Minnesota Twins Draft History: The First-Rounders
By Editorial Staff
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:
|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||39||Henry Sanchez (minors)*||1B||HS|
|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|
|1999||5||B.J. Garbe (minors)||OF||HS|
|1998||6||Ryan Mills (minors)||LHP||4Yr|
|1993||33||Marc Barcelo (minors)*||RHP||4Yr|
|1993||38||Kelcey Mucker (minors)*||OF||HS|
|1988||20||Johnny Ard (minors)||RHP||JC|
|1985||13||Jeff Bumgarner (minors)||RHP||HS|
|1981||11||Mike Sodders (minors)||3B||4Yr|
|1979||11||Kevin Brandt (minors)||OF||HS|
|1977||15||Paul Croft (minors)||OF||HS|
|1974||14||Ted Shipley (minors)||SS||4Yr|
|1971||21||Dale Soderholm (minors)||SS||HS|
|1968||16||Alex Rowell (minors)||OF||4Yr|
|1966||20||Bob Jones (minors)||3B|
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.