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Ranking the Top-5 Draft Picks in Twins History


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Last week, MLB.com tried its best to identify the best draft pick in each club’s history. There’s no question this can be debatable, so here are the top-5 draft picks in Twins history.

When it comes to the rankings below, there are many factors to consider. Should the rankings be based on the team’s best players of all time? Should the rankings be associated with players found later in the draft that provided tremendous value? In the end, it’s likely a combination of multiple ranking methods. 

5. Kent Hrbek, 1B
Twins WAR: 38.6

There were 431 players taken ahead of Hrbek in the 1978 MLB Draft, but he made a life-long impact on the Twins franchise. His hometown team drafted him in the 17th round, and he went on to be a fixture on the team’s 1987 and 1991 World Series titles. His 293 home runs rank second in team history behind only Harmon Killebrew. At 34-years old, he retired earlier than some, so his career numbers may have looked even better if he continued playing.

4. Brad Radke, RHP
Twins WAR: 45.3

Fans might not realize how good Radke was during his 12-year career because he was part of some terrible Twins teams. Only one pitcher in team history has accumulated a higher WAR (see below). The Twins selected Radke with their 8th round pick (206th overall) in 1991. He averaged over 200 innings pitched during his career with a 1.26 WHIP and a 113 ERA+. Some of his other numbers aren’t as impressive because he was one of the team’s original pitch-to-contact arms. He provided durability and consistency for the Twins rotation as the team came back to prominence in the early 2000s. 

3. Bert Blyleven, RHP
Twins WAR: 48.9

Blyleven was MLB.com’s pick for the best draft pick in team history, and he has an argument for the top spot. Both of the players listed below were taken in the first round of their drafts, which can come with high expectations. Blyleven was a third-round pick, and 54 other players were taken ahead of him in 1969. His 22-year career saw him play for five franchises, but he accumulated more WAR during his Twins tenure than any other pitcher in team history. He was a great pitcher and a steal in the third round, but the players below should be ranked higher than him. 

2. Joe Mauer, C
Twins WAR: 55.2

It’s hard to fathom the amount of pressure Joe Mauer had to feel when he was taken with the first overall pick by his hometown team. Not only did he live up to the hype, but he also went on to have a career that has him in the Hall of Fame conversation. According to Baseball-Reference, only two players in Twins history have accumulated more WAR in a Twins uniform, Rod Carew and Harmon Killebrew. Both of these players are in Cooperstown, and Mauer hopes to join them in the years ahead.  

1. Kirby Puckett, CF
Twins WAR: 51.2

Puckett’s path to the Twins was a unique one as the team drafted him third overall in the 1982 MLB January Draft. This now-defunct draft is different from the regular draft used to select all the other players on this list. That being said, it’s hard to ignore what Puckett did in a Twins uniform. Minnesota’s assistant farm director Jim Rantz stumbled across Puckett while watching his son play, and the rest is history. Puckett was a critical piece to both of the franchise’s World Series titles, and he was a first-ballot Hall of Fame player. 

How would you rank these players? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. 

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1 hour ago, strumdatjag said:

In 1997, The Twins record was 73-89.   Brad Radke’s record for that team was 20-10.   I know many of you don’t care about win-loss records.  But for the rest of us, Radke’s performance was amazing that year. 

Win loss ratio, relative to the team's record, I think, does mean a lot. The reason why wins are typically not considered a valuable statistic is the context is missing. It's not possible to fairly compare pitchers from different teams, eras or even leagues based on wins.

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2 hours ago, strumdatjag said:

In 1997, The Twins record was 73-89.   Brad Radke’s record for that team was 20-10.   I know many of you don’t care about win-loss records.  But for the rest of us, Radke’s performance was amazing that year. 

I generally don't think W-L record is a great indicator of individual performance but that's not to say it should never be used. For a guy to win 20 games he had to have performed pretty well. Radke also put up 4.9 WAR in that season and finished 3rd in Cy Young voting so whichever way you look at it, he had a very successful year.

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I’d put Dave Goltz in the #4 slot instead of Radke (moving Radke down to 6th at least) and flip flop Mauer and Puckett.

Goltz, when you study it, was significantly superior to Radke and the staff ace for years. I calculated his 8 year Twins ERA as 3.48 where Radke was 4.22.

Goltz averaged 204.75 IP and his 1st year was in the low 90s. He had 5 consecutive years of 243, 249.1, 303, 220.1, 250.2 and carried the starting staff on his shoulders in the 1977 season when Carew and Bostock finished 1-2 in the batting race.

Mauer is an historic player of a great magnitude in winning 3 batting titles as a catcher when no other catcher in AL history had won even one! That’s super special.

With those two changes, overall, I think you have a good list. Goltz is arguably the second best pitcher ever drafted by the Twins.

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13 hours ago, jrod23 said:

Nailed. It.

Rule V Draft article next?...Have we had 5 Rule V draftees?

I would like that too but the Twins have not had many great Rule V draftees

https://www.mlb.com/news/twins-rule-5-draft-history

The best ones are probably Shane Mack, Johan, Pressly

 

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On 12/22/2021 at 11:12 AM, Andrew Mahlke said:

I would like that too but the Twins have not had many great Rule V draftees

https://www.mlb.com/news/twins-rule-5-draft-history

The best ones are probably Shane Mack, Johan, Pressly

 

Technically, they traded for Johan.  You could argue that Johan was the Marlins' best Rule V pick ever, and the Jared Camp + Cash for Rule V pick Johan Santana was one of the best trades Terry Ryan ever made.  

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5 hours ago, James said:

Technically, they traded for Johan.  You could argue that Johan was the Marlins' best Rule V pick ever, and the Jared Camp + Cash for Rule V pick Johan Santana was one of the best trades Terry Ryan ever made.  

Yep, I would agree for both

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