The Minnesota Twins front office of Falvey and Levine made a smart decision early in their tenure with their 2017 No. 1 draft pick choice of Royce Lewis.
On November 7, 2016, the Minnesota Twins marked a new era in their franchise by introducing Derek Falvey and Thad Levine as the new heads of the front office. Falvey’s official titles are Executive Vice President and Chief Baseball Officer, while Levine’s titles are Senior Vice President and General Manager. The pair is the next in line of what has been a stable front office for the Twins franchise. There have only been 7 different General Managers before Levine, including Rob Antony who acted as interim manager after the firing of Terry Ryan.
The pair has promised a return to winning ways in Minnesota. Admittedly, Minnesota sports fans are used to hearing the promise but have not often been rewarded for their patience. Still, the duo deserves some time to make good on their promise before we can say if they have succeeded or failed. The Minnesota Twins are a franchise that (breaking news) can’t afford to sign whoever they want out of free agency, so they are instead reliant on savvy value signings and growing talent from within. The latter is what we’ll take a look at today.
Now, it’s difficult to say with a high degree of confidence if the high draft picks Falvey and Levine made were good picks or not. Unlike the NBA or NFL where it is common for high round picks to make an immediate impact with their team, MLB draft picks typically require a minimum of 2-3 years in the minors before they make it to the big leagues. Seeing as very few players from the 2017 draft, the first Falvey and Levine oversaw for the Twins, has made their MLB debut, there is no guarantee that what follows will be accurate in several years when we have more context. But for now, the choices of the new front office appear to be quite smart. Let’s take a closer look.
Falvey and Levine had a big decision to make right off the bat. The Twins held the #1 pick in the draft, and there were several seemingly good options. Hunter Greene was the flashiest name available, a high schooler boasting strong abilities as both a pitcher (featuring a 100+ MPH fastball) and a hitter. Brendan McKay was another dual-threat option that many considered to be worthy of the top overall pick. Pitcher Kyle Wright rounded out the group that seemed to be most main in contention of coming to Minnesota at #1 in the weeks leading up to the draft.
Then, Falvey and Levine threw a curveball and selected shortstop Royce Lewis. Hunter Greene went 2nd to the Cincinnati Reds. While most agreed that Lewis was deserving of an early first round pick, the selection surprised many, including some of our own at Puckett’s Pond. A common criticism was that the Minnesota Twins were being “cheap”, as Greene had gotten the most headlines of any potential pick, but it was well known that he would require a hefty signing bonus. That said, Lewis set a record after signing the most expensive deal as a draftee out of high school at $6.725 million, though Greene would break that record several weeks later at $7.2 million following a scare that Greene would not sign at all (he signed just minutes before the deadline that would have meant the Reds had wasted their pick).
Thanks to a 103-loss season in 2016, the Twins also received a competitive balance pick that came in at 35th overall, selecting first baseman Brent Rooker out of Mississippi State University. There was less news surrounding this pick, as the first overall pick is reasonably going to get more coverage than the 35th overall pick, but it is worth mentioning that Rooker has performed well in the minors so far and currently ranks as the organization’s 7th overall prospect.
Now over a year removed from the 2017 draft, let’s take a look back. Lewis performed well, perhaps not spectacular in 2017, slashing .279/.381/.407 in 54 total games across rookie ball and A-level. Then, after being assigned to A-level Cedar Rapids to start the 2018 season, Lewis exploded. In 75 games, he slashed .315/.368/.485 with 23 doubles, 9 home runs, 53 RBI, 22 steals, and 24 walks to 49 strikeouts. He truly did do it all. He even earned a promotion to A+ Fort Myers, where he played in 46 games. His slash line cooled off in A+, dropping to .255/.327/.399, but he still filled out the stat sheet with 6 doubles, 3 triples, 5 home runs, and 6 steals.
Perhaps the most impressive part of it all was that Lewis is only 19 years old. That’s nearly 2 and a half years younger than the average hitter in A-ball where he put up incredible numbers, and nearly 3 and a half years younger than the average hitter in A+. 2018 was impressive enough that he is already considered one of the best prospects in baseball. MLB Pipeline has him ranked as the 10th overall prospect in the game, and he was ranked 16th overall in Baseball Prospectus’ midseason update. He figures to slot even higher next year thanks to a strong 2018 season combined with several guys ahead of him likely graduating to the MLB early next season. Not bad for someone not yet 20 years old.
So how have the other potential picks done? Let’s take a look.