and the bad of Benson, but his ceiling is so high. He began this season in AAA but he got off to a slow start. It really got to him and it was necessary to send him down to AA in mid-May. Unfortunately, he broke his hamate bone and had surgery and will miss six weeks.
  • Aaron Hicks had a frustrating 2011 season in Ft. Myers. He had a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League last year. This spring, he was pushed up to AA New Britain where it has been a mixed bag of success and failure. He still hasn’t put up numbers as a left-handed batter, but is very good right-handed. Defensively, he is big-league ready now. The 2008 top pick still has a long ways to go.
  • Angel Morales put up huge numbers in the Appalachian League years ago, but his power has not shown much since then and he has really struggled this year since a great first week. He is still younger than Aaron Hicks, and he has the world of talent, but will it come together soon?
  • Max Kepler is still just 19 years old and will spend his second season in Elizabethton. That is the right thing to do with him, but being so raw means that he could develop into a great player, or he could never develop at all.

Obviously there are several more outfielders in the system, four to five per team, but for people to say that the Twins have huge outfield depth is, unfortunately, no longer the case. There are too many question marks right now. That isn’t to say that some of these very talented players mentioned above won’t turn it around and become very good regular in time.

What it does speak to is that you just never know with the draft, at any position, including the outfield. That is why taking the Best Available Player is always the right strategy. Finding the player they believe has the most upside, regardless of age or position. I know that the term “Toolsie Outfielder” seems to mean something negative right now to a lot of Twins fans. However, Torii Hunter and Denard Span were toolsie outfielders. Each of them took six to seven years after being drafted to get a chance in the big leagues. Ken Griffey Jr, Matt Kemp, BJ Upton, Justin Upton, Andrew McCutheon and Jay Bruce were toolsie outfielders. In the same way, Marc Newfeld, Paul Coleman and to some degree, BJ Garbe, were also toolsie outfielders. From the list above, Aaron Hicks, Joe Benson and to some degree Ben Revere were all drafted as toolsie outfielders and the jury is still out on them.

There are no ‘sure-things’ in the MLB Draft. However, there are several players that Twins fans should be excited about if they are taken with the #2 overall pick. As much as we like and want pitching, taking a toolsie outfielder like Byron Buxton would NOT be a bad pick at all… as long as they address the pitching with several of their remaining five Top 100 picks.

It will not surprise me in the least if the Twins take Buxton, although I will also not be shocked or disappointed if they pick any of the seven names mentioned earlier. I will, however, be shocked if the Twins do not take Rochester Century’s RHP Mitch Brown with the #32 overall pick in the draft.

Stay tuned to Twins Daily and the forums throughout the day for any Draft-related news. It is a big day for the Twins and their future.
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