Minnesota Twins Draft History: The First-Rounders

With the amateur draft now over, I thought it might be fun to dig into the team’s draft history and find out how many of its most useful players came from the draft. After all, the Twins are famous for developing their own players, and I thought it would be interesting to see just how much of the Twins’ historically great talent is actually homegrown. First, let’s look at the first round picks, since those players are the most likely to reach the major leagues; I will devote a later post to gems found in the later rounds (I’m not going to do a breakdown of each round, that would take all year). I’ve decided to go all the way back to 1965, when the amateur draft was first instituted, though I’ll only make note of the more interesting draft picks, and if applicable, who might have been a better choice instead. After the jump, one very big table and a very wordy post (seriously, this thing is almost 1500 words, so don’t say I didn’t warn you).

I used baseball-reference.com’s draft tool to create this table of all the Twins’ first-round picks since the draft was instituted in 1965. Those marked with an * were supplemental picks, and those italicized did not sign:

Year OvPck Pos WAR G OPS G ERA Type
2009 22 Kyle Gibson (minors) RHP 4Yr
2009 46 Matthew Bashore (minors)* LHP 4Yr
2008 14 Aaron Hicks (minors) OF HS
2008 27 Carlos Gutierrez (minors) RHP 4Yr
2008 31 Shooter Hunt (minors)* RHP 4Yr
2007 28 Ben Revere (minors) OF HS
2006 20 Christopher Parmelee (minors) OF HS
2005 25 Matt Garza RHP 7.6 5 .091 100 3.90 4Yr
2005 39 Henry Sanchez (minors)* 1B HS
2004 20 Trevor Plouffe SS 3 .522 HS
2004 22 Glen Perkins LHP 1.4 3 .000 67 4.73 4Yr
2004 25 Steven Waldrop (minors) RHP HS
2004 35 Matthew Fox (minors)* RHP 4Yr
2004 39 Jay Rainville (minors)* RHP HS
2003 21 Matthew Moses (minors) 3B HS
2002 20 Denard Span OF 7.2 296 .788 HS
2001 1 Joe Mauer C 33.1 749 .887 HS
2000 2 Adam Johnson RHP -1.3 1 .000 9 10.25 4Yr
2000 31 Aaron Heilman*
RHP 0.8 387 .086 401 4.16 4Yr
1999 5 B.J. Garbe (minors) OF HS
1998 6 Ryan Mills (minors) LHP 4Yr
1997 9 Michael Cuddyer SS 7.7 897 .801 HS
1997 50 Matt LeCroy* C -0.2 476 .766 4Yr
1996 2 Travis Lee 1B 4.6 1099 .745 4Yr
1995 13 Mark Redman LHP 7.6 85 .139 219 4.85 4Yr
1994 8 Todd Walker 2B 9.9 1288 .783 4Yr
1994 34 Travis Miller* LHP -0.1 19 203 5.05 4Yr
1993 20 Torii Hunter OF 24.7 1555 .803 HS
1993 21 Jason Varitek C 22.6 1465 .781 4Yr
1993 33 Marc Barcelo (minors)* RHP 4Yr
1993 38 Kelcey Mucker (minors)* OF HS
1992 26 Dan Serafini LHP -1.0 73 .200 104 6.04 HS
1991 3 Dave McCarty 1B -2.3 630 .676 3 2.45 4Yr
1991 27 Scott Stahoviak* 3B 0.7 344 .745 4Yr
1990 12 Todd Ritchie RHP 4.7 99 .409 184 4.71 HS
1990 29 Midre Cummings* OF 0.9 460 .703 HS
1989 25 Chuck Knoblauch SS 41.2 1632 .783 4Yr
1988 20 Johnny Ard (minors) RHP JC
1987 3 Willie Banks RHP -0.4 85 .428 181 4.75 HS
1986 10 Derek Parks RHP -0.5 45 .536 HS
1985 13 Jeff Bumgarner (minors) RHP HS
1984 8 Jay Bell SS 34.8 2063 .759 HS
1983 1 Tim Belcher RHP 24.6 201 .299 394 4.16 4Yr
1982 4 Bryan Oelkers LHP -1.5 0 45 6.01 4Yr
1981 11 Mike Sodders (minors) 3B 4Yr
1980 12 Jeff Reed C 3.6 1234 .695 HS
1979 11 Kevin Brandt (minors) OF HS
1978 16 Lenny Faedo SS -0.3 174 .600 HS
1977 15 Paul Croft (minors) OF HS
1976 10 Jamie Allen 3B -0.8 86 .613 HS
1975 13 Rick Sofield SS -0.9 207 .634 HS
1974 14 Ted Shipley (minors) SS 4Yr
1973 11 Eddie Bane LHP -1.0 1 44 4.66 4Yr
1972 8 Dick Ruthven RHP 16.4 363 .435 355 4.14 4Yr
1971 21 Dale Soderholm (minors) SS HS
1970 22 Bob Gorinski SS -0.8 54 .548 HS
1969 7 Paul Powell OF -0.1 30 .501 4Yr
1968 16 Alex Rowell (minors) OF 4Yr
1967 17 Steve Brye 3B 3.2 697 .674 HS
1966 20 Bob Jones (minors) 3B
1965 9 Eddie Leon SS -3.2 601 .609 4Yr
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/9/2010.

In all, 59% of the Twins’ first-round picks have made the major leagues, for an average 6.7 wins above replacement per player. That’s a pretty mediocre success rate considering 91% of all first-rounders have made the majors since 1965 for an average 17.9 WAR per player. So far, Chuck Knoblauch has been the Twins’ most successful first-round pick, with a 41.2 WAR, though Joe Mauer will probably surpass him sometime within the next couple of years. The jury is still out on their track record over the past decade, since nearly half of their picks aren’t projected to reach the majors until at least next year, but so far six of the players selected before 2005 made the majors, with an average 8.0 WAR per player (including Garza, since he did reach the majors as a Twin, but excluding Heilman, since he never signed). The Twins had two particularly strong drafts in a row, with Joe Mauer and Denard Span being taken first overall in 2001 and 2002.

Of course, not every pick was a good one, and even those who may have been the best choice at the time don’t always work out. Jay Rainville is a prime example of the uncertainty and rotten luck that sometimes comes with developing young talent. He was a power pitcher drafted out of Bishop Hendricken High School, in Warwick, Rhode Island. He, like Gibson, projected to be a number one starter, and was likely the reason the Twins felt they could deal Matt Garza for a right-handed bat. Unfortunately, Rainville got hurt. He had surgery on a compressed nerve on his shoulder in 2006, and suffered a subsequent drop in velocity on his fastball. While it generally takes a couple of years for velocity to come back after such an operation (much like Tommy John), it never really did for Rainville. He tried to become a finesse pitcher, and did have a promising 2007 campaign, but his efforts ultimately proved unsuccessful. He made 13 starts for the Rock Cats last year, posting a 5.56 ERA and 1.67 K/BB ratio. He abruptly retired from baseball in the middle of the season, having never made it out of AA ball.

Of course, it’s difficult to build a team with draft picks alone; one must also make smart trades. The Twins have not been afraid to deal their former first-round picks, albeit with somewhat mixed results. That Garza trade still looks awful, even though Delmon Young seems to be blossoming into a useful player. Mark Redman was dealt to the Tigers for Todd Jones (the Tigers later dealt him to the Marlins for Nate Robertson). Todd Walker never really got a long with Tom Kelly, and was traded with Butch Huskey to the Rockies for Todd Sears and cash. Willie Banks was traded for Dave Stevens and Matt Walbeck. Midre Cummings was traded with Denny Naegle for about a half-season of John Smiley. Paul Powell was traded to the Dodgers for Bobby Darwin. However, the Twins also acquired some of key contributors to the 1987 World Championship team by dealing former first-rounders: Jay Bell (with Curt Wardle and Jim Weaver) to the Indians for Bert Blyleven, and Jeff Reed to Montreal (along with Al Cardwood, Neal Heaton, and Yorkis Perez) for Tom Nieto and Jeff Reardon.

As far as whiffs in the draft, well, considering that the front office has had to deal with a limited budget and signability issues until very recently, I suppose I’ll give them a bit of a pass. The draft is supposed to be the great equalizer between baseball’s haves and have-nots, but often the top talent falls to the later rounds if the smaller-payroll teams don’t feel they can sign a particular player (signability is likely one of the reasons the Twins took Joe Mauer over Mark Prior, though that’s actually worked out well in hindsight). The Twins had a string of mediocre drafts in the ’90s, while they were also in the midst of a massive rebuilding project, with the 1991 draft being about the worst. Not only did they take David McCarty with the third overall pick, they also chose Scott Stahoviak with their supplemental pick. McCarty did turn out to be a useful player (though mostly for other teams, he was traded to the Reds for John Courtright in ’95), but nothing like the superstar scouts projected him to be, while Stahoviak was barely replacement-level. Who might have been a better choice? Some guy named Manny Ramirez, who was taken by the Indians in the 13th round, though Cliff Floyd (14th) and Shawn Green (16th) would have been good, too. The 2000 draft was also pretty bad, since the Twins drafted Adam Johnson with the second overall pick when they could have taken Chase Utley (15th) or Adam Wainwright (29th). Heck, Kelly Johnson, taken by the Braves with the 38th overall pick, probably would’ve been a better choice. They also took Todd Ritchie over Mike Mussina in the 1990 draft, Dan Serafini over Johnny Damon in ’92 (though, in their defense, 25 other teams passed on Damon and pitching was a much more pressing need than the outfield at the time), Walker over Nomar Garciaparra in ’94 (plus Travis Miller was their supplemental pick for failing to sign Varitek), Mark Redman over Roy Halladay in ’95 (though, again, 15 other teams made the same mistake), Travis Lee over Eric Chavez and Mark Kotsay in ’96, Michael Cuddyer over Lance Berkman in ’97 (I like Cuddles, but ugh), Ryan Mills over Captain Cheeseburger in ’98 (though, once again, the Twins certainly weren’t the only ones to make that mistake; Cleveland probably has more steals in the draft than anybody), and B. J. Garbe over Barry Zito and Ben Sheets, among others, in 1999 (incredibly Albert Pujols fell to the 13th round; his own organization selected the likes of Chance Caple and Nick Stocks over him). With such weak drafts in the earlier part of the decade, it’s no wonder the Twins were so bad in the mid-late ’90s, and haven’t been a serious World Series contender since 1991.

Tags: C. C. Sabathia Chase Utley Cliff Floyd Denard Span Jay Rainville Joe Mauer Johnny Damon Manny Ramirez Matt Garza Michael Cuddyer Mike Mussina Minnesota Twins Nomar Garciaparra Roy Halladay Trevor Plouffe

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