Mike Sixel reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, Get To Know Twins Draft Pick Luke Keaschall
Luke Keaschall joins the Twins organization as a 20-year-old from Arizona State. He played his first two collegiate seasons for San Francisco before transferring to the Sun Devils this past season. He is a second baseman with some power potential, and that's a profile Twins fans have seen in Brian Dozier, Jorge Polanco, and most recently Edouard Julien.
Having played in the Cape Cod League, Keaschall joined the Pac-12, having experienced high competition. He has played shortstop and outfield but should be a bat-first second baseman in pro ball.
I recently caught up with him following his selection, and here's what he had to say:
Twins Daily: As a California kid that spent two seasons at San Francisco before transferring to the powerhouse that is Arizona State, what would you say has most changed, grown, and developed with your game through college?
Luke Keaschall: I loved my time at San Francisco. It was my only Division I offer out of high school and a great experience. I was fortunate enough to have an amazing head coach that really helped shape me into the ball player and person I am today. I have nothing but great things to say about him, but when he was asked to leave, I decided I was going to transfer. ASU was an amazing place to go! I am very grateful for the opportunity Willie Bloomquist and Arizona State gave me. I'd say everything in my game has grown, changed, and improved from high school throughout college. The biggest thing for me was maturing and growing into my body. In my senior year of high school, I was five-ten, 160 pounds. I've put on around 30 pounds since then and grown two or three inches. College gave me an opportunity to grow my game in every way possible.
TD: There have been a handful of great players to be drafted and come out of California. Who are some of the guys you grew up watching, and what about their game do you try to emulate?
LK: California is a huge state with a ton of talent, but the players I watched the most growing up vary a lot depending on which state they're from. The three players I grew up watching the most were Derek Jeter, Mike Trout, and Dustin Pedroia. Derek Jeter was my favorite player growing up, Mike Trout is a special talent that is extremely fun to watch, and I've always loved the way Pedroia plays the game.
TD: This past year at Arizona State, you really came on from a power perspective with the 18 homers. The contact skills and plate discipline have always been great, but how did you add the power without sacrificing that part of your game?
LK: The power was just a part of the process. Putting together quality at-bats and consistently putting the ball in play with hard contact led to more home runs. Each year I've gotten a little bit stronger and more refined in my swing and approach. Every year, I am always striving to improve in every way, so the power showed a little more this year for a bunch of reasons. I think I've always been the type of guy to do damage. This year, the home run numbers showed up a little more. I've always hit a lot of extra-base hits.
TD: Second base is sometimes an overlooked position from an offensive perspective, but guys that hit for power there really shine. What do you take pride in about your game, and what can you tell us about your glove in the field?
LK: I take a lot of pride in my game defensively. I really make a strong effort to make all of the routine plays. The most important part of becoming the best defender possible is to make the routine plays as often as possible. I played second base at ASU, but I've mostly played shortstop my whole life. I've also played a little bit in the outfield and third base. I can really play whatever position my team needs and do whatever the game asks of me.
TD: Moving to the Pac-12 was probably a step up in competition. How did you handle that change, and what do you think has most prepared you for pro ball?
LK: The Pac-12 was a great experience! I played two summers in the Cape Cod Baseball Summer League, and the WCC was a decent conference. So when I made the switch to the Pac-12, I wasn't too alarmed. I was just excited for the challenge and ready to do whatever it took to be successful. What has most prepared me for pro ball is going through a lot of ups and downs through my collegiate career. Being able to understand that there are going to be times when you're on top of the world, and times when things aren't going your way is important. It's important to be the same guy everyday and never get too high or too low.
TD: Your coach, Willie Bloomquist, played in the majors for 14 years. What about learning from him has helped set you up for success at the next level?
LK: Willie Bloomquist is awesome! I am super grateful to have played for him at ASU. He's given me a ton of wisdom about the game and how to go about the game. Ever since I met Bloomquist, we got along great, and it's been great to learn from someone as professional and experienced as he is. The biggest thing he's helped instill into me that'll help me at the next level is to stay confident, and always play the game the right way. Each day is another opportunity, so play each game with a ton of energy and never lose sight of the big picture.
TD: On the west coast, there is only a little exposure to Target Field or Minnesota. What do you know about the Twins? Have you been to the stadium before?
LK: I haven't been to Target Field or Minnesota before. I know that the Twins are a fantastic organization with a bright future. The Twins are big on homegrown talent, meaning the players they draft and develop are the players they want performing for them in the show. This is awesome because they take pride in the people they pick. They see potential and want to build on it. I am super excited that I am a part of the Twins organization and cannot wait to get started.
TD: End it on a fun one. What is something about you that Twins fans should know? What do you like to do off the field to keep things light?
LK: Twins fans should know that I wrestled in high school and loved it! Off the field, I have a girlfriend that I enjoy spending time with, and I like to spend time with my family.
Welcome to Twins Territory, Luke!
Mike Sixel reacted to Jeremy Nygaard for an article, College Season Kicks Off
Throughout the next five months, we'll be doing all we can to help keep your informed on the player pool for the MLB Draft. The Twins were the biggest movers in the new lottery system and are now bound to select a player that should immediately become a Top 100 prospect in baseball. Last year's draft was especially hitter-heavy at the top as only four pitchers went in the top 19 picks, which included a huge surprise at #3 (Kumar Rocker) and another huge surprise at #7 (Cade Horton). This year's draft has a better mix. And that should be a lot of fun for Twins fans.
Chase Dollander, RHP, Tennessee
Dollander enters the season as most pundit's top collegiate pitching prospect and a likely Top 5 pick. As we've seen repeatedly in the past, trajectories of college pitchers can change in a hurry. In his debut this past weekend, Dollander threw 81 pitches (only 47 strikes), but recorded seven strikeouts. His numbers weren't great in 4 2/3 innings, as he allowed two runs (including a home run) and walked and hit a batter. His impressive fastball was reportedly in the mid-90s consistently but never hit triple figures like it can. It's only his first start, though, so there is plenty of time left.
"Time" has been a huge friend to Dollander. As a 6' 3", 180 pound high-schooler, Dollander went undrafted and pitched his freshman year for Georgia Southern. That time as an Eagle taught Dollander how to eat and lift weights properly, improving his body (adding 20 pounds) and striking out 64 in 49 innings. He did walk 28, but got plenty of interest in the transfer portal, including from the team he shut down in his collegiate debut, Tennessee.
Now entering his second season as a Volunteer, Dollander is considered by some to be the college pitching prospect since Stephen Strasburg and that's high praise. The comp list beyond that is impressive: Gerrit Cole, Trevor Bauer, Jack Leiter. Any time you have the ability to add a potential top-of-the-rotation starter, you have to strongly consider it.
Paul Skenes, RHP LSU
Like Doogie says below, Skenes struck out 12 in six innings in his season debut. Skenes (6'6", 235) also has a big mid-90s fastball which nearly reaches triple-digits. Since arriving at LSU, Skenes has changed his slider by working with noted slider-guy Wes Johnson (sound familiar?) and it's getting rave reviews.
Skenes, like current Twin Griffin Jax, attended the Air Force out of high school. While Jax remained at the academy through graduation and his commitment to the military delayed and interrupted his professional career, Skenes will not have any extenuating commitments. Cadets are allowed to leave before beginning classes their junior year without penalty.
His professional future is brightest on the mound, but Skenes is also pretty good in the batters box. In those two years at Air Force, Skenes hit .367 while smacking 24 home runs with 81 RBI. You're probably thinking, "oh, so he plays first base too" and you're not completely wrong, because he's only done a little bit of that. Aside from pitching, he's been primarily a catcher(!) who committed to college to do just that.
There is no doubt it will be interesting to follow Skenes through this season at LSU. If all goes well, there's no reason he wouldn't be in the conversation for the 5th pick (or the 1st pick for that matter).
Hurston Waldrep, RHP, Florida
The final pitcher that will be mentioned today struck out six in five innings over the weekend, while allowing two runs on four hits and two walks. Waldrep transferred to Florida from Southern Miss and has an electric fastball (96-99 mph), a high-80s slider and a mid-80s 12-to-6 curveball.
Waldrep helped lead Southern Miss to the Super Regionals before fleeing to the SEC. An All-American, Waldrep struck out 156 in 106 1/3 innings in two seasons (one as a starter) as a Golden Eagle. Slightly smaller than Dollander and much smaller than Skenes, Waldrep still has good size (6' 2, 205) and hails from the noted hot-bed state of Georgia.
Pitching for a Top-10 team, there's no reason to think that Waldrep won't get plenty of opportunities to pitch in front of big crowds, lots of scouts and in big games for the Gators this year. We could certainly see his trajectory trend upwards.
While these are just three names to follow for the season, there will be many, many more. The SEC, specifically and as seen above, is littered with potential top-10 picks.
Dylan Crews, OF, LSU and Wyatt Langford, OF, Florida are largely considered to be the two best draft-eligible college hitting prospects. Jacob Gonzalez, SS, Ole Miss is arguably the top shortstop prospect. Enrique Bradfield Jr., OF, Vanderbilt is the most exciting prospect in all of college baseball with elite speed and the ability to put bat on ball, but Ben Revere-type power. (Heck, that might not be a terrible floor comp for Bradfield). The whole conference seems abnormally loaded (and not just for the 2023 draft either).
Twins Daily will keep pumping out draft content through the spring and into the summer leading up to the mid-July draft.
Mike Sixel reacted to Lucas Seehafer PT for an article, Scouting Twins Prospects: Cole Sands
Sands stands tall throughout his delivery and releases the ball from an almost wholly sidearm slot, though the slight tilt of his torso makes it appear as a three-quarters slot to opposing batters. He owns a three-pitch mix consisting of a fastball, curveball, and changeup. His fastball is good, if uninspiring, but his bread and butter pitch is his curveball. (The changeup has potential though he doesn't deploy it nearly as often as the other two.)
What makes Sands' curveball so good is its heavy 12-6 break. In the video example above, the curve's movement isn't necessarily anything to write home about; however, as the game marches on and fatigue sets in, it tends to adopt a more significant break.
Sands has the raw stuff to be an MLB pitcher, but two aspects of his game will determine whether he will be a starter or come out of the pen: His command and his changeup.
As with many of the up-and-coming pitchers in the Twins' system, Sands sometimes struggles with walks while simultaneously boasting substantial strikeout numbers. This summer's 4.15 BB/9 is nearly double any rate he posted before this season, while his 12.25 K/9 is commensurate with what he's done in the past. If 2021 is a blip and his actual level of command is more in line with what he showed in 2019 and prior, he'll have a much greater chance at sticking as a starter.
Likewise, Sands will be more likely to remain a starting pitcher if he develops his changeup further. As of this report, Sands' curveball is MLB-ready, while his fastball is good enough. His changeup boasts MLB caliber movement. He needs to, again, improve his command of it.
A good player comparison for Sands may be Tyler Duffey. Duffey was a borderline starter who truly excelled with a move to the bullpen and an increased reliance on his excellent curveball. It also doesn't hurt that everything about their profile, from their background as college starters to even their mechanics, is similar.
Cole Sands typically slots in around the 12-18 range in most Twins prospects lists alongside fellow pitchers Chris Vallimont and Drew Strotman. While all three are drastically different pitchers, much of the story behind their game is the same: They have at least one MLB level pitch, miss a ton of bats, and, at times, struggle with command. Sands's ceiling probably doesn't reach as high of the three, but his track record at the low minors suggests that his floor isn't as low either. Check back in five years, and you may find Sands as an anchor in the Twins bullpen.
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