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  • 4 Pitchers the Twins Could Target in the 2022 MLB Draft


    Jamie Cameron

    The Twins have the number eight pick in the 2022 MLB Draft. As draft coverage at Twins Daily ramps up, read up on four pitchers the Twins could target in the first round.

    Image courtesy of Steven Branscombe - USA Today Sports

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    Yesterday, we looked at hitters the Twins might target in the first round, today, we’ll look at pitchers. 

    A few notes before we begin. I mostly focused these two ‘overview’ pieces on who the Twins might take a number eight overall (as opposed to focusing on later picks). Additionally, I’ll profile these players in alphabetical order, there's no preference here. I think it’s worth pointing out that the Twins are extremely likely to take a hitter. That’s not a front office ‘thing’, it’s simply how the talent stacks up at the top of the board. In baseball, you take the best player available, no matter what. There is a group of 8-12 hitters, most of whom I think will come off the board before we see pitchers start to be picked.

    Assumptions
    Unlike yesterday, there are no assumptions to make in this scenario. If the Twins go with a pitcher in the first round, I expect them all to be available when Minnesota selects at eight overall. That’s reflective of the strength of this year’s draft class. The top of the first round is flush with extremely impressive, borderline elite bats. The pitching talent at the top of the class is much more scattered. 

    Dylan Lesko, RHP, Buford HS
    Lesko was the number one pitcher on the board and a consensus top ten pick until Tommy John surgery ended his season. In 2021, he managed 112 strikeouts in just 60 innings. Lesko offers a mid to high-90s fastball that he locates well. The biggest weapon in his arsenal is his changeup. The pitch has been described as one of the best prep changeups ever scouted. Lesko is committed to play for Vanderbilt, which, in combination with his injury, may pose an issue for a team picking him. Additionally, he falls into the riskiest draft sub-group, prep right-handed pitchers. Despite the uncertainty, Lesko has the highest upside of any pitcher in the draft and legitimate front-of-the-rotation potential.

    Brock Porter, RHP, Orchard Lake St. Marys
    Porter is a tall, slender prep prospect out of Michigan, a state that doesn't produce a ton of first-round talent. He has a 70-grade fastball that regularly hits 97 mph but he has also cranked up to 100 mph. Additionally, he carries a 70-grade changeup that has significant tumble. Porter also throws a curveball and a slider, both of which need more work but have a chance to be above-average pitches. Porter has work to do in refining his command, but his arsenal is so impressive, it has not been an issue to date. Porter is committed to Clemson, but could be the first pitcher taken in the first round in the wake of Lesko’s injury.

    Connor Prielipp, LHP, Alabama
    A Tomah, Wisconsin, native, Prielipp has been ranked in the 30-50 range on most big boards throughout the draft process. His inclusion here is a result of the Twins being connected to him in recent weeks. Prielipp’s progress was hindered by Tommy John surgery in 2021 but a strong showing at the MLB draft combine has vaulted him into first-round consideration. He offers a mid-90s, 60-grade fastball, and a devastating 70-grade slider that had a 50% whiff rate in college. Prielipp is seen as a little bit of a draft wild card due to a limited track record, but two pitches above a 60 grade give him elite stuff.

    Kumar Rocker, RHP, Independent Ball
    Of all the pitching prospects in the 2022 draft class, Kumar Rocker has the most pedigree. In three years at Vanderbilt, he put up a 2.89 ERA and a 33.2 K%. After being drafted 10th overall by the Mets in 2021, he never signed due to concerns around his medical records. Rocker elected to pitch in independent baseball this spring, showing stuff that is in the same realm as his peak with the Commodores. Rocker has a fastball that reaches the upper 90s, a 70 grade slider, a cutter and a decent changeup. Rocker is an unknown in the 2022 draft class as it’s unclear how his medicals will be viewed and perceived by teams. He has the stuff and the track record to be a front of the rotation starting pitcher.

    Honorable Mentions
    Mississippi State right-hander Landon Sims was in-line to be the top college arm taken in the draft before Tommy John surgery ended his season. He has an electric fastball (velocity ad movement) and a wipeout slider. Florida prep lefty Brandon Barriera is a smaller framed lefty who is expected to go at the end of the first round. Gonzaga right-hander Gabriel Hughes has a strong fastball slider mix and a ton of projectability, as he will only be 20 on draft day. Tennessee righty Blake Tidwell missed the first six weeks of the season to injury but can ramp his fastball up to 99mph, with a deceptive arm slot. Lastly, Minnesota native and Iowa Adam Mazur is ranked on big boards around where the Twins will pick for the second time. Mazur struck out 98 in 92 innings pitched this spring, increasing his fastball velocity to the 94-97 mph range to compliment a sharp 12-6 curveball and a smooth mechanical approach.

    If the Twins take a pitcher at number eight overall, who would you like to see them draft and why?

     

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    10 minutes ago, Lonestar said:

    Cade Horton of Oklahoma has pitched more than Prielipp

    Horton has been an amazing ascension in the last month or so. I ran out of space for the amount of intriguing arms there are in this draft, especially in the 20-40 range. I think the Twins can get a great arm at 48, if they so choose.

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    Yes please on pitching in the first round!

     

    Twins have be successful finding and developing college hitters later in rounds and have a nice crop of hitters in the minors as well as some young guys in the majors.  

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    Last year the Twins finally took a pitcher in the 1st round but as the OP stated I think there are too many bats at the top for them to go pitcher at 8.  In fact I wouldn't be surprised if pitchers dropped out of the top 10 completely and picked up steam from 15 to the supplemental round.  

    I like both Lesko and Porter and could see them worthy of the number 8 spot.  Lesko was talked about going top 10 until TJ but given the success rate with that surgery his having TJ out of the way might be a good thing for whoever picks him because he should be a fast mover after that.

    Porter has that Chris Sale type body and the velocity to go with it so I like him as well.

    Thing is the Twins don't like to bet on arms early in the draft and they have been able to find pitchers later in the draft so I highly doubt they go pitcher at 8.  Given the lack of high end arms in the system though I wouldn't mind them going pitcher with their top 3 picks and then spreading things out from there but I don't think they will do that.

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    45 minutes ago, High heat said:

    Yes please on pitching in the first round!

     

    Twins have be successful finding and developing college hitters later in rounds and have a nice crop of hitters in the minors as well as some young guys in the majors.  

    That might have been true for many years but there is a different development regime now and recent history suggests this front office might be better at doing it the other way around.

    Since the new regime took over in 2017, Mark Contreras is their only position player pick outside of the 2nd round to make the majors.  Spencer Steer might be the next and even he was a 3rd round pick.

    Meanwhile they have already gotten significant contributions from Ober and Winder taken in the 13th and 7th rounds respectively.  They've also had several more guys pop up from the later rounds including Varland last year and Festa this year who look very promising, and others like Headrick, Gipson-Long, and Schulfer who haven't gotten quite as much attention but are also looking promising as they make their way to the high minors.

    This is not to mention that the 1st round pitching in this draft is incredibly thin.

    I think the first round is the best opportunity to get a position player with truly plus tools, and they can mold some pitchers from the later rounds.  The front office has typically demonstrated that this is their strategy and this year would probably be a terrible year to veer away from it.

    The high school pitching is fairly deep and I think there could be some interesting high school arms available and signable in the second round.  I'd be very interested in seeing them take a high upside shot there.

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    Here is where it gets cloudy, and perhaps a little more interesting. Philosophically speaking, the FO is prone to position players/bats early as they feel the cream of the crop is a shallow pool, whereas there are many more arms capable of progression and improvement later on. Also, while this FO is not adverse to chances, they do seem adverse to big risk. 

    While we're talking 2 very different FO's, they've selected a HS pitcher only 6 times in this century.  But you have 2 awfully good ones in this class. Are they good enough for "risk" at #8? Could a healthy Lesko really be the #1 player available? Can you afford NOT to take hum, if you're the Twins or anyone else?

    Prielipp is very tempting post surgery, and Rocker might be even better. But is Rocker an injury just waiting to happen?

    I think the Twins follow normal MO and ger the very best position player they can. But I just have to wonder if this is the year they really surprise and take the big risk for a potentially big reward.

     

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    5 hours ago, SarasotaBill said:

    If the top 7 hitters are gone at 8 hopefully the Twins don't settle for Cross. He had the 4th highest OPS on his team. That doesn't scream elite talent. 

    Take the most upside and don't be afraid of TJ surgery.

    I've gotten more into the idea of taking a pitcher in the last week. Up until a few weeks ago, it didn't make a ton of sense based on big boards etc. Very fascinated to know how that first 7 picks goes.

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    5 hours ago, Dman said:

    Last year the Twins finally took a pitcher in the 1st round but as the OP stated I think there are too many bats at the top for them to go pitcher at 8.  In fact I wouldn't be surprised if pitchers dropped out of the top 10 completely and picked up steam from 15 to the supplemental round.  

    I like both Lesko and Porter and could see them worthy of the number 8 spot.  Lesko was talked about going top 10 until TJ but given the success rate with that surgery his having TJ out of the way might be a good thing for whoever picks him because he should be a fast mover after that.

    Porter has that Chris Sale type body and the velocity to go with it so I like him as well.

    Thing is the Twins don't like to bet on arms early in the draft and they have been able to find pitchers later in the draft so I highly doubt they go pitcher at 8.  Given the lack of high end arms in the system though I wouldn't mind them going pitcher with their top 3 picks and then spreading things out from there but I don't think they will do that.

    One scenario I think is a possibility:

    Save on Neto and sign him under slot at 8, then use that to secure a good arm at 48. There are a ton of pitchers in the 20-40 range on most big boards that are pretty exciting.

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    4 hours ago, 2wins87 said:

    That might have been true for many years but there is a different development regime now and recent history suggests this front office might be better at doing it the other way around.

    Since the new regime took over in 2017, Mark Contreras is their only position player pick outside of the 2nd round to make the majors.  Spencer Steer might be the next and even he was a 3rd round pick.

    Meanwhile they have already gotten significant contributions from Ober and Winder taken in the 13th and 7th rounds respectively.  They've also had several more guys pop up from the later rounds including Varland last year and Festa this year who look very promising, and others like Headrick, Gipson-Long, and Schulfer who haven't gotten quite as much attention but are also looking promising as they make their way to the high minors.

    This is not to mention that the 1st round pitching in this draft is incredibly thin.

    I think the first round is the best opportunity to get a position player with truly plus tools, and they can mold some pitchers from the later rounds.  The front office has typically demonstrated that this is their strategy and this year would probably be a terrible year to veer away from it.

    The high school pitching is fairly deep and I think there could be some interesting high school arms available and signable in the second round.  I'd be very interested in seeing them take a high upside shot there.

    Agree with this in that I think the Twins are better at developing arms. There's at least two starters at pretty much every level (especially lower) who are really exciting.

    I think high high end pitching talent is thin, but there's a ton of talent between 20-40 that I think makes sense to target at 48, as you mention.

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    7 minutes ago, DocBauer said:

    Here is where it gets cloudy, and perhaps a little more interesting. Philosophically speaking, the FO is prone to position players/bats early as they feel the cream of the crop is a shallow pool, whereas there are many more arms capable of progression and improvement later on. Also, while this FO is not adverse to chances, they do seem adverse to big risk. 

    While we're talking 2 very different FO's, they've selected a HS pitcher only 6 times in this century.  But you have 2 awfully good ones in this class. Are they good enough for "risk" at #8? Could a healthy Lesko really be the #1 player available? Can you afford NOT to take hum, if you're the Twins or anyone else?

    Prielipp is very tempting post surgery, and Rocker might be even better. But is Rocker an injury just waiting to happen?

    I think the Twins follow normal MO and ger the very best position player they can. But I just have to wonder if this is the year they really surprise and take the big risk for a potentially big reward.

     

    I'm really leery of Lesko. I have a personal bias against prep righties, as they burn out so often. I'd feel a lot more comfortable with Prielipp (subject of tomorrow's first in-depth profile) than Rocker. At least with Prielipp, he's had surgery, he's thrown a few times in front of talent evaluators, and the stuff seems pretty consistent (less some command that you'd expect to take a minute to come back).

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    I really like the idea of picking Kumar Rocker with the possibility to impact the majors as soon as next year, His medicals definitely could be a concern, but I think the upside is well worth it. He's got true top-of-the-rotation stuff with the pedigree to boot.

    The top of the draft is flush with really solid, projectable bats. BUTThe Twins have a lot of elite bat, 1B/corner OF types in their system. Kirilloff, Larnach, Wallner, Sabato, Encarnacion-Strand (I know he's a 3B now but projects more LF/1B.) Not to mention Rooker, who we traded off partially because we have a glut of these kind of players. 

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    2 hours ago, Jamie Cameron said:

    I'm really leery of Lesko. I have a personal bias against prep righties, as they burn out so often. I'd feel a lot more comfortable with Prielipp (subject of tomorrow's first in-depth profile) than Rocker. At least with Prielipp, he's had surgery, he's thrown a few times in front of talent evaluators, and the stuff seems pretty consistent (less some command that you'd expect to take a minute to come back).

    I also like Prielipp better than Rooker, partially because he's LH, as I have love to have one of your top rotation arms being LH. (Shades of Viola and Santana). They are quite possibly the hardest thing to find. And while I have no knowledge as to Rooker's medical, I still find it alarming the Mets, with all their financial resources, balked at signing him. And while it may be a foolish arguement, Prielipp has already undergone surgery. So if he's looking good, you've sort of dodged that bullet already. 

    I also am not in favor of drafting HS RH pitching early. And it seems teams have begun to, generally, push those guys down the board unless they are really elite. Petty was a bit of a gift for the Twins at 26 last year. Five years ago, he's probably in the early to mid teens.

    But when you have a pair of HS arms like Lesko and Porter with a pair of pitches already 60-70, man, it's hard not to be tempted by "what could be". I think teams have to at least give pause in regard to risk/reward with those two

    I still think the Twins follow current MO and select a position player. But I really don't want a position less bat again, or a "toolsy" player who doesn't already exhibit a solid "hit" tool. 

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