Our Minnesota Twins first round pick redrafting series continues into the 1980s, the decade that brought in the team’s first successful first rounder.
After moving through the 1960s and 1970s without a single successful first round pick by the Minnesota Twins, we finally move to a decade where the Twins had their worst pick and their first true success in this round.
We’re picking different players for most of these picks, trying to bring more talent into the organization. Just like in each of our drafts, there is only one rule: the player needs to have been available and signed in that draft year. Here we go.
1980: Minnesota Twins select Jeff Reed, C, Joliet West HS, 12th Overall
Jeff Reed is far and away the best player the Twins selected in the first round thus far. He wasn’t an All-Star by any means, but he lasted seventeen years in the league as a valuable back-up for six different teams.
He was traded away as part of the package for Jeff Reardon, so the Twins did well with him. As far as first round picks go, Reed was a decent one, but he would definitely not be the choice in our redraft.
1980 Redraft: Eric Davis, OF, Fremont HS (Real Pick Round 8, Pick 201)
While I’m tempted to go with Tim Teufel, the Twins’ second round pick, i’ll instead go with Eric Davis. In a very poor draft, Davis was one of only two players to make three or more All-Star games in this draft. The other was Darryl Strawberry, who went No. 1 overall. Davis is a good choice here.
1981: Minnesota Twins select Mike Sodders, 3B, Arizona State University, 11th Overall
The third player selected out of Arizona State in the first round by the Twins is the third Arizona State player to become a huge bust. Mike Sodders played just four seasons in the minors, never quite breaking through from Triple-AAA. Sodders was a terrible selection.
1981 Redraft: Tony Gwynn, OF, Polytechnic HS (Real Pick: Round 3, Pick 58)
The Twins second round pick in 1981 was Frank Viola, so the team definitely hit a home run with their second pick. Unfortunately for Viola, the top player in this draft is arguably the best hitter of all-time in Tony Gwynn. There’s only one choice here with Gwynn on the board.
1982: Minnesota Twins select Bryan Oelkers, LHP, Wichita State University, 4th Overall
Woof. In the team’s first top five pick since coming to Minnesota, the Twins whiffed badly on Spanish pitcher Bryan Oelkers, a tall lefty who was supposed to have some projection left in his frame.
The Twins quickly found out there wasn’t much there. Oelkers had a good year of Single-A ball in 1982 but was awful in every year after (including his two brief stints in the majors) with both the Twins and Indians. He finished his career with a 6.01 ERA in the MLB.
1982 Redraft: Dwight Gooden, RHP, Hillsborough HS (Real Pick: Round 1, Pick 5)
Just one pick after the Twins whiffed on Oelkers, the New York Mets selected Dwight Gooden. Setting Gooden’s personal issues, Gooden was a dominant pitcher for the first five years of his career and a very good pitcher for the rest of his Mets tenure after that. Having Doc lead the rotation alongside Frankie V would have been incredible.
1983: Minnesota Twins select Tim Belcher, RHP, Mount Vernon Nazarene College, 1st Overall
Redrafting aside, I personally don’t like Tim Belcher, as any one who spurns coming to Minnesota is automatically on my bad side, but Belcher did end up becoming a pitcher who put together some decent seasons and wasn’t a terrible pick here. Because he didn’t come here though, we make a new pick.
1983 Redraft: Terry Steinbach, C, University of Minnesota (Real Pick: Round
Roger Clemens had the best career of anyone signed in 1983, but Clemens has long been linked to steroid use, so we’ll avoid picking him here. Instead, we’ll take Terry Steinbach. Steinbach is a Minnesota boy who became a three-time All-Star and a champion in Oakland. In an overall weak draft, Steinbach’s a good option.
1984: Minnesota Twins select Jay Bell, SS, Gonzalez Tate HS, 8th Overall
The Twins are finally turning this drafting thing around. Despite Jay Bell never playing a game for the team, he turned into a two-time All-Star, a Gold Glove Winner, a Silver Slugger, and a World Series champion, making him the best player the Twins picked up in the first round up until this point.
The key thing to remember about Bell is that he was traded a year later to bring back Bert Blyleven (who helped the Twins win it all in 1987). This qualifies this pick as the team’s first unquestioned success.
1984 Redraft: Greg Maddux, RHP, Valley HS (Real Pick: Round 2, Pick 31)
We’ll go with Maddux as he ended up having more wins, a better ERA, a higher WAR, and 18 Gold Gloves, despite Glavine often being more likable. Adding Maddux would be even better than a mid-30s Blyleven, even with the added memories.
1985: Minnesota Twins select Jeff Bumgarner, RHP, Hanford HS, 13th Overall
Just when the Twins were beginning to turn everything around, they went ahead and made this pick. Jeff Bumgarner was a really good pitcher…until he reached AA. Bumgarner would go back and forth between the two never making it to the majors. Yikes.
1985 Redraft: Randy Johnson, RHP, University of Southern California (Real Pick: Round 2, Pick 36)
How about another righty to join Gooden and Maddux? Randy Johnson is easily the top player available in this draft, so we grab Johnson to create the most feared rotation of all time. The fireballer would do some great work in Minnesota.
1986: Minnesota Twins select Derek Parks, RHP, Montclair HS, 10th Overall
Originally drafted as a pitcher-catcher, Derek Parks didn’t last long as a pitcher, instead becoming solely a catcher. Parks played forty-five games for the Twins hitting .200 with one homer over three seasons. Definitely not worth of a top-ten pick.
1986 Redraft: Tom Gordon, RHP, Avon Park HS (Real Pick: Round 6, Pick 134)
Pat Hentgen won a Cy Young, be we don’t need another pitcher, so we’ll take another direction. Tom Gordon was a durable set-up man/closer and three time All-Star who played for 21 years. In a top heavy draft, we’ll add a very valuable piece.
1987: Minnesota Twins select Willie Banks, RHP, St. Anthony HS, 3rd Overall
Willie Banks helped the Twins win a World Series in 1991, but that’s not nearly enough to justify picking Banks third overall again. He had a better career than most of the Minnesota Twins draft picks, but he doesn’t go in the first round again, and that’s a guarantee.
1987 Redraft: Albert Belle, OF, Louisiana State University, (Real Pick: Round 2, Pick 47)
Travis Fryman, Albert Belle, and Steve Finley are the highlight of this class outside of Ken Griffey Jr., but Junior is undraftable as he goes No. 1 overall. We pick Belle here because a five-time All-Star and five-time Silver Slugger would be a nice add-on to our new team.
1988: Minnesota Twins select Johnny Ard, RHP, Manatee Community College, 20th Overall
The fourth consecutive right-handed pitcher taken in the first round by the Minnesota Twins and not one pitched in more than 53 games with the team. That’s a terrible success rate on these pitchers.
1988 Redraft: Mike Piazza, C, University of Miami (Coral Gables, FL), (Real Pick: Round 62, Pick 1,390)
This is the largest reach I’ve made in all three of these articles and will be the largest reach I make in the next two either. Mike Piazza was selected in 62nd round, 1,370 picks behind Ard. What a revelation he could have been.
Piazza is a Hall of Famer for a reason, and the twelve-time All-Star would make a fine addition to the team. Who wouldn’t want to add a stud catcher to a championship team?
1989: Minnesota Twins select Chuck Knoblauch, SS, Texas A&M University, 25th Overall
Chuck Knoblauch is the first Twins first-round pick that actually turned into an absolute star for the team. Regardless of his trade request or anything afterwards, the 1991 Rookie of the Year and four-time All-Star was very good.
On top of that, after Hrbek and Puckett retired he became the face of the franchise. And who knows, if he sticks around, he doesn’t go to New York, get the yips, and see his baseball life and career fall apart. This was a very good pick.
1989 Redraft: Chuck Knoblauch (pick stays the same)
Now I know Jim Thome and Jeff Bagwell were also drafted this year, but Thome didn’t make an impact until his sixth season (1996) and wouldn’t have helped the Twins much in 1991. For Bagwell, he plays the same position as Hrbek, and I don’t see the Twins considering him.
On top of all this, Knoblauch might still have been on track for a Hall of Fame Career if he stays in Minnesota and keeps producing. I know it’s a dream, but it’s a safer bet to have Knoblauch (and the Twins stay the course and win the title in ’91.