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  • Where Are They Now? The Twins Last 10 First-Round Draft Picks


    Cody Christie

    Unlike other professional sports leagues, baseball’s first-round draft picks take time to develop and reach the major leagues. Here is a look back at the last decade of MLB Drafts and the players selected by the Twins.

    Image courtesy of Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

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    Many first-round picks quickly move into the organization’s top prospect lists. Minnesota has seen some successes and failures in recent drafts, with multiple top prospects on the way to Target Field. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have focused on certain types of players in the draft, which might help the team keep its winning window open as long as possible. Here’s a look at the last decade of first-round picks for the Twins. 

    2022: Brooks Lee (8th overall)
    Lee is one of the most exciting hitting prospects to come through the Twins organization in quite some time. Some evaluators thought he could be the number one overall pick, but he fell to the Twins with the eighth pick. Last season, he played at three levels and hit .303/.389/.451 (.839) with six doubles and four home runs. The Twins don’t need to rush things with Lee, and he will probably spend most of the season at Double-A. If he performs well, there is a chance he will make his debut in 2023 and is a top-25 global prospect by this time next year. 

    2021: Chase Petty (26th overall)
    It can take a long time for high school pitchers to develop in the minor leagues. Minnesota thought Petty had enough upside to take on that risk before drafting him late in the first round. Leading into last season, the Twins traded him to the Reds organization for Sonny Gray. In his age-19 season, the Reds pushed him to High-A, and he compiled a 3.48 ERA with a 1.17 WHIP and 8.8 K/9. For 2023, Petty should get a full season at High-A with a chance to pitch over 100 innings for the first time in his career. 

    2020: Aaron Sabato (27th overall)
    The 2020 MLB Draft will be interesting to analyze in the years ahead. College teams saw limited action before the shutdown, and many high school players never stepped on the field that spring. Sabato destroyed the ball in college (1.158 OPS) before being drafted by the Twins. In 2022, he hit .215/.336/.438 (.774) with 17 doubles and 22 home runs while reaching Double-A. Sabato was over a year younger than the average age of the competition in the Texas League, so he should spend most of 2022 at that level. 

    2019: Keoni Cavaco (13th overall)
    Cavaco has spent the last two seasons at Fort Myers while shifting from shortstop to third base. Last season, he hit .231/.275/.397 (.672) with 18 doubles, five triples, and 11 home runs. His OPS jumped 74 points compared to 2021, and he was roughly the same age as the average competition at his level. He will be pushed to Cedar Rapids in 2023 with a chance to reach Double-A by the season’s end. 

    2018: Trevor Larnach (20th overall)
    Larnach has averaged fewer than 80 games per season over the last two years. He’s been a streaky hitter during his big-league career, but some of his performance might be tied to his injury history. He posted a 104 OPS+ in 2022 and destroyed the ball in May with a 1.077 OPS. Minnesota has a plethora of left-handed power-hitting bats, which might make Larnach expendable as part of a trade

    2017: Royce Lewis (1st overall)
    It looked like the Twins might be willing to turn shortstop over to Royce Lewis before the team signed Carlos Correa to a long-term deal. Now, Lewis will need to shift to other defensive positions if Correa continues to stay healthy. During the 2023 season, Lewis isn’t expected to return to action until mid-season while recovering from his second ACL tear over the last two seasons. 

    2016: Alex Kirilloff (15th overall)
    Kirilloff has battled through wrist issues during his first two big-league seasons, and the Twins hope his latest surgery helps him in the long term. There have been glimpses of the strong hitter Kirilloff was at the start of his professional career, but his nagging wrist has slowed down his development. He will get regular time at first base and in a corner outfield spot for the 2023 Twins. 

    2015: Tyler Jay (6th overall)
    Jay never made it to the big leagues with the Twins organization. He topped out at the Double-A level in four seasons in the organization. The Twins traded Jay to the Reds organization during the 2019 season for cash considerations, but he only spent part of a season pitching for that organization. Last year, he made 22 appearances with a 1.64 ERA and 9.8 K/9 for the Joliet Slammers in the independent Frontier League. It seems likely that he can get another job in independent baseball if he wants to continue pitching. 

    2014: Nick Gordon (5th overall)
    It may have taken longer than expected, but Gordon found a niche with the 2022 Twins. He became an everyday player for a team struggling through injuries and posted a 113 OPS+ in 136 games. Minnesota has plenty of corner outfield options on the 40-man roster, so it will be interesting to see how the Twins will use Gordon in 2023. He is out of MLB options, so he needs to be kept on the Opening Day roster

    2013: Kohl Stewart (4th overall)
    Stewart played eight seasons in the Twins organization and made six appearances at the big-league level. He struggled in the upper minors with a 4.65 ERA and a 1.36 WHIP in over 160 innings at Triple-A. For 2023, the Royals signed Stewart to a minor league deal, but he isn’t expected in big-league camp as he continues to rehab from an elbow injury. 

    Which players will have the most significant impact on the 2023 roster? Which player was the biggest disappointment? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. 

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    Four flops from my perspective - Sabato, Cavaco, Stewart, Jay,

    Three injury prone and still hoping - Lewis, Larnach, Kiriloff

    One traded - Petty

    One a staple on the MLB roster - Gordon

    And One we have high hopes for - Lee

    For this to be a good report the three injury guys have to make it along with Lee - if they all turn it around it is a good record..

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    56 minutes ago, mikelink45 said:

    Four flops from my perspective - Sabato, Cavaco, Stewart, Jay,

    Three injury prone and still hoping - Lewis, Larnach, Kiriloff

    One traded - Petty

    One a staple on the MLB roster - Gordon

    And One we have high hopes for - Lee

    For this to be a good report the three injury guys have to make it along with Lee - if they all turn it around it is a good record..

    Jay got hurt, too. I mean, pitchers are so fragile anyway but I am positive that if he didn't get hurt, he would have been a solid ML arm.

    I think we'll regret the Petty trade. Loved the Lee and Gordon picks at the time. Sabato and Cavaco I was a bit unsure about but ...

    Also, the Twins used 1st round picks on Matt Wallner, Brent Rooker and Noah Miller. I liked the Miller pick. Wallner and Rooker were confusing as they were massive bats without obvious defensive positions. But Wallner might play a lot this year.

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    It would be interesting to look at other teams' picks from the same time frame and compare. It's really difficult to consistently get MLB value from draft picks, with injury and projectability being significant hurdles. 

    For example: Cleveland used first round picks on Mike Papi (2014, has not debuted, looks to be cooked, sucked at AAA last year),  Brady Aiken (2015, out of baseball, never pitched above High-A), and Will Benson (2016, made his debut last year, was terrible in a 28 game sample size, might be decent still). Bo Naylor looks like a good pick, and so does Triston McKenzie. 

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    If I'm remembering correctly, about 66% of 1st round picks even make the major leagues. With that as the bench mark, and not counting the picks from 2020-2022 as it's not realistic to expect players from the last 3 years to have debuted yet, the Twins were 5/7. This regime was 2/3. That's not too bad. Nothing to claim they're great at, but nothing to be upset about either.

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    What are the odds Cavaco ever puts on an MLB jersey? He was one of those really young guys we were told to "be patient" on, but he's been in the system for 5 years now and has been pretty much below average the whole time. Kind of a sad story, really. 

    Will be very interesting to see how Petty turns out. Hard to tell at this point, I don't really have a guess either way. 

    Lee is the most exciting 1st round pick since Royce Lewis. Speaking of Lewis, if I had to bet on any of them having a great career, he's the one I'd take. Can't wait to see him at Target Field in June. Fingers crossed. 

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    Elephant in the room. Twins reluctance to draft arms with their first round picks and when they do, failure or bad luck in developing them. 

    If you truly want to develop top of the rotation arms, once in awhile you have to take a chance at drafting them with your 1st round picks. 

     

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    10 minutes ago, bighat said:

    What are the odds Cavaco ever puts on an MLB jersey? He was one of those really young guys we were told to "be patient" on, but he's been in the system for 5 years now and has been pretty much below average the whole time. Kind of a sad story, really. 

     

    Probably low but he's only had 700 minor league at bats. COVID probably ****ed up his development a lot. Give him more time.

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    Stewart and Jay didn't pan out, but the disappointment is connected to them being high round one picks.

    Cavaco was a gamble that has not worked thus far, while Sabato was a head scratcher.

    The Twins have drafted decently in the overall picture. We have to wait for the emergence of a number of players and that could be this year for Kirilloff, Larnach, Lewis, and Lee. Gordon could take another step forward as well. Finally, Sonny Gray tell us how much Petty was worth for now. All in all, pretty good drafts.

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    4 hours ago, mikelink45 said:

    Four flops from my perspective - Sabato, Cavaco, Stewart, Jay,

    Three injury prone and still hoping - Lewis, Larnach, Kiriloff

    One traded - Petty

    One a staple on the MLB roster - Gordon

    And One we have high hopes for - Lee

    For this to be a good report the three injury guys have to make it along with Lee - if they all turn it around it is a good record..

    I agree with Mike's assessment. 4 flops, 3 great but unlucky prospects, having their seasons taken from them. I too  hope they can complete their remaining time with a blast. 

    Gordon is a staple on the MLB roster but he has been a disappointment, If he hadn't made that transition to OF he'd be gone. 1 traded with a lot of future potential, difficult to gauge how far he can rise.

    Lee is a fast riser that should make (but I doubt it, unless there's an emergency) his MLB debut. This year we have a great spot in the draft, which I'm hopeful for another fast riser.

    So after a bad start, we are on an uptrend. We won't always have these good draft picks but I'm hopeful that we'll have better focus on better athletes not on bats & be more fortunate.

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    5 hours ago, mikelink45 said:

    Four flops from my perspective - Sabato, Cavaco, Stewart, Jay,

    Three injury prone and still hoping - Lewis, Larnach, Kiriloff

    One traded - Petty

    One a staple on the MLB roster - Gordon

    And One we have high hopes for - Lee

    For this to be a good report the three injury guys have to make it along with Lee - if they all turn it around it is a good record..

    I would say too early to call Sabato or Cavaco flops, either could still work way into MLB level.  To me they will be flops if they never make majors or just a cup of coffee and get bounced.  Although neither have flown up the minors like we would hope they are still in system.  I mean until last year, you would have called Gordon a flop, but after putting up 1.6 WAR we are calling him a staple. It took Gordon 7 years to make MLB debut out of high school.  Cavaco is entering his 4 season, 5th year removed from HS.  He still has time to give something. Sabato still has time as well.  The other 2 were busts for sure.

    Lewis has had 2 missed seasons mainly due to torn ACL, I would not say that is injury prone, but had 2 long injuries.  If his injuries were of many types and constant missed time, not single big stretches, that is injury prone to me.  The other 2 have had a varity of injuries that have led to long stretches and short ones, so they kind of fall into that.  

    Petty was traded, but the trade brought in Gray who has provided value.  Even if Petty never makes majors, he gave us value. 

    Too early for Lee as you said.  I would say still too early to have final report on Cavaco and Sabato, and could still provide something.  Need to remember no team hits on first round picks every draft. 

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    1 hour ago, Trov said:

    I would say too early to call Sabato or Cavaco flops, either could still work way into MLB level.  To me they will be flops if they never make majors or just a cup of coffee and get bounced.  Although neither have flown up the minors like we would hope they are still in system.  I mean until last year, you would have called Gordon a flop, but after putting up 1.6 WAR we are calling him a staple. It took Gordon 7 years to make MLB debut out of high school.  Cavaco is entering his 4 season, 5th year removed from HS.  He still has time to give something. Sabato still has time as well.  The other 2 were busts for sure.

    Lewis has had 2 missed seasons mainly due to torn ACL, I would not say that is injury prone, but had 2 long injuries.  If his injuries were of many types and constant missed time, not single big stretches, that is injury prone to me.  The other 2 have had a varity of injuries that have led to long stretches and short ones, so they kind of fall into that.  

    Petty was traded, but the trade brought in Gray who has provided value.  Even if Petty never makes majors, he gave us value. 

    Too early for Lee as you said.  I would say still too early to have final report on Cavaco and Sabato, and could still provide something.  Need to remember no team hits on first round picks every draft. 

    I am glad you are more patient than I am with Cavaco and Sabato - neither profiles as a good MLB player to me. 

    As far as injury prone - the dictionary says: often sustaining injuries.  Two missed years in a row makes Lewis seem pretty injury prone to me.  Larnach and Kiriloff the last two years and minor league injuries as well for Alex make them injury prone and yes I regrettably have to say Buxton is injury prone.  

    An article in the Atlantic says: "

    Injury is a fact of life for most athletes, but some professionals—and some weekend warriors, for that matter—just seem more injury-prone than others. But what is it about their bodies that makes the bones, tendons, and ligaments so much more likely to tear or strain—bad luck, or just poor preparation?

    A growing body of research suggests another answer: that genetic makeup may play an important role in injury risk."

    "Stanford Sports Genetics offer genetic tests that can tell the average consumer about his or her risk for sports injuries, including ACL ruptures, stress fractures, osteoarthritis, and spinal-disc degeneration."

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    RE: Tyler Jay  -  Last year, he made 22 appearances with a 1.64 ERA and 9.8 K/9 for the Joliet Slammers in the independent Frontier League. It seems likely that he can get another job in independent baseball if he wants to continue pitching. 
     

    If he does that for too much longer, some major league team may give him a chance in their system.  Lefties with a pulse and an arm attached to the body usually get chances.  He might need to bump up that K/9 to have a real shot. 

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    18 hours ago, gunnarthor said:

    Probably low but he's only had 700 minor league at bats. COVID probably ****ed up his development a lot. Give him more time.

    Yeah I hear you, it's just that he wasn't lighting the world on fire before COVID either. Compare him to Noah Miller - both high school infielders, but coming out of the gate they've performed much differently. That said, maybe you're right. With the promotion to Cedar Rapids this year and a chance to make AA, 2023 is probably going to be a major lynchpin in Cavaco's career. 

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    23 hours ago, chpettit19 said:

    If I'm remembering correctly, about 66% of 1st round picks even make the major leagues. With that as the bench mark, and not counting the picks from 2020-2022 as it's not realistic to expect players from the last 3 years to have debuted yet, the Twins were 5/7. This regime was 2/3. That's not too bad. Nothing to claim they're great at, but nothing to be upset about either.

    That's probably right. Fans generally have unrealistic expectations of draft picks. 

    Teams like the Astros, Dodgers, and Rays are the long tail of prospect outcomes in a good way, while the Royals, Tigers, and Reds are at on the wrong long tail.

    Twins are pretty much smack-dab in the middle of the bell curve.

    Sure, we'd all like better outcomes, but it's fantasy to call a front office a failure for hitting the league average on draft picks.

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    2 minutes ago, Minny505 said:

    That's probably right. Fans generally have unrealistic expectations of draft picks. 

    Teams like the Astros, Dodgers, and Rays are the long tail of prospect outcomes in a good way, while the Royals, Tigers, and Reds are at on the wrong long tail.

    Twins are pretty much smack-dab in the middle of the bell curve.

    Sure, we'd all like better outcomes, but it's fantasy to call a front office a failure for hitting the league average on draft picks.

    And teams like the Astros, Dodgers, and Rays aren't actually all that good at it either. Dodgers 1st round picks from 2013 through 2019:
    2013- Chris Anderson (never made bigs, out of baseball after 2017)
    2014- Grant Holmes (never made bigs, still fighting but a non-prospect)
    2015- Walker Buehler (massive hit- Twins don't have one of him)
    2016- Gavin Lux (made bigs, hasn't excelled but has promise- sounds like some Twins guys)
    2017- Jeren Kendall (never made bigs, still in AA),
    2018- JT Ginn (not in bigs yet, but a decent prospect)
    2019- Kody Hoese (not in bigs yet, struggled at AA last year).

    That's only 2 out of 7 guys who've debuted after having been drafted in 2019 or sooner. Buehler being an A+ pick, Lux being in the same boat as most of the Twins guys in that he's reached the bigs, but not really excelled. A little perspective goes a long ways when looking at draft picks. 

    Astros picks 2013-2019: Mark Appel, Brady Aiken, Alex Bregman, Kyle Tucker (in the same draft as Bregman-they crushed that draft), Forrest Whitley, JB Bukauskas, Seth Beer, Korey Lee

    Rays picks 2013-2019: Nick Ciuffo, Ryne Stanek, Casey Gillaspie, Garrett Whitley, Josh Lowe, Brendan McKay, Matthew Liberatore, Greg Jones

    Drafting is hard. I'm not going to go through all 30 teams, but the Astros hit massively on 2 guys, but completely whiffed on 5. Rays didn't massively hit on any. First round MLB draft picks are an absolute crapshoot. 

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    This is way too much work for me to do, but I would like to look at a graph of career major league WAR (or something similar) for each draft position over the course of time. This could be done year by year to see if front offices improve their picks as time progresses or on a collective basis over the course of many years. It would be interesting to see how well scouts predict performance and to see who the outliers are, both early picks who do not succeed and late picks who do well.

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