On Monday June 8, 2015 the Houston Astros franchise changed. Really, every franchise across Major League Baseball changed as they added an influx of new talent through the First-Year player draft. Houston though, selected a shortstop from LSU with the second overall pick, and Alex Bregman set forth on a path that would greatly enhance the Astros future.
In this same draft, the Twins would select 6th overall. Following the selections of three collegiate players and two high-schoolers, they chose left-handed pitcher Tyler Jay. While Jay had served only as a closer at the University of Illinois, the thought was that he could be developed into a top tier starter for Minnesota. It was considered somewhat of a puzzling pick at the time, and Jay has yet to bear fruit at the big league level. That said, the jury isn't out on him yet, but that also isn't the story here.
The 2015 draft had plenty of talent throughout that first round. Dansby Swanson led a strong Braves system for some time, Brendan Rodgers looks the part of a game-changer for the Rockies, and Andrew Benintendi would've been the American League Rookie of the Year had Aaron Judge not existed. All of those things are true, but the focus here is on Bregman, his position, and how he ties into the Minnesota Twins.
Drafted as a shortstop out of Louisiana State, Bregman entered an organization that employed a 20 year-old Rookie of the Year named Carlos Correa. While Correa is a bigger shortstop at 6'4" 215 lbs, he's handled the position just fine defensively, and his .863 OPS is an incredible asset at one of baseball's most demanding positions. The Astros though weren't only rich in terms of Correa up the middle, there was a glut of options. Jose Altuve is going to hold down second base until he retires, and the combination of Marwin Gonzalez and Jonathan Villar both looked more than capable for Houston.
In 2016, Bregman played in 49 games for Houston, spending just a total of 146 games on the farm. His .891 OPS at the minor league level was more than suggestive of a new challenge. At the big league level, Bregman debuted with a .791 OPS that was bolstered by strong slugging numbers. The K/BB ratio (52/15) left plenty to be desired, and both his average (.264) and OBP (.313) sagged because of it. With so much raw talent however, the belief was that 2017 could represent a breakout year.
After a spring training that included time with Team USA during the World Baseball Classic, Bregman was set to be the Astros every day third basemen. Recently acquired Yuli Gurriel would move to first, and the Houston infield was set. In 155 games this season, Bregman posted an .827 OPS and turned in a respectable 2:1 K/BB rate (97/55). His average and OBP jumped significantly, and he became yet another asset for the Astros. Drafted as a shortstop, he played third, short, and second base in Houston during 2017.
Looking at the Astros top 30 prospects as ranked by MLB.com currently, their 12th, 17th, and 24th best players are all shortstops. Despite having arguably the best infield in baseball, there's still talent behind them. This is where the Twins correlation comes into play.
With plenty of talk regarding the selection of Royce Lewis with the #1 overall pick this season, Minnesota now boasts shortstops with it's #1, 2, 5, and 26 best prospects per MLB.com. The idea that there is a need to figure out where the can all play becomes immediately laughable. What Bregman and the Astros have once again displayed, is that talent can slot in anywhere.
More often than not, shortstops and centerfielders are among the best players on a 25 man roster. Minnesota boasts an elite centerfielder in Byron Buxton, but there's plenty of room for a talent rich farm system to bear fruit at the next level. Lewis, Nick Gordon, Wander Javier, Jermaine Palacios, Luis Arraez, and Jelfry Marte all working out for the Twins would be among the best problems to have. Although there's only room for one person to play shortstop at a time, generating a 25 man roster with the best overall talent you possess is a great blueprint for success.
At some point, Minnesota will need to figure out how Jorge Polanco, Brian Dozier, Nick Gordon, and Royce Lewis can all coexist. There's a second wave of talent behind them that can factor in soon enough as well. While that is something Derek Falvey and Thad Levine will be tasked with deciphering, it's hardly a problem that the Twins would rather not have.
Entering the 2015 Major League Baseball draft, Alex Bregman probably had dreams of making a deep jump throw from the hole a la Derek Jeter. When he was taken by the Astros, he probably considered the current state of the infield being locked down up the middle for some time to come. On October 30th 2017 however, he's got dreams of two incredible throws to home from the hot corner, and a World Series ring well within his sights.
Drafting for talent will never hurt you in baseball, and both the Astros and Twins would love to have a plethora of Alex Bregman's lined up to fill a spot.