With the 2014 MLB draft set to start on Thursday, I thought this would be the perfect time to look at some of the players who the Twins might be considering with their first-round pick. The Twins will draft fifth and hopefully we’re at the end of this run of super high picks. Since the losses have already accumulated, we might as well enjoy the fruits that come from being a bad team. This three-year stretch of awful will net the Twins Byron Buxton, Kohl Stewart and likely one of the guys on this list. Not a terrible consolation.
Before we start, I wrote recaps of each of the Twins’ last 25 drafts last summer. It was a really fun process and I think the results were pretty good. If you’re interested, I archived all of the posts here.
The Twins aren’t heavily linked to Rodon because the consensus is that he will be gone before the Twins pick. In fact, Rodon was considered somewhat of a lock for the first-overall selection going into the college baseball season. He’s had a good, but not great season and other guys have emerged. In addition, the Astros, Marlins and White Sox have all indicated in some way or another that they might want to go cheap with their first pick to save money for later picks. If that happens, Rodon could potentially fall to the Twins.
Personally, this is a dream scenario for me. I love Rodon and I think he’d be contributing in the Twins’ rotation within a couple of years. The North Carolina State junior can touch 98 from the left side, a quality that makes talent evaluators drool. He has a power slider and a decent changeup, plenty enough to get great results in the Majors if he develops as anticipated. If four teams pass on Rodon, I’d be shocked. If five teams pass on Rodon, I’ll have a freaking meltdown.
Nola is a much more reasonable target for Twins fans. Odds are, he’ll be available. If he is, I could see the Twins taking him. Out of LSU, Nola boasts a mid-90s fastball and a decent secondary arsenal that includes a slow curve and a developing changeup. His command is widely considered to be his best tool and we all know how much the Twins love command. He has a high floor, but his ceiling is high too. He could be the most MLB-ready starter linked to the Twins, although I don’t think that is enough to take him at five. If he’s the best player available, you take him. If someone who is farther away has more talent, you take that player. I like Nola, but he’s not someone the Twins should be locked into.
Newcomb is a University of Hartford lefty with a mid-90s fastball. His draft stock appears to be on the rise, but I’m not sure it has risen enough for him to be a realistic target for the Twins. He’s widely considered the fifth-best pitching prospect in this draft, at best. If that’s true, he would be available for the Twins. However, with some of the position player talent we’ll discuss later, I don’t think the Twins would draft him if he were the only top 5 pitcher available. That said, I’ve seen recent steam that indicates the Twins are interested in Newcomb.
A 6’4″ lefty with a mid-90s fastball at the age of 18? These are the kinds of players who get drafted first overall. Aiken added velocity to his fastball between his junior and senior seasons and it vaulted him from a mid to late first round target to the potential top pick in the draft. The Astros seem to like him and Keith Law has them projected to take him. He might sign a bit cheaper than Rodon and he might have more upside. I don’t see Aiken getting to the Twins, but if he does, I almost wonder if they’d take a prep pitcher with their first pick two years in a row. Maybe they should, especially if it’s Aiken.
If nothing else, Twins fans should be aware of Kolek because it appears their division-rival White Sox are pretty locked in on him. Kolek has a four pitch arsenal from the right side that includes a power slider and a fastball that can hit triple digits. He famously did not allow a hit in his first three starts of his senior season with Shepherd High School in Shepherd, Texas. He’s a big man with a big frame and if his repertoire develops, he could be a monster. I can see why the White Sox like him.
I really only mention Toussaint because he has massive upside and a cool name. He may have the highest ceiling of any player in this draft, but he is an extremely risky selection in the top five. That said, we could be sitting here in ten years lamenting the fact that the Twins weren’t more aggressive in pursuing Toussaint because he could be the Jose Fernandez of this draft. If the Twins wanted to save some money for later rounds, this would be the guy I’d be talking with. They haven’t seemed interested in that strategy thus far, so I doubt this is an option.
The Twins seem to be at least somewhat interested in Gordon at five. The long-term need for a quality shortstop cannot be overlooked. Gordon is a very talented player, so there is a fit. His best tools are his speed and defense, but many feel that his bat could come along nicely as well. He’s a true shortstop with the frame and skills to remain at the position for a long time. He would be a great selection at five, if he’s available. He has recently been linked with teams in the top three, as a way of saving money for later selections. If those reports are bogus, he will be in the mix for the Twins at five.
Take everything I said about Gordon, add a few years of college experience, lower the ceiling, and remove all forms of consistency and you have Turner. I’d be shocked if the Twins took Turner at five, but you never know. If Gordon and the top three pitchers are gone, the fifth pick could be very interesting and potentially very surprising.
The Wild Cards
If Gordon and the three top pitchers are gone, conventional wisdom points toward Aaron Nola. That said, I might lean toward Jackson instead. Jackson is a powerful high school catcher who many feel will end up in right field. His arm is strong enough for either position, but he might simply grow too much to stay behind the plate. That said, his massive raw power and good hit tool should play at any position. The Twins outfield appears to be set for the long-term, but drafting baseball players based on need is a risky venture. I always feel that taking the best player available is the right strategy and there’s a decent chance that Jackson is the best player available at five.
There’s roughly a zero percent chance that the Twins take Hoffman. He just had major arm surgery and selecting him at five is a massive risk, maybe even riskier than taking Toussaint. That said, going into the season, Hoffman was a consensus top five pick (some thinking he’d go 1-1). Recently, Lucas Giolito had major arm surgery during his senior season in high school. He went from consensus top pick (including many who wanted the Twins to take him second-overall – the Buxton draft) to mid-first round pick. However, he is fully recovered now and considered one of the more promising arms in the Minor Leagues. Hoffman is older and more experienced, so he could bounce back even quicker. That said, the Twins aren’t in a position to take on this kind of risk with players of a similar caliber available.
I’ve seen Conforto in the top five of some mock drafts, so he bears mentioning as well. That said, I don’t think the Twins would be interested. He’s a corner outfielder who does everything well and nothing very well. He’s a safe pick for a team in the top ten, but the Twins have shown a willingness to take a more high-upside player when drafting this high.
I’d wager most of my non-existent baseball writing salary on the Twins taking one of the players mentioned above. If I had to guess right now, I’d say the Twins end up with Aaron Nola or Nick Gordon, but I secretly hope that Carlos Rodon slips for some unknown and crazy reason. I’ll be watching the draft on Thursday and you should too. Baseball draftees are often long from playing for your favorite team, but you can always say you remember when you first became aware of them. That’s something, right?
Next week, we’ll look at who the Twins actually draft. Have a great week, everyone!
Tags: Minnesota Twins