Don’t look now, but the Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft is just over two weeks away!
The draft is guaranteed to be one of the highlights of the season for the Twins. The team holds the second overall pick and numerous other high selections that can provide some excitement in the midst of an otherwise dreary season. Puckett’s Pond will be bringing plenty of draft-related coverage over the next few weeks to get you in the right frame of mind to cheer or boo the Twins’ choices (the party started earlier this week, when we wrote about the differences between high school and college draftees).
Last year, the Twins drafted a plethora of middle infielders, since that was a big position of need. Shortstops Levi Michael, Tyler Grimes, and Adam Bryant all joined this organization in the first 10 rounds. On the other hand, the Twins only selected one outfielder in the top 10 (Derek Rodriguez) because the system is stocked with toolsy outfielders. This year there are some other glaring positions of need that the team must concentrate on improving.
From the Major Leagues all the way down, the state of pitching in the Twins’ organization is an absolute travesty. Unless and until they make some significant changes to their pitching strategy, the Twins will continue to accumulate Top 5 draft picks year after year. The highest levels of the farm system are stocked with aging journeymen who will never become productive MLB starters. The lower levels’ rotations are full of “pitch to contact” types who can put up impressive numbers at A ball, but inevitably stall when they climb the minor league ladder. Aside from the recently demoted Liam Hendriks, not one single starting pitcher on any of the Twins’ farm teams has struck out more than a batter per inning. Minor leaguers have no trouble making contact against the Twins’ pitchers; Major Leaguers will punish them.
This organization suffers from a severe shortage of catchers who can hit. Chris Herrmann is probably the brightest catching prospect in the system, and he upped his stock with a strong performance in Arizona last fall. But this year he is hitting just .237/.282/.403 at AA New Britain. The only catchers at Rochester are J.R. Towles and Rene Rivera, both non-roster invitees to Spring Training who have had spotty records in MLB. Fort Myers’ two catchers, Josmil Pinto and Dan Rohlfing, are both stuck under .300 OBP. Joe Mauer and Ryan Doumit form a solid catching duo this year, but Mauer will certainly spend less time behind the plate each passing year. It would be nice if the Twins had a young star to groom as his successor.
At first glance, this is absolutely not an area of need. Miguel Sano is not only the Twins’ top prospect, he’s rapidly becoming one of the best prospects in all of baseball. And 2011 draftee Travis Harrison might be every bit as elite a power hitter as Sano. The problem is, both players seem destined to move to other positions. Sano has already committed 11 errors this season. Taking time to improve his defense could severely delay his arrival in the Majors. It would make more sense to move him to the outfield or first base. Harrison has not played in official games yet this year, but the speculation about him is that he is also ripe for a position switch. That would leave the Twins without a third baseman of the future.
Starting pitching is by far the greatest need for this organization. It might be an intelligent move to spend all of the first and supplemental round picks on pitchers who can miss bats. Catcher and third base can be addressed in rounds two through 10, with plenty of other pitchers taken in between.