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Just months before the Twins won their most recent World Series championship, the Minnesota Twins drafted a second baseman out of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College named Matt Lawton. While top picks from that draft came with high floors and ceilings, first-round picks David McCarty (Stanford), Scott Stahoviak (Creighton), and Mike Durant (Ohio State) did not live up to their expectations, the Twins had success later in the draft. In the 7th round, they drafted a high school pitcher from Gary, Indiana, who went on to have a 21-year MLB career. The first nine seasons of his big-league career were with the Twins. In the 8th round, the Twins drafted a high school pitcher from Tampa, Florida, who went on to win 148 games over 12 seasons with the Twins. Brad Radke became a Twins Hall of Famer. Their 6th-round pick in 1991 was a catcher from Florida State who spent five seasons in the Twins farm system. He has been a well-respected MLB coach for several years, and 2023 will be his first year as the manager of the Chicago White Sox. Matt Lawton began his professional career in 1992 and played second base. In 1993, he moved to the outfield, a move that proved to be beneficial. Following a strong 1995 season at Double-A, Lawton received a September call-up and hit .317 over 21 games. He split the 1996 season between Triple-A Salt Lake and the big leagues. He remained a starter in the Twins outfield until he was traded to the Mets for right-hander Rick Reed at the deadline in 2001. Lawton spent a decade in the Twins organization including parts of seven years in the big leagues. In 771 games, he hit .277/.379/.428 (.808) with 163 doubles, 72 homers, and 96 stolen bases. He was an All-Star in 2000 when he hit 44 doubles and posted a career-best .865 OPS. In 1998, he posted an .864 OPS when he hit a career-best 21 homers. One thing is for certain. If Matt Lawton played in today’s game and put up the numbers he is putting up, he would be making a ton of money. On-Base Percentage wasn’t as appreciated until Moneyball came out in 2002, and even then it took a while to become a factor in salaries in pro ball. On the new The Show about The Show, I chatted with the vastly underrated former Twins outfielder. Ideally, these conversations wouldn’t be quite this long, but this was Lawton’s first interview ever on Zoom, and it was so much fun that it is a Gleeman and the Geek-lengthed show. You will want to watch it all, but if you don’t have time, here are just some of the highlights. The big ‘talker’ of this interview will likely be Matt Lawton’s acknowledgment of his PED usage and 10-game suspension. (1:06:30 mark) He talks about where he got the steroids from, why he decided to try it, how it affected him, and how he got caught. Lawton is very candid about it. At 37:30, Lawton was involved in an on-field spitting incident in Toronto that nearly got him arrested. “My momma wasn’t happy about me that day.” Starting at about the 6:00 mark, Lawton talks about his development and how he decided to become a more well-rounded player. Paul Molitor played a role, but also playing in the Florida State League gave him tremendous confidence in his game. At 10:00, Lawton discussed why he took so many pitches. You may be surprised at the reason he walked so much early on, and how that carried forward. At 14:45, find out why he called his first MLB home run “bittersweet.” When you hear why, you’ll likely agree. There are several Kirby Puckett stories throughout the podcast including: why he kept calling Lawton “Wally Pipp,” Puckett showing off his check and motivating and providing wisdom to players, buying him his first suit, playing cards on the plane, protecting a bag for Puckett overnight and why it scared him to death. (1:37:45 mark) We played a lot of “Name Association” during the show. Find out what words or phrases Lawton used to describe teammates and coaches. Several Tom Kelly stories and descriptions. Harmon Killebrew. Rod Carew. Brad Radke. Terry Ryan, Todd Walker, the Metrodome’s roof (when was it toughest to see?), Torii Hunter, Jacque Jones, Corey Koskie, David Ortiz (“I don’t think Papi would have been Papi if he wouldn’t have been with Manny Ramirez”), Paul Molitor, Ken Griffey Jr. Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Frank Thomas, and more. Around 24:15, Lawton talks about one reason he got hit by a lot of pitches… he believes he was one of the first big bat flippers. At 25:55, Lawton discusses going to arbitration with the Twins. “I wouldn’t wish that process on anyone.” At the 40:30 mark, Lawton talks about what it meant to him to play in his first (of two) All-Star game. At the 51:00 mark, he talks about his reaction following the news that he had been traded to the Mets. “It was devastating! It was one of those things I never got over.” The Mets were in Pittsburgh on 9/11. Find out how he and his wife learned the news of the terror attacks, and then returning to action in New York. At the 1:00:00 mark, he discusses how going to Atlantic City with Mike Piazza cost him over $117,000 in jewelry. At 1:09:30, Lawton talks about hearing about the death of Kirby Puckett. He was with the Mariners that spring, and along with Eddie Guardado, they left spring training to attend the funeral. At the 1:19:00 mark, Lawton talks about the umpires back then and why he wishes there would have been an electronic strike zone. Things were especially bad at Yankees Stadium, “I know the strike zone. That’s not even close.” And comparing the defense in center field of Torii Hunter and Byron Buxton… Check out the full podcast below. Be sure to subscribe to The Show about The Show YouTube page, and follow Devlin on Twitter (@Devlin_Clark84). I appreciate you taking time to read this and watch. Please leave your comments below. I have a couple more interviews set up with Twins players from that general era, so any feedback would be great. Thanks! FULL VIDEO
Any time the Twins have a stretch of futility, a few names are bound to be forgotten. Due in part to the utter hopelessness of the late 90's Twins and in part to the quality players that came after him, Matt Lawton sadly is one of those players. Drafted by the Twins in the 13th round of the 1991 MLB Draft, Lawton made his debut with the big club in 1995 and stuck as a regular in 1997. The Mississippi native made two career All-Star teams, including one with the Twins in 2000. Lawton was a very good to great offensive player, boasting a .379 on-base percentage over seven seasons with the Twins. For his career, Lawton walked 681 times and struck out just 613. He had a strong arm in right field and used it to throw out 12 runners in 1998. The 1999 season saw the arrival of Kirby Puckett's heir apparent in center field, Torii Hunter. Hunter had his ups and downs over his first couple of seasons before establishing himself as an All Star in his own right in 2001. The second half of that '99 season also saw the emergence of Jacque Jones, who would end up playing 976 career games with the Twins. The trio roamed the Metrodome outfield for the equivalent of two seasons beginning in the second half of 1999 through the team's trade of Lawton at the deadline in 2001. They made up Major League Baseball's only all black outfield. Somewhere along the line the outfield of Jones-Hunter-Lawton became known as the Soul Patrol. How did they get that nickname? (Pitchman voice) The answer... may surprise you. According to the Star Tribune, it was none other than the Dazzle Man himself, Dan Gladden, who coined the nickname. Well, he foisted the job on La Velle E. Neal III: After Lawton was traded to the Mets for Rick Reed the left field spot was manned by a platoon of Brian Buchanan, Dustan Mohr and Bobby Kielty. It was Kielty who was dealt to Toronto at the 2003 trade deadline for left fielder Shannon Stewart, moving Jones to right field and restoring the Soul Patrol outfield for another season (until Jones left after the 2005 season). There were many highlights for the Soul Patrol in each iteration. Who could forget Jacque Jones opening the 2002 season at Kansas City with a two home run game, setting the tone for one of the most fun seasons in team history? Torii Hunter running over White Sox catcher Jamie Burke in the heat of the 2004 Pennant Race... Shannon Stewart's catch at the wall in the 2003 playoffs... Lawton's 'Jumpman' pose when catching a fly ball in right at Yankee stadium. The Soul Patrol made Twins baseball cool again with highlight-reel defense and some pop on offense. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Order the Offseason Handbook — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
Drafting in baseball is a ridiculously nuanced practice. Not only are you trying to project future ability, but you’re doing so with athletes that have not yet even began to experience body maturation. On top of that you have the split between scouting acumen and analytical importance, and then add in a pool that spans 40 rounds. To say the practice is hard is putting it lightly. When looking back over the course of Twins history, there are certainly some gems that have stuck out, however. Excluding anyone taking before a double-digit round, and focusing entirely on hitters, here’re the top five gems ever uncovered by the Minnesota Twins: 5. Marty Cordova 4.8 fWAR (1989 10th round) Cordova was taken by the San Diego Padres in the eighth round out of high school but did not sign. After going to college and being eligible two years later, he fell to Minnesota in the 10th round. Cordova reached the big leagues in 1995 at the age of 25. Posting an .839 OPS in 137 games, he went on to win the American League Rookie of the Year edging out names like Garret Anderson, Andy Pettitte, and Troy Percival. Despite an even higher .849 OPS in 1996, Cordova’s 3.6 fWAR in his debut season was easily a career high. He went on to play for another eight seasons and compiled just 1.2 fWAR in that stretch. What began so promising eventually led to Cordova leaving Minnesota in 2000 after five relatively mediocre years. Kicking this list off with one of Minnesota's one-hit wonders should only highlight how hard drafting truly is. 4. Lyman Bostock 9.3 fWAR (1972 26th round) Taken in the 26th round Bostock burst onto the scene as an incredibly special talent. He debuted for the Twins at the age of 24 in 1975 and put up a .282 average. Although not a power hitter, he established himself as a very talented outfielder and earned MVP votes in 1977 thanks to an .897 OPS. Playing just three years for Minnesota, he became one of the first players to cash in on the new free agency opportunity and signed with the Angels for a cool $2 million. Sadly, he played just one season in California as his life was tragically ended at the age of 27. On a trip home to Gary Indiana he was in a car that was fired upon and the bullet damage ended up taking his life within a few hours. A few years ago, Twinkie Town did a nice story on the former Minnesota outfielder. 3. Matt Lawton 9.3 fWAR (1991 13th round) Taken by the Twins in the 13th round out of Community College, Lawton would make his big-league debut four years later. It was just a 21-game sample in 1995, but he posted a .317/.414/.467 slash line to kick off his major league career. Lawton wound up playing parts of seven seasons with the Twins and made his first All-Star appearance in 2000 as he posted a strong .865 OPS. Following the departure from Minnesota, Lawton went on to play for another six organizations. It was in Cleveland that he found another stable home, being there for three years from 2002-2004, and eventually made his second All-Star team. He posted 138 career long balls and tallied a .785 OPS over a 12-year Major League resume. 2. Corey Koskie 23.2 fWAR (1994 26th round) Taken in the 26th round out of Canada, Koskie went on to have a nine-year career that placed him 10th all-time among fWAR for Twins hitters. He spent his first seven seasons in Minnesota and is one of the most under-recognized stars in franchise history. In six full seasons he averaged an .840 OPS and never once posted a mark in the .700 range. Koskie earned MVP votes in 2001 and ripped 25 dingers in a season twice. For the early part of the 2000’s Koskie was among the most stable things in baseball. He was a staple at the hot corner for the Twins and was a big part of teams that ripped off three-straight AL Central Division titles. Still plenty active in the Minnesota baseball scene, Koskie is a strong contender as one of the best draft gem selections in baseball history. 1. Kent Hrbek 37.6 fWAR (1978 17th round) Just missing the top five in fWAR among hitters in Twins history, Kent Hrbek was the local kid that stayed home to make good. From Minneapolis and drafted out of Bloomington Kennedy High School, Hrbek was in The Show just three years after his pro debut. He was an All-Star during his rookie season and finished runner up in the Rookie of the Year voting to some guy named Cal. Kent finished just seven dingers shy of 300 for his career. He owned an .848 OPS and should have won the American League MVP in 1984 (Willie Hernandez grabbed both the Cy Young and MVP award that year). Hrbek is a two-time World Series champion, and there’s no doubt that he’ll tell you Ron Gant was out. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email