Let’s start with the basics. The draft was filled with surprises at the start. After Jackson Holliday and Druw Jones went with the top two picks, the Rangers messed up a lot of mock draft boards by selecting righty Kumar Rocker with the third overall pick. In addition, the Cubs used the seventh overall pick on Oklahoma right-hander Cade Horton.
The Twins scouting department was ecstatic that shortstop Brooks Lee was available.
“We see him as a playmaker. He’s a creative, skilled, and instinctual player,” Scouting Director Sean Johnson said following the first day of picks.
Lee could have been a very high pick out of high school but, as Johnson noted, “chose to go play for his dad, Larry Lee, who is a heavily decorated college coach, and they have a very close connection. He comes from a really strong baseball family.”
Interestingly, Johnson noted that in 2021, when the Twins selected Wisconsin prep shortstop Noah Miller, they were comparing him to Brooks Lee, who the Twins have been watching for several years going back to high school. He noted, they both “have really good instincts, elite baseball IQ, great feel for the game, really great feel to hit in the batter’s box.”
“We think, whether he plays shortstop, or second or third or wherever he ends up, we think that he has a chance to have impact power to go along with the hit skills that he possesses.”
Lefty Conner Prielipp was the team’s second-round pick (#48 overall) out of the University of Alabama. He had Tommy John surgery in May of 2021, but he has thrown bullpens and was impressive at the draft combine. Many believe he has the talent to be a top-of-the-rotation starter in time.
Several Twins scouts saw him before the injury, but they have been around him a lot. The area scout, Matt Williams, and the supervisor, Derek Dunbar, got the chance to know him. Johnson said, “Our scouting staff has absolutely loved the pitcher, loved the pitches. The uniqueness of the slider is a real draw. It’s a high-velocity breaking ball that you don’t see a lot because his grip on it is pretty unique.”
Johnson also said that Alabama head coach Brad Bohanon was very helpful in giving the Twins insight on his makeup and the type of person he is off the field.
At the combine, he was up to 95 or 96 mph and the breaking ball was at 90, and he flashed a changeup. It was an impressive outing (just 20 pitches), and it certainly is a signal that he’s tracking toward full health.”
In 2021, the Twins drafted Steve Hajjar in the second round. They added Cade Povich in the third round. In the fifth round, they took Christian MacLeod. All three are left-handed, and Prielipp adds another left-handed arm with upside to the mix. Is this a trend? A strategy? Or, just who the best pitcher was on their board at the time.
Johnson said, “Our aim is not to acquire left or right-handed pitching, it’s just impact pitching, regardless of which hand they throw with. So obviously it’s a little more unique being left-handed. A guy with his kind of pitches and upside is exciting to turn over to our player development group which has done such an amazing job with a lot of the pitchers we have taken in the last couple of years. To be able to add him into the mix is really exciting for our future, as it pertains to pitching prospects in our system.
Finally, with the 68th overall pick, the Twins took infielder Tanner Schobel from Virginia Tech. Now, he is listed at 5-10 and 170 pounds, but his stats might surprise you. This season, he hit .362/.445/.689 with 18 doubles, a triple, 19 home runs, and 74 RBI. He led the Hokies in home runs, RBI and total bases, a team that included Gavin Cross who was taken by the Royals with the ninth overall pick.
“He really performed. He’s a guy that grows on you a little bit. He’s not the most physical guy on the board, but he’s got surprising strength and he can jolt the ball farther than you’d ever think he could,” Johnson continued. “His makeup is really good. Comes from a really great background, and family. He’s really competitive. He was the leader on that Virginia Tech team.”
The Twins went to watch Gavin Cross a lot, but “The more you see that team play, the more you appreciated Schrobel’s game. He’s got a chance to stay in the middle of the diamond. He’s got a fast swing with some sneaky power. Like Brooks Lee, he’s got plus-intangibles.”
Fair to say that the draft couldn’t have gone much better for the Twins. They have two players that probably should have gone higher in the draft fall to them, and their third pick is clearly a guy they really like too and maybe even drafted just a little higher than he might rank, knowing that they don’t have a third-round pick on Monday and he would be gone long before Round 4.
The Twins draft room was very happy, according to Johnson.
“We were just saying in the room that some years, it feels like you don’t get any bounces falling your way, and some years you feel like some of them go, but you never feel like they all fall that way. But to get the three guys we got tonight, felt like a really good night for our room. We coveted all three players. We were hopeful that ones would make it to certain ranges on the board, and the fact that they did, our room is in a really good spot going into Day 2.”
Here’s hoping that Sean Johnson and the personnel at Target Field are just as excited about Day 2’s selections.
Regarding Day 2, Johnson said, "Day 2 always seems to be the craziest!"