May 16, 2012

Getting to know the Twins’ draft options with the No. 2 overall pick

Not all draft classes are created equal and unfortunately for the Twins they've stumbled into a bad year to have their first top-10 pick since 2001 and five other top-100 selections. There's no year in which having the No. 2 overall pick won't allow a team to potentially land a future star-caliber player, but the consensus on this year's pool is that it lacks the elite-level talent typically available that high in the draft and isn't even particularly strong in overall depth.

Georgia high school outfielder Byron Buxton is widely considered the highest-upside prospect in the class, but several prominent draft analysts have suggested that he might not even be a top-five pick in many years. Stanford right-hander Mark Appel was once viewed as the clear-cut top college prospect and still sits atop many mock drafts, but his mid-90s fastball comes with more question marks than a typical college ace linked to the No. 1 pick.

In other words, the Twins are even bad--or at least unlucky--at being bad. And that's not just the opinion of various outsiders publicly analyzing the draft for an audience at Baseball America or ESPN.com or MLB.com. Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune asked Twins vice president of player personnel Mike Radcliff for his thoughts on the overall quality of the draft class and he didn't pull any punches:

At this moment in time, this crop of talent is not very good. Last year, there was about seven or eight guys that were high end. We had eight guys with an 8 [on the 2-8 scouting scale]--the highest value you can give a guy--and this year we have zero.

It's worth noting that last year's class was considered unusually deep in elite-level prospects, with Jim Callis of Baseball America writing recently that "there were seven No. 1 overall pick-caliber talents available." Still, based on the above quote Radcliff is seemingly saying that the Twins' highest-rated targets in this year's draft wouldn't have been among their top eight targets in last year's draft and that's very discouraging for a team picking No. 2 overall.

Of course, lamenting the lack of elite-level talent isn't going to change anything and on June 4 the Twins will pick someone No. 2 regardless of where that someone would have been picked in other years. Whichever one of Buxton and Appel the Astros pass on with the No. 1 pick will seemingly be the favorite to land with the Twins one spot later, but that's far from guaranteed and a handful of total prospects could be in the mix. Let's get to know them ...


Byron Buxton, Georgia high school center fielder

Keith Law of ESPN.com says:

By far the best upside prospect ... his body and off-the-charts athleticism have earned him comparisons to players from the Uptons to Matt Kemp to Eric Davis to Willie Mays. If you want raw tools, this is about as good as it gets. ... There are risk factors here. Buxton has hit for very little power this spring ... raising questions about what his actual power ceiling might be.

Callis of Baseball America says:

A five-tool center fielder ... Buxton has emerged as the consensus top talent and compares favorably with [last year's No. 5 overall pick Bubba] Starling, his parallel as 2011's best athlete available.


Mark Appel, Stanford University right-hander

Numbers: Appel has started 12 games for Stanford this season, throwing 94 innings with a 2.68 ERA and 95-to-21 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Conor Glassey of Baseball America says:

Appel has the ingredients to be a front-line starter. He has a pro-ready body at 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds to go along with his mid-90s fastball that touches 98. He throws a hard slider that has the potential to be an out pitch and his changeup has improved. ... The knock on Appel is that he hasn't dominated like most highly-ranked pitchers have in the past.

Law of ESPN.com says:

Appel has shown consistently above-average stuff all spring, but his command has come and gone and concerns over Stanford's abuse of his arm may keep him from going in the top two overall picks. ... The problem is that hitters seem to square up Appel's stuff more than they should given its quality and velocity.


Kyle Zimmer, University of San Francisco right-hander

Numbers: Zimmer has started 12 games for San Francisco this season, throwing 83 innings with a 2.59 ERA and 96-to-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Glassey of Baseball America says:

Recruited as a position player ... before transitioning into the role full-time last year. ... Zimmer's fastball typically sits in the 94-96 mph range and gets as high as 99 and his hammer curveball is just as good. ... Zimmer pounds the strike zone and throws all four pitches for strikes.

Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com says:

Zimmer has the makings of four pitches that could be at least major league average. Any talk about the strong, durable right-hander has to begin with his plus fastball that he can run up to 97 mph. ... His curve is a power breaking pitch, one that could be an out pitch at the next level. ... He is a very consistent strike thrower.


Mike Zunino, University of Florida catcher

Numbers: Zunino has played 52 games for Florida this season, hitting .320/.379/.645 with 14 homers, 22 doubles, and a 35-to-20 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Law of ESPN.com says:

Zunino is the best college bat in a terrible year for college bats. ... He doesn't offer any real plus tools, but there's a lot that's average to above-average and no major holes. ... His weakest tool is his throwing arm, just average arm strength with a somewhat slow release ... I don't think he'll ever have to move, but he's unlikely to be plus back there.

Mayo of MLB.com says:

Zunino is the best catcher in this draft class and he has the potential to be a very good everyday big league backstop. While he does have a bit of a long swing and can struggle with offspeed stuff at times, he has bat speed and loft, meaning he should have plenty of future power.


Kevin Gausman, Louisiana State University right-hander

Numbers: Gausman has started 13 games for Louisiana State this season, throwing 92 innings with a 2.95 ERA and 112-to-21 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Will Lingo of Baseball America says:

Gausman has two premium pitches with a fastball that sits 94-96 mph, touching 98, and he mixes in a low-90s two-seamer. ... Gausman's 85-86 mph changeup is a second plus pitch, but scouts do have significant questions about the development of his breaking pitches.

John Manuel of Baseball America says:

If I were drafting and I wanted a college right-hander this year, I'd go for Gausman. ... I think Gausman has the best combination of size, stuff, projection ... the breaking ball has been there in the past, it should be at least an average pitch, and his fastball and change could both be plus down the line.


In addition to those five prospects California high school right-hander Lucas Giolito was being talked about as the potential No. 1 overall pick before an elbow injury ended his season. Considering the Twins' tendency to shy away from high school pitching and recent bouts with organization-wide pitching injuries it seems unlikely that they'd target him, but if healthy he'd definitely be in the mix.

20 Comments »

  1. Kyle Boddy, the Hardball Times’ resident mechanics expert, is somewhat bearish on Appel:

    http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/scouting-mark-appel-the-possible-first-pick-overall-in-2012/

    Comment by James Newburg — May 15, 2012 @ 11:45 pm

  2. Good article. Not to worry, AG. Twins will be drafting in the top 5 for the foreseeable future-and #1 pick next year. Hope they execute more like Rays and less like Pirates between 1993-2007. Also, Rays have done a great job finding talent later in the draft, like Matt Moore in 3rd round. Future stars are out there, but harder to find.

    Problem is, absent AJ deal, grand slam success on rule 5 Santana, #1 Mauer, & 3rd round find in Morneau, Twins draft track record is not good, and wretched under Deron. Not confident in staff’s ability to map strategy, ID talent, and execute plan. THIS is a bigger problem for the Twins to come out of this rut and fight the slide into the abyss in the future.

    Can the Twins execute? Since 1997, only Mauer has been an all star and Garza (05) would be viewed as elite or near elite talent- and had a number if high draft it multiple draft selection. Another huge interrelated flaw that needs to be corrected for the Twins to return to relevance.

    Comment by Williesworld24 — May 16, 2012 @ 12:08 am

  3. Nice post.

    Buxton or Zimmer is who I think they go ahead and draft as I keep reading that the Astros want Appel

    Comment by Nate — May 16, 2012 @ 7:46 am

  4. Well looks like it will be Buxton or bust! Those pitchers you enlightened us on, they all throw too hard to be rostered by the Twins. Get em down to about 89-92 and the Twins will be interested!

    Comment by Kurt E. — May 16, 2012 @ 8:09 am

  5. Twins tend to shy away from players who get a lot of press. They will probably will take the catcher or 1 of the last 2 starters on the list.

    Comment by doofus — May 16, 2012 @ 8:27 am

  6. Gausman and Zimmer both seem like the kind of college pitcher the Twins would like: strike-throwers. At least in this case they both have the kind of velocity to back it up. Appel has too many question marks building up and anything that said “Stanford abused his arm” is a HUGE red light for me. The last thing this club needs is a pitcher that need Tommy John surgery right as they’re closing in on their MLB debut.

    None of the hitters do much for me, but there are 2 college pitchers that look like they could rise quickly and perform well. Gausman or Zimmer are my two favs out of this grouping right now.

    Comment by Josh — May 16, 2012 @ 8:53 am

  7. Thanks for this, Aaron. Interesting stuff. I like the looks of Zimmer. It would be nice to have a strike-throwing pitcher with a faster fastball than most of the organization’s guys, and I love a hard curveball if he can command it.

    Comment by hrunting — May 16, 2012 @ 9:14 am

  8. I’m really hoping for Gausman. His numbers are fantastic and he pitches in a tough conference. If not Gausman, I’m hoping for Zunino. I just don’t trust the other top pitching prospects.

    Comment by Jeff O — May 16, 2012 @ 9:17 am

  9. It’s really too bad Lucas Giolito injured his elbow–that kid is electric. Would have been my choice at #2.

    Comment by Jake — May 16, 2012 @ 9:50 am

  10. Any thoughts/interest in the PR shortstop Correa? Read a couple places that he may be even better than Buxton or at least may be more of a sure thing.

    Comment by Kirk — May 16, 2012 @ 10:25 am

  11. Based on your brief reviews my vote is for Kyle Zimmer.

    But like someone above posted… he’ll have to start pitching for contact (rather thank Ks) in the high 80s for the Twins to find him useful….

    meh…

    Comment by jake — May 16, 2012 @ 10:31 am

  12. I’ve heard and felt the frustration that our draft history has been awful. True, we’ve had more busts than surprises. But if you look at round #1 draft results the last six years there are a lot more Double AA nobodies than quality professional players. This isn’t the NFL. Projecting talent is very difficult. I would like to see someone (like yourself) pick a set of criteria (majors leaguers/all stars etc…) and show where the Twins rank comparatively.

    Comment by Eric — May 16, 2012 @ 10:46 am

  13. The Twins track record the last 10 years has not been good. The upper levels are very poor, we’ve seen the best they could bring up and nothing that looks like a plus player. Some teams have poor minors now because they have traded away prospects for plus players. The Twins can’t use that excuse. We’ll be drafting high for a few years maybe time for a couple of new guys in the scouting dept?
    Fresh eyes?

    Comment by Mike — May 16, 2012 @ 12:37 pm

  14. Take a pitcher!!!

    The Twins have found bats (Willingham, Doumit) for reasonable prices but they won’t and can’t find pitching.

    Comment by ML — May 16, 2012 @ 1:02 pm

  15. The lineup sucks, but the biggest problem is starting pitching. Lirano, Blackburn, Pavano, Marquis and Baker are all going to be gone no later than the end of 2013, and aside from Diamond’s very limited sample, there is no evidence that anyone else we have can be a successful starter.

    Here is my draft strategy: spend the first 10 picks on the best available hard-throwing starters. Don’t make safe picks, either – go high risk, high reward. And when we draft position players, get some guys who have potential to not just make the big leagues, but to be actual good players there. I have no idea why anyone thought drafting Ben Revere and his anemic bat and noodle arm was a good idea. Don’t get guys you hope can develop power. Get guys with power.

    Comment by Pedro Munoz — May 16, 2012 @ 2:32 pm

  16. Pedro,

    The “throw shit at the wall and hope some sticks” approach. I kinda like it. Better than some of the strategies I’ve seen lately.

    Comment by D-Luxxx — May 17, 2012 @ 11:49 am

  17. I hope they don’t go for Buxton. I’m not saying they need to draft for need rather than talent., but Buxton just feels too much like the guys they’ve been drafting with the 20th pick the last 10 years. Maybe he’s got better athleticism and tools than those guys, but he still doesn’t seem like any less of a risk. I think the risk-to-reward ratio on a guy with a mid-to-upper 90s fastball with solid control seems much better than what we’d get with Buxton, however toolsy he may be.

    Comment by TM — May 17, 2012 @ 3:07 pm

  18. Carlos Correa

    will be the pick :)

    also yes, don’t COMPLETELY sleep on Giolotto…

    he’s the lotto tickett…

    Comment by SHS — May 18, 2012 @ 11:23 pm

  19. I also really want Correa.

    Comment by SHS — May 18, 2012 @ 11:23 pm

  20. Buxton is interesting but I don’t think the Twins can risk picking him or risk waiting until 2017 or so for this pick to make the team. Personally I’d take Kyle Zimmer. Next choice would probably be Gausman. Seems too high to take Zunino here, I hope. Carlos Correa looks interesting-I think he’s the real deal but maybe a little too early to take him at No.2 as well. Unfortunately I don’t have much faith in the Twins scouting department or development program.

    Comment by Dan — May 23, 2012 @ 1:58 pm

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