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Checking in on the Twins 2021 Draft Class: Part 1


Andrew Mahlke

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The MLB draft is not nearly as popular as the NFL or NBA drafts. In 2021, 12.6 million people tuned in to watch Roger Goodell announce the first round of draft picks. Over the last 10 years, the NBA draft has had between 2 and 4 million viewers. The MLB however, had barely over 1 million viewers in 2021. However, the MLB draft remains very important.

 

Since 1965 (when the first MLB draft was held), 9 of the Twins top 13 players in terms of WAR were drafted by the Twins. These players include Joe Mauer, Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek, Chuck Knoblauch, Gary Gaetti, Torii Hunter, Justin Morneau, Brian Dozier, and Corey Koskie. As you can see, most of our franchise’s best players were drafted by us and that stresses the importance of drafting well.

 

Without further ado, let’s jump in to checking in on our 2021 draft class


 

Round 1, Pick 26: Chase Petty, RHP, Mainland Regional HS (NJ)

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Chase Petty was one of the most electrifying players drafted in 2021. Petty was the third high school pitcher taken in the draft. High school pitchers are generally riskier selections than college pitchers just because they haven’t proven themselves at a higher level yet. 

 

Petty is worth the risk. He has a fastball that sits in the upper 90s and it has been up to 100 mph. He also has a firm slider that sits in the upper 80s and has a spin rate between 2600 and 2700 RPM. Lookout Landing does a great job breaking down Petty’s stuff and mechanics here

 

Petty is a high-octane arm who only throws three pitches, so I foresee him as the Twins closer of the future. Petty is one of the most exciting players in the Twins farm system, ranking as our 7th best prospect.

 

Petty saw very limited action in the 2021 minor league season, making 2 appearances (one start) for the FCL Twins in the Florida Complex League. Between these 2 appearances, he threw 5 innings, allowing 3 runs on 6 hits and one walk while striking out 6. He only faced 21 batters so obviously this is a small sample size, but Petty had a solid start to his professional baseball career. Look for Petty to make some noise in 2022.

 

Comp Round A, Pick 36: Noah Miller, SS, Ozaukee HS (WI)

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It is often said that shortstops are the best athletes on the field. Most MLB infielders were shortstops on their high school or college teams. It is always a good thing to have too many shortstops because you can move them around the field.

Seth Stohs wrote a great article about Noah Miller that really highlights everything about him. The Twins loved his makeup, athleticism, and rare ability to hit at a high level from both sides of the plate. In Miller's senior year of high school, he hit .608 with 6 home runs and 21 RBI’s. Miller currently ranks as the Twins number 13 prospect.

 

In Miller’s first taste of pro-ball, he was assigned to the FCL Twins and in 96 plate appearances, he slashed .238/.316/.369 with 3 doubles, a triple, and 2 home runs. He had 9 walks to 26 strikeouts and committed 4 errors out of 86 chances, good for a .952 fielding percentage.

 

Miller struggled in his first taste of pro ball this season but he was only an 18 year old and he still has a very bright future ahead of him.

 

Round 2, Pick 61: Steve Hajjar, LHP, Michigan

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Steve Hajjar is a 6’5” 215 lb pitcher from the University of Michigan. He throws a fastball in the low 90s and it has been up to 95 mph. His best pitch is his changeup, and MLB Pipeline says that he does a very good job of selling his changeup with fastball arm speed, which can be very deceptive to hitters. Hajjar is ranked as the number 22 prospect in the Twins system.

 

Hajjar did not pitch professionally in 2021. In 81.2 innings at Michigan, he was 4-2 with a 3.09 ERA. His K/9 was very impressive at 12.2, while having a BB/9 of 3.2. He was named All-Big Ten Conference First Team. He also led the Big Ten in strikeouts.
 

Hajjar is a 21 year old so he will probably progress a little quicker through the minor leagues than Petty and Miller. Hajjar will be a fun prospect to watch develop and I am excited to hopefully see him at Target Field soon.

 

Round 3, Pick 98: Cade Povich, LHP, Nebraska

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Cade Povich is a 6’3” 185 lb pitcher from the University of Nebraska. He has a fastball that tops out around 91 MPH. Povich does not have a whole lot available on him or his pitch repertoire, but he seems like a crafty lefty who really understands how to pitch.

 

Povich, initially from Bellevue West High School, went to South Mountain CC in Phoenix for one year and excelled. He went 10-1 with a 1.52 ERA before transferring to Nebraska. Along with Hajjar, Povich was also named All-Big Ten Conference First Team in 2021. He went 6-1 with a 3.11 ERA. He also had 9.8K/9 and 2.4BB/9.

 

In professional ball, Povich made one start with the FCL Twins and went 2 innings, allowing one hit and striking out 3. He also made 3 appearances for Low-A affiliate Fort Myers and pitched very well, compiling 8 innings and allowing only 1 earned run, 6 hits, 2 walks, and 2 HBP while striking out 16 (!!).

 

Povich was dominant in his limited 10 innings of work this year and he will definitely be a prospect to follow if he continues his success in the minors.

 

Round 4, Pick 128: Christian Encarnacion-Strand, 3B, Oklahoma State

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Christian Encarnacion-Strand is a 6’0” 224 lb 3B from Oklahoma State University. Encarnacion-Strand has a very talented bat and extremely strong throwing arm. He is a little limited on his feet as the Twins will probably move him to 1B eventually.

 

Encarnacion-Strand, initially from Pleasant Hill, CA, went to Yavapai CC for his first two years of eligibility. At Yavapai, Encarnacion-Strand absolutely mashed, hitting .410 with 31 doubles and 33 home runs in just 81 career games. At Oklahoma State, he slashed .361/.442/.661 with 15 home runs and 66 RBI’s in his one year there. He was named Big 12 newcomer of the year and was unanimously selected to the All-Big Twelve Conference First Team.

 

In his first taste of professional baseball, Encarnacion-Strand slashed .391/.424/.598 with 4 home runs in 92 plate appearances for the Twins low-A affiliate Fort Myers. He did have 5 walks compared to 26 strikeouts, which could be an area of concern as he progresses, but he is still young and has shown a lot of potential with his bat so far. He will be a fun prospect to watch crush opposing pitching and hopefully he continues this impressive offensive start.

 

Round 5, Pick 159: Christian Macleod, LHP, Mississippi State

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Christian Macleod is a 6’4” 227 lb LHP from Mississippi State University. Macleod has a fastball that ranges from 87 to 93 MPH but is very effective because he commands it well and tunnels it well with his best pitch, an upper 70s curveball with great depth.

 

Macleod is originally from Huntsville, Alabama. In his collegiate career at Mississippi State, Macleod went 10-6 with a 4.34 ERA. He had a 12.8K/9 and a 3.4BB/9. His ERA for 2021 was not great at 5.23, but before playoffs he had a 3.14 ERA and a few bad outings ballooned that ERA. In the shortened 2020 season, he was named Co-National Freshman Player of the Year by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper, going 4-0 with a 0.86 ERA.

 

Macleod only appeared in one game with the FCL Twins this season, going 1&⅔ innings, allowing no runs, one hit, and two walks while striking out 5. Macleod has a chance to be a back-end starting pitcher and he will be an interesting prospect to follow. If he adds some velocity, he could make a huge jump.

 

Round 6, Pick 189: Travis Adams, RHP, Sacramento State

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Travis Adams is a 6’0” 195 lb RHP from Sacramento State. Contrary to what pitchers are becoming more of as strikeouts and walks are rising league wide, Adams is a control specialist who won’t blow anyone away with his strikeout numbers but he hardly walks anyone.

 

Adams is originally from Desert Hot Springs, California. In his collegiate career at Sacramento State, Adams went 10-6 with a 3.75 ERA. He had 7.75 K/9 and an impressive 1.49 BB/9. In 2021, the MLB average for BB/9 was 3.3, so Adams thrives in that area of the game.

 

Adams made one appearance for the FCL Twins, recording 4 outs while allowing 3 earned runs, 2 hits, 2 walks, and struck out 3. If Adams can improve his stuff he could be a good prospect for the Twins going forward.

 

Round 7, Pick 219: Jake Rucker, 3B, Tennessee

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Jake Rucker is a 6’2” 185 lb 3B from the University of Tennessee. He was a very solid player at Tennessee and can play every position in the infield. He is very aggressive at the plate and solid in the field. Rucker lacks an elite trait so it might make it difficult for him to excel in pro ball, but he could be a solid player.

 

Rucker is originally from Greenbrier, Tennessee. In his collegiate career at Tennessee, he slashed .311/.388/.463 with 12 home runs and 96 RBI’s. In 2021, he really broke out. He had an OPS of .919 and had 21 doubles, 2 triples, and 9 home runs. He was named a 3rd team All-American this year and also garnered First Team All-SEC honors.

 

Rucker had 85 plate appearances at low-A Fort Myers this year, and slashed .265/.376/.324 with 2 doubles and 1 triple. These numbers are not other-worldly but they are a great starting point for an experienced versatile player like Rucker. It will be fun to see how he progresses into 2022. 

 

Round 8, Pick 249: Noah Cardenas, C, UCLA

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Noah Cardenas is a 6’1” 190 lb catcher from UCLA. Cardenas is an outstanding defensive catcher. If Cardenas is going to make an impact in the league, he will have to improve at the plate. Right now he profiles like Ben Rortvedt, an outstanding defender who doesn't stand out offensively.

 

Cardenas is originally from Saugus, California. In his collegiate career at UCLA, he slashed .302/.407/.426 with 8 home runs and 30 extra base hits. His freshman year, he had an OPS of .976 in 58 games. In 2021, he had a .775 OPS. He also threw out 38% of base-stealers. Cardenas was named to the 2021 Pac-12 All-Conference Team.

 

Cardenas had 25 plate appearances with the FCL Twins in 2021. He went 6-20 with a double, a home run, and 3 walks. A very small sample size, but if Cardenas could get back to his 2019 self offensively and continues to dominate defensively, he could be a very nice prospect for the Twins.

 

Round 9, Pick 279: Patrick Winkel, C, Connecticut

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Patrick Winkel is a 6’1'' 200 lb catcher from the University of Connecticut. Mlb dot com says that Winkel is a great athlete behind the plate with above average power but needs to improve his hit tool to use his power more regularly.

 

Winkel is originally from Orange, CT. In his career, he slashed .300/.359/.507 with 18 home runs and 41 extra base hits in 102 games. He also threw out 25% of potential base-stealers. Winkel was named All-BIG East Second Team in 2021. 

 

Winkel had 84 plate appearances at Low-A Fort Myers in 2021. He slashed .243/.369/.357 with 5 doubles and a home run. Beginning his career in Low-A shows that the Twins have confidence in where Winkel could go with his career. He struggled more than he did in college, but that is expected. Hopefully with some experience under his belt he can thrive in 2022.

 

Round 10, Pick 309: Ernie Yake, SS, Gonzaga

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Ernie Yake is a 5’10” 175 lb SS from Gonzaga. Yake was a phenomenal shortstop at Gonzaga and played four years there. Yake is an older prospect, as he will be 24 years old at the start of the 2022 season.

 

Yake is originally from Bellingham, WA. In his career at Gonzaga, he slashed .320/.392/.419 with 6 home runs and 54 extra base hits. He also walked 71 times compared to only 53 strikeouts, so he controls the zone very well. In 2021, he was a national semifinalist for the Brooks Wallace award, given yearly to the best shortstop in college baseball.


Yake only had 26 plate appearances with the FCL Twins in 2021, slashing .227/.370/.318 with 2 doubles and 3 stolen bases. Yake will be fun to follow as he could be a Luis Arraez type hitter who puts the ball in play and rarely strikes out, while playing great defense at shortstop.

 

Part 2 highlighting our picks in rounds 11-20 will be coming soon

 

Thank you for reading and Go Twins!

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Thank you for a great write up and wonderful review. Well done!

What I find so interesting about this draft, which I haven't really heard anyone else talk about, is the Twins first 4 picks all came from northern climate schools. There has long been a prejudice against players from northern climate as they don't have year round opportunities to play, and those schools don't always get the same attention in recruiting from southern prospects. (Petty is a HS kid of course and wasn't a recruit). But I think recent history has begun to change that perspective. Talent is talent and if someone needs an extra half season or so to develop, so what if he's ultimately as good or better.

Very happy to see 3 LH pitchers selected. I know you don't draft for need, but some solid LH arms ARE a need in the system, really excited about Hajjar and his frame. Guarantee his velocity goes up, and with a great change, I see a ton of potential. Ditto for Macleod, though with a curve and needing a change. Not sure about physical growth and velocity with Povich, but the control certainly seems to be there. He seems to have a nice assortment of pitches it's just a question how well his repertoire plays with at least a little better velocity. Is he another Barnes? Or is there more there?

The bat and power of Encarnacion-strand plays. From all reports, the arm is excellent. What I care about is does he have decent feet? Does he have hands of stone, or are they pliable? His range may be limited. But with decdnt feet and a good arm I'd keep him at 3B as long as possible. 

Drafting 2 catchers in the top 10 with potential is always a good idea to me.

 

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Thank you Andrew for this article. Makes me excited about these guys. Your work is professional and should be on front and center news at least the forum format. Not the overlooked sometimes blog. I'm a fan keep up the good work and don't be swayed.

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