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Houston and Minnesota Both Made Drafting Mistakes


Houston has been in five straight American League Championship Series, winning the pennant in three of those campaigns. The Astros and Twins had high draft picks in consecutive drafts, but multiple mistakes were made along the way. 

Not that long ago, the Twins and the Astros were in a very similar position. Houston lost 100 or more games in three consecutive seasons (2011-2013) as the team went into full rebuild mode. Minnesota lost an average of 94 games from 2011-2016, which resulted in a revamped front office. Now the Astros’ are World Series favorites, and the Twins are coming off a last-place finish. Since both franchises were rebuilding during the same era, it is interesting to compare the club’s draft strategies. 

Drafting the right players is one of the easiest ways for a rebuilding team to get back into contention. In 2012, both front offices followed a similar strategy at the top of the draft by taking two talented high school players. Houston took Carlos Correa with their first pick and followed by selecting Lance McCullers Jr. Byron Buxton was Minnesota’s first selection, while Jose Berrios was taken later in the first round. All four players have found big-league success, but not every first-round draft pick worked out this well. 

One year later, the Twins and Astros held top-5 picks for the second consecutive season. Houston selected Mark Appel first overall, and he struggled to the point where he has yet to make a big-league appearance. Minnesota took Kohl Stewart with the fourth pick, and he has only appeared in four big-league games. Houston had a shot at drafting Kris Bryant (2nd pick) while both teams missed out on Aaron Judge (32nd pick) and Tim Anderson (17th pick).

The 2014 Draft saw some other miscues at the top of the draft. Houston took Brady Aiken with the first overall pick but failed to sign him after some medical red flags came up in his physical. Minnesota selected Nick Gordon with the fifth overall pick, and it took him until 2021 to break into the big leagues. Trea Turner, Aaron Nola, and Matt Chapman were all first-round picks that year, and each of those players has accumulated more than 23 WAR in their careers. 

Houston was back near the top of the draft in 2015, and this time they hit it out of the park. Alex Bregman was the second overall pick that season, and he has already accumulated enough WAR to rank 16th in franchise history. Minnesota drafted four picks after Houston and took Tyler Jay, who has never made it past Double-A. This means the Twins missed out on Andrew Benintendi (7th pick) and Walker Buehler (24th pick), who each have accumulated 12.5 WAR. 

Baseball’s draft is much different from some other major sports where young players can have an immediate impact. Hitting on first-round picks is especially important because of the value associated with these players. Houston found a way to the top of the AL even with some draft mistakes, while Minnesota is wondering what it will take to be competitive in 2022. 

Which draft mistake do you think impacted their organization the most? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. 

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Stewart, Gordon, and Jay were all poor picks as was the recent pick of Cavaco. Nevertheless, the MLB draft is a difficult gamble and I wouldn't lose too much sleep over the fails. Every team has some luck. The Angels had two picks together late in the first round and their second choice was Mike Trout.

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Are there any teams in any years for which you couldn't make this argument? Baseball's draft is subject to much greater uncertainty than most sports because the players are drafted so young. There will always be decisions that appear to be mistakes in retrospect.

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in 2013 and 2014 The Twins had the first pick right after the drop off in top of the draft talent.  So your article should be asking why didnt the Twins tank back then? in 2014  Gordon was the high Floor low ceiling pick who was projected to be able to remain at SS.  So if he was a solid SS hitting .270 with 30 2bs and 10-15 HRs with 10-15 SBs it would be a win.  He is hitting at that level.  It did take a few years longer for him to develop but he is not staying at SS which is the big negative here.

in 2013 Kohl Stewart was the consensus pick to take when the Twins drafted him.  If only it was in vogue to take someone lower in the draft order to save money and sign another player around this time.....  The big miss would be Tyler Jay as the Twins tried to make someone who should be a reliever a starter.  But the Twins would make up for that snaffu in the next draft.  And based on your examples no one picked well in that draft as your 2 examples aren't great or anything.  

The 2016 Draft as well as that 2012 draft and 2009 international signing period stand out as the best in team history.  

 

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I looked back at the Twins drafts to 2012. 2012 was great first 2 rounds-Buxton and Berrios, next 3 years first 2 rounds terrible- out of 6 players drafted only Gordon still with Twins. Twins definitely showing lack of draft success in past this year, especially pitching. The 2012 to 2015 drafts should be the core of the Twins staff by now. 

Looking at the drafts incredible how many don't make MLB. I was wondering if anyone has stats on how many draftees per team eventually make MLB. The Twins drafts, not only were first 2 round disappointing, but few successes past the first 2 rounds also. Definite trend to draft college players, think Twins only took 2 HS players this year.

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The picks were poor, but I'm not going to ding them too badly for 2013 and 2015. Tim Anderson, Aaron Judge and Walker Buehler weren't on anyone's radars as top 10 picks. Benintendi would have been better than Jay obviously and I recall some around here wanted him, but he's been average at best and we'd still resenting that he didn't turn out to be a better player.

2014 is different though. Lots of people had Nola going to the Twins and some around here wanted Turner. Turner had all the helium heading into the college season too, but for some reason he started getting knocked down because of concerns with his ability to make contact? That was dumb and in hindsight, perhaps it was intentional sabotage by other teams hoping he'd fall. 

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Very interesting.  Yet, the only real advantage was 2015 when they took Bregman and the Twins dropped the ball by taking Jay. 

What is surprising to me is: 1) Bregman was taken that recent?  Seems like he has been a star in the middle of their lineup for that long; and 2) Considering they made nearly as many mistakes as the Twins, the fact they are in the World Series indicates there is a lot more to baseball than doing well in the first round or two of the draft....much, much more.

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1 hour ago, roger said:

Very interesting.  Yet, the only real advantage was 2015 when they took Bregman and the Twins dropped the ball by taking Jay. 

What is surprising to me is: 1) Bregman was taken that recent?  Seems like he has been a star in the middle of their lineup for that long; and 2) Considering they made nearly as many mistakes as the Twins, the fact they are in the World Series indicates there is a lot more to baseball than doing well in the first round or two of the draft....much, much more.

He was picked in 2015 and played in MLB the very next year. In 2017 he played every day. I don't recall the Twins promoting this aggressively, even with college players. When has a draft pick made an MLB debut the next year for the Twins? 

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About the Astros missing on Brady Aiken, remember that they used that pick to draft Bregman the next year, then choosing Kyle Tucker with their own pick.  For high draft picks they get Correa, Bregman and Tucker.  We get Buxton and a utility player.  Bigger difference than it may originally seem.

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52 minutes ago, dex8425 said:

He was picked in 2015 and played in MLB the very next year. In 2017 he played every day. I don't recall the Twins promoting this aggressively, even with college players. When has a draft pick made an MLB debut the next year for the Twins? 

How often does it happen with any team?  Even if we look at only 1st rounders, what percentage make it to the ML level the next year.  1 in a hundred?  

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1 hour ago, dex8425 said:

He was picked in 2015 and played in MLB the very next year. In 2017 he played every day. I don't recall the Twins promoting this aggressively, even with college players. When has a draft pick made an MLB debut the next year for the Twins? 

Assume he was a college player, but that is fast.  I always think back to Robin Yount of the Brewers.  He was a high school kid who I believe played for them a year after being drafted.  Keep hoping the Twins will get someone like that one year.  Maybe Noah Miller???

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1 hour ago, dex8425 said:

 I don't recall the Twins promoting this aggressively, even with college players. When has a draft pick made an MLB debut the next year for the Twins? 

Matt Garza did. That's the one example that springs to mind. It was 15 years ago, so your point still stands, but also to another point above, draft picks debuting that fast isn't really common with other teams either.

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I never like articles about poor MLB drafts.  The main reason is every team has bad picks and very few teams can point to success every year.  The other reason is years down the road you can point to who you could have drafted and what they became, but unless you can point to fact that it was suggested they take that player and took someone that was considered a stretch it is hard to say the team got it wrong, but more so everyone did.  For example, Appel was drafted high twice, the second time by Houston number 1, and the first time by Pirates at 6 or 7, and he did not sign because wanted number 1 money, because he was scouted as possible number 1.  So many missed on him, it was not that he was slotted 5th or 6th best pitcher and Houston thought they knew more.  

Personally, I would be much more upset if team reached and missed on guy that was scouted to be near them, than take a guy all scouts think was good spot only to find out a guy at end of first round did well, like Judge. Unlike in other sports where guys normally make team right away and you can make quicker comparison, MLB takes years to compare.  Also, when you compare High school guys to college guys that gets skewed as well.  

For Gordon, the writer talks about how Gordon just made debut, and others after him, 2 pitchers and one SS, all have played for years with decent WAR.  All three were college guys and Gordon was HS guy, so he is 3 years younger, and could possibly make up for that WAR, maybe not.  The point is MLB drafts are crap shoots that you are projecting many years down road.  

I challenge anyone to show me a team that hits on even 5 straight 1st round picks, heck I bet hitting on 3 straight might be a stretch. 

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16 hours ago, Major League Ready said:

How often does it happen with any team?  Even if we look at only 1st rounders, what percentage make it to the ML level the next year.  1 in a hundred?  

I'd think more than 1/100. Strasberg did. Mark Prior did. Harper was drafted as a 17 year old and then won ROY at age 19 by playing every day. Garrett Crochet was drafted last year and pitched for CWS last year.  Just off the top of my head...

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7 hours ago, Aichiman said:

The biggest mistake we made is in hiring Falvey and Levine.  This led to the decision to use Korn Ferry to recruit a major league manager.  The Twins get what they deserve.

Yes, because they were clearly heading the right direction with Terry Ryan, Burl Ives, and Paul Molitor...

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2 hours ago, dex8425 said:

I'd think more than 1/100. Strasberg did. Mark Prior did. Harper was drafted as a 17 year old and then won ROY at age 19 by playing every day. Garrett Crochet was drafted last year and pitched for CWS last year.  Just off the top of my head...

Prior was 20 years ago so that spans 600 picks.  you mentioned 3 in the last 20 years.  Strasberg was #1 overall and Prior #2.  Harper took two years so I don't know how that counts.  Garrett Crochet pitched 6 innings so technically he made it to the big leagues but he is not even remotely the same type of talent as the others mentioned.  We would need to come up with 3 more to get to 1/100 limiting it to 1st round picks.  The point being I fail to see who this is a meaningful measure in any form.

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