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  • Five Pitchers the Twins Could Target with the #5 Pick

    Jamie Cameron

    In the coming weeks, we’ll spend some time going in-depth on players who the Twins could target with the fifth pick. This week, we’re looking at pitchers. For these pieces, we’ll use the positions of players on the Consensus Board as a proxy for who they might take, as opposed to trying to predict what each team will actually do. The goal is to give a flavor of the kind of talent and options that might be around when that pick hits, as we all know trying to predict the draft is perilous at best.

    Image courtesy of Brock Beauchamp

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    Paul Skenes
    Position: RHP, Age: 21, School: LSU, Height: 6’5, Weight: 235, B/T: R/R, Rank: 3
    While Skenes being on the board for the Twins at five is unlikely, stranger things have happened in the MLB Draft. The LSU righty has had a record-breaking year, leading many to dub him the best college starting pitching prospect since Gerrit Cole (2011) or Stephen Strasburg (2009). High praise indeed. Let’s take a look at what has everyone so worked up.

    Skenes is a huge human, at 6’5, 235, he has a prototypical build for a starting pitcher built to throw a lot of innings. Originally a two-way player at Air Force, Skenes focused solely on pitching in 2023 under the tutelage of Wes Johnson, and boy has it paid off. Skenes throws from a three-quarter slot with a flat-angled approach and good carry on his fastball that helps it play up in the zone. He has cranked it up to 102 mph but it typically sits 96-98mph, velocity he can maintain deep into starts. It’s paired with a hellacious sweeper that has up to 13 inches of horizontal movement that he can land for strikes and generates an incredible amount of swing or miss. Skenes also has an average changeup. There’s not a fourth pitch yet although he has thrown a sinker as a second fastball. 

    You might be inclined to think that an arm with that much raw stuff would have control or command issues. Nope. Through late May, Skenes has walked just 18 in 86 2/3 innings of work, to go along with 164 strikeouts (not a typo). There is ace upside to Skenes. Although I don’t love the idea of drafting a pitcher in the top five on principle, you do it for a special prospect, and Skenes fits that description.

    Chase Dollander
    Position: RHP, Age: 21, School: Tennessee, Height: 6’3, Weight: 195, B/T: R/R, Rank: 7
    Dollander was a consensus top-three pick for the early part of the season. His fall down the rankings is due as much to the rise and dominance of Paul Skenes as it is due to his own uneven performance in 2023. So what does Dollander offer and what type of emphasis should we place on his 2023 performance?

    While Dollander’s production and stuff have taken a step back in 2023, he’s still an excellent/elite prospect with a ton to offer from a diverse, high-quality arsenal of pitches. His fastball sits 94-96 mph, although it’s hit 99 mph which is thrown from a low release in his three-quarters slot. It’s not an elite pitch but serves to set up his breaking pitches exceptionally well. Dollander has a curveball that is above average and has an excellent chase rate (and a pitch he can land for strikes). His best pitch is probably his slider, a nasty sweeper with a ton of horizontal movement that’s death on hitters. He also has a changeup which has a ton of fade and could be another plus pitch for him. The foundation of four pitches, three of which could be plus, is still incredibly exciting.

    Two challenges have plagued Dollander in 2023. He’s lost some control, walking almost double the amount of hitters than he did in 2022 at the time of writing. Additionally, his slider metrics have ticked back, resulting in him throwing the pitch less, and having to rely more heavily on his fastball. There have been a number of smart baseball folk suggesting Dollander’s challenges in 2023 are more mechanical than anything else. There’s a front of the rotation arm in there, that's already proved it over the course of the 2022 season.

    Hurston Waldrep
    Position: RHP, Age: 21, School: Florida, Height: 6’2, Weight: 205, B/T: R/R, Rank: 13
    Waldrep has an argument for the best series of secondary pitches in the entire draft. Originally a relief pitcher for Southern Miss, he transferred to Florida after breaking out as a starter in 2022, amassing 140 strikeouts in just over 90 innings of work. 

    His pitching arsenal is led by a fastball that sits 95-97 mph and has good carry to it, which helps it play up in the zone. The command of the fastball has been inconsistent and he’s been made to throw it far too much for the Gators. Waldrep has a great sweeping slider, which is a 70-grade pitch, and a whiff machine already. That’s paired with a curveball that has more 12-6 action to it. Finally, he throws a devastating split changeup that he’s been able to land for strikes at the bottom of the zone and has a whiff rate north of 60%. 

    Waldrep’s control has been shaky (42 walks in 72 2/3 innings at the time of writing in 2023). He has a drop-and-drive approach on the mound and great arm speed but a noisy delivery. He might be the best argument there is for ignoring performance outcomes in college baseball. He has one of the most complete repertoires of any starter in the draft and a chance for three secondary pitches that are at least plus. I think he has the second most upside of a pitcher in the draft outside of Skenes.

    Noble Meyer
    Position: RHP, Age: 18, School: Jesuit HS, OR, Height: 6’5, Weight: 200, B/T: R/R, Rank: 14
    Meyer has established himself as the top prep arm in the 2023 draft. Hailing from Jesuit High School in Oregon, which recently produced Mick Abel, Meyer has big projectability that will have organizations excited about what his future holds.

    Meyer broke out in the summer of 2022 on the showcase circuit, featuring a fastball that sat 95-97 mph, thrown from a slightly deceptive slot that gives hitters fits. He’s been up to triple digits with the pitch this year in shorter starts. He pairs it with a great slider that is generating a ton of swing and miss that he has impressive command over for a prep arm. Meyer also has a changeup that is more of a work in progress. His pitching motion is athletic and repeatable. There’s still a ton of projectability left for Meyer as he fills out more and adds strength. He has a great starter profile and teams with a track record of developing high school pitching should be incredibly excited about Meyer’s long term upside.

    Rhett Lowder
    Position: RHP, Age: 21, School: Wake Forest, Height: 6’2, Weight: 200, B/T: R/R, Rank: 15 
    Lowder qualifies as the highest floor, lowest ceiling member of the four top college pitchers available in July. There’s still plenty to like about Lowder’s profile however and he shined at Wake Forest in 2023, one of the college programs most noted for an analytical approach to player development.

    Lowder has three pitches he uses regularly. His fastball is a sinker, typically thrown in the 92-95 mph range, although he has reached back for 97 mph. He gets a ton of ground balls with it. He’s also thrown a more typical four seam fastball at the top of the zone to get hitters a different look. For secondary pitches he throws a slider, with more downward break than sweep. His best pitch is a changeup which has a ton of fade and is one of the better examples in the whole class. Lowder caps his profile off with good control and command of all of his pitches. In 2023 he walked just 17 batters in around 90 innings of work with 108 strikeouts at the time of writing. Lowder has a polished, middle of the rotation profile and is likely open to an analytically minded approach.

    Which of the players profiled do you like best as a fit for your team? Is there anyone you’ve read about or watched who you think is missing? Draft speculation is the best speculation, so join the discussion in the comments.

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    Skenes or nobody as far as I'm concerned when it comes to taking a pitcher at #5. Somebody may get an absolute stud in Dollander if they can get him back to what he was last year, but I don't want the Twins taking that gamble at 5. I don't like shaky command guys at #5, and Waldrup walks too many guys. I want nothing to do with HS arms at the top of the draft. And I despise the idea of taking a "high floor, low ceiling" guy at #5.

    The Twins need to be taking the biggest homerun swing they can at #5. They need to try to find a star. So, from the pitching side, it's Skenes for me, and that's it. 

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    Just to be super clear and get ahead of this. I think there is exactly one guy (Skenes) the Twins would target at five. Maybe you could argue two (Dollander). I wrote about five guys because I figured y'all would like to read the profiles for the first round guys. Thomas White is the only guy I didn't write up who I think will go in the first for sure, although there are some fringy first round guys who might sneak in. Thanks all for reading and for the engagement on the Draft.

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    Thanks Jamie.  Skenes would be a nice pick up, ranked at 3, it's a stretch to get him. But PIT has been known to sign under to save on prospect $. I've heard they would go after Max Clark who'd sign for less. that might leave a door open for Skenes. With Wes Johnson's mentoring it'll be hard to improve on him. I've heard that one draw back on Skenes, is that he can be somewhat easy to read.  He could have some problems w/ some MLB hitters.

    Dollander would be a bargain at #7 if a team knows that they can fix his mechanics. But the Twins like big bats so I'd imagine he won't be on their radar. The remainder on your list is ditto.

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    Good overview on the possible choices. Thanks! Whoever they choose, please let it be a pitcher! I'm weary of all these shortstops. Sure, I understand the philosophy of picking great athletes, but I want an arm. Skenes would be wonderful if he falls to number 5, but I'd take any of the choices you gave. 

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    22 hours ago, Mike Sixel said:

    123 pitches in his last start, and more to come.... I've moved to nervous about skenes, but I'd take him or dollander, though if they can't get skenes, I'm hoping the HS CF falls to five.

    I'm glad you brought up the 123. They were 7-2 up, against a horrible team. Mind blowing treatment of a pitcher.

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    I don't see how Skenes gets past Detroit or Texas, especially Texas. If Dollander finds his slider again in the march to Omaha, he might go top 5. Twins have scouted the Vols hard the last few years, drafting Ortega, Rucker, and Soulaire. So if they draft Dollander, I will trust the brass

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    I like Skenes at #5 if he's there.  Pick him, put on the big league team end of the season in the BP to protect him, then put him in the rotation next season.  Other than Skenes, Crews would be quite a surprise, but shocking things always seem to happen in the Major League draft. 

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    7 hours ago, HrbieFan said:

    Twins have scouted the Vols hard the last few years, drafting Ortega, Rucker, and Soulaire. So if they draft Dollander, I will trust the brass

    Which of these players do you expect to play in the major leagues? Also, #5 is not a place for "pretty good" talent. I know that Dollander could be really good but after watching him pitch several times I'm wishing for Max Clark.

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    17 hours ago, tony&rodney said:

    Which of these players do you expect to play in the major leagues? Also, #5 is not a place for "pretty good" talent. I know that Dollander could be really good but after watching him pitch several times I'm wishing for Max Clark.

    Max Clark is not making it to five. No way. 

    edit: Ooops, was thinking of a different guy. I'd take him ....

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    Ultimately this comes down to the Twins board.  If you were to believe what has been stated from insiders to members of this board,  the Twins are adverse to drafting a pitcher or High School hitter in the 1st.   Obviously they have gone against both of those trends in the past but if we use it as a baseline,  Skenes, Clark and Jenkins are off the board.  Which essentially makes this a 1 person draft for the Twins or they will be selecting a below slot deal and leaving many disappointed here.  That one option is Langford,  The issue is getting Langford through the first 3 picks,  The only way that occurs is Clark and to a lessor extent Jenkins gets selected in the first 3 picks and Skenes gets selected also.  Then it appears the Rangers like both Clark and Jenkins so it would not be surprise if they went that route.  Even still the odds it falls this way is less than 25% in my mind.  Based on the tea leaves we are selecting one of the 2 college shortstops (Gonzalez or Wilson) with most likely Clark or Jenkins available at 5.  There is also a slight chance Skenes were to fall as well.  There are lots of moving parts.   

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    On 6/7/2023 at 6:18 PM, tony&rodney said:

    Which of these players do you expect to play in the major leagues? Also, #5 is not a place for "pretty good" talent. I know that Dollander could be really good but after watching him pitch several times I'm wishing for Max Clark.

    I too have seen him quite often and would pass on Dollander as well. 

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    Skenes in 2 CWS starts:  15.2 innings pitched, 7 hits allowed, 3 BB's, 21 K's, 2 earned runs against Tennessee and Wake Forest.

    If he is--for some reason--sitting there at 5 and the Twins pass I will be dismayed and astonished.

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