Redrafting every Minnesota Twins First Round Pick from the 1960s
With Summer Camp at a bit of lull and the MLB Draft in the rearview mirror, we redraft every Minnesota Twins first round pick from the 1960s.
The Minnesota Twins may have officially moved over from Washington in 1961, but the team only had first round picks from 1965-1969 in this decade. The Twins’ success rate with these picks was horrendous, including having one of their picks not even sign.
Because we will be redrafting every Twins pick ever, we had to start somewhere, and this five pick decade is a good start. There is only one rule: the player needs to have been available and signed in that draft year. Pretty simple rule, so let’s get into it.
1965: Minnesota Twins select Eddie Leon, SS, University of Arizona, 9th overall
The first selection in Minnesota history was a high one, and they couldn’t afford to mess it up…so of course they did. With the ninth pick, they drafted Eddie Leon, a shortstop out of the University of Arizona. Leon refused to sign, as he thought he could go higher.
He eventually ended up going in the second round two years (and two drafts) later to the Cleveland Indians. He had a eight-year career, mostly in Cleveland, where he struggled to a career line of .236/.302/.325. Not great.
1965 Redraft: Johnny Bench, C, Binger HS (Real Pick: Round 2, Pick No. 36)
The draft had two players sign and then make the Hall of Fame. Catcher Johnny Bench and Pitcher Nolan Ryan. The best catcher of all time up against the all-time strikeout leader. We go with Bench here for two reasons. Position and value.
Bench is a two-time MVP, 1968 Rookie of the Year, 14-time All-Star, ten-time Gold Glover, and a World Series MVP. On top of all that, he played catcher, meaning he would have taken over for Earl Battey perfectly when Battey retired in 1967.
In addition, Ryan was picked in the 12th round, pick number 226. If the Twins picked Ryan in the first round, it would have been crazy, especially considering the Twins had one of the best rotations in the league at this time. Bench is the call here.
1966: Minnesota Twins select Bob Jones, 3B, 20th overall
This is another tough one. Bob Jones signed with the team, but he played just three seasons in the Minnesota Twins system before being moved to Houston. He never played at a level higher than Single-A ball, and never played again after one year away from the Twins.
1966 Redraft: Dave Cash, 2B, Proctor HS (Real Pick: Round 5, Pick No. 95)
With Reggie Jackson off the board with the No. 2 pick, the weak 1966 draft class looks even tougher for the Twins, who picked at the end of round 1. This makes the selection of second baseman Dave Cash so much easier.
Outside of Jackson, no player made more All-Star games than Cash. He finished in the Top-20 in MVP voting three times, and he could have manned second and Rod Carew could move to first base a little earlier. With so little talent in this draft, Cash is the best option.
1967: Minnesota Twins select Steve Brye, 3B, St. Elizabeth HS,17th Overall
As far as first round picks go, especially compared to the other picks the Twins made in the sixties, Steve Brye is easily the best selection the team made. Brye, who the team picked out of St. Elizabeth HS in Oakland, played seven decent seasons in Minnesota.
He was a very solid depth guy slashing .261/.311/.360, and though he was only a starter for one season, he was at least a good member of the team while he was here. For a league where draft picks are hard to predict, Brye was decent. For the purposes of this article, we want better than decent.
1967 Redraft: Vida Blue, SP, De Soto HS (Real Pick: Round 2, Overall No. 27)
Just 10 picks later, the then Kansas City Athletics snagged a pitcher who would win 209 games, an MVP award, a Cy Young Award, and six All-Star nods in Vida Blue. Both Blue and Don Baylor were considered here as former MVPs, but Blue had a better overall career.
Over his seventeen year career, Blue had some excellent highs and mediocre lows. His 1971 season is arguably one of the best seasons by a pitcher in modern baseball history, and his career numbers help make him a Top 100 pitcher all-time, making him a significant upgrade over Steve Brye.
1968: Minnesota Twins select Alex Rowell, OF, Luther College,16th Overall
The second Twins first round pick to not make it out of the minor leagues, Alex Rowell started strong in his first season of pro ball, but struggled in each year after, eventually resulting in him being cut by the Twins in 1970 after struggling for a second time in Double-AA. Not much else can be said about him.
1968 Redraft: Cecil Cooper, 1B, Brenham HS (Real Pick: Round 6, Pick 128)
Though Rookier of the Year and one-time All-Star Gary Matthews was picked one pick later, our redraft has the Twins reaching deep into the draft for Cecil Cooper. Cooper was originally picked and played with Boston, but he did his best work for the Milwaukee Brewers.
Cooper finished in the Top-10 of MVP voting four times and was named to five All-Star teams while in Milwaukee. On top of that, he also earned two Gold Glove awards, three Silver Sluggers, and the 1983 Roberto Clemente award. This Twins infield would be getting a little crowded at this point, but there’s no such thing as too much talent.
1969: Minnesota Twins select Paul Powell, SS, Arizona State University, 7th Overall
This pick was ranked as the sixth biggest bust in team history on our countdown of the team’s all-time busts, as Paul Ray Powell was disastrous for the Twins. Powell played just one season in Minnesota, playing 20 games and hitting just .161.
After those 20 games, Minnesota shipped him to the Dodgers for Bobby Darwin, a trade that worked out well for the Twins, as Darwin was a decent outfielder while Powell only had 12 plate appearances in 10 games.
1969 Redraft: Bert Blyleven, SP, Santiago HS (Real Pick: Round 3, Pick 55)
This draft produced two Hall of Famers, and both played for the Twins at one point or another: Bert Blyleven and Dave Winfield. Winfield didn’t sign, making the Twins’ greatest third round pick ever the easy choice.
Blyleven may not have made the Hall of Fame until his fourteenth year of eligibility, but the Frying Dutchman is one of the best Twins pitchers of all time. He is beloved by Minnesota Twins fans and the Twins get to hold onto one of their franchise icons here.