June 7, 2013

Twins draft Texas high school pitcher Kohl Stewart with No. 4 pick

Kohl Stewart

In a draft with three consensus top talents in Mark Appel, Jonathan Gray, and Kris Bryant the Twins picked fourth and you'd have been hard-pressed to find a mock draft that didn't have them taking Texas high school right-hander Kohl Stewart. There was some speculation this week that the Twins would pick Stewart even if one of the top three guys fell to them, but it ended up being a moot point. Appel, Bryant, and Gray went 1-2-3 and the Twins snagged Stewart at No. 4.

None of which means that Stewart is necessarily a consolation prize. His raw talent and long-term upside have frequently been compared favorably to Appel and Gray, but the inherent risk involved in giving millions of dollars to an 18-year-old pitcher dropped him below the pair of proven college aces and the NCAA's premier slugger on just about every public draft board. Stewart has immense potential, but high school arms take a long time to develop and flame out at an incredible rate.

That risk is a big reason why Stewart is just the fourth high school pitcher to be a top-five pick since 2005 and the 13th high high school pitcher to go in the top five during the last 20 years. And the previous 12 include a lot more misses than hits: Kerry Wood, John Patterson, Josh Beckett, Mike Stodolka, Gavin Floyd, Clint Everts, Adam Loewen, Chris Gruler, Mark Rogers, Matt Hobgood, Jameson Taillon, Dylan Bundy.

It's too early to pass judgment on Hobgood (fifth in 2009), Taillon (second in 2010), and Bundy (fourth in 2011), each of whom are still in the minors, but it's certainly worth noting that Bundy and Taillon are currently considered elite prospects. As for the other guys ... it ain't pretty. Gruler, Everts, and Stodolka never even reached the majors, Loewen and Patterson won fewer than 20 career games, and Rogers will struggle to avoid the same fate.

Wood, Beckett, and Floyd are the only real success stories, but Wood finished with 86 wins after injuries derailed a potential Hall of Fame career and Floyd has never developed into more than a mid-rotation starter with just 70 wins at age 30. Beckett developed exactly as hoped and emerged as an elite pitcher, although with his career winding down at age 33 he may not reach 150 wins. Obviously wins aren't a great way to evaluate pitchers, but you get the general idea.

All of which is the bad news. The good news is that Stewart's future isn't dependent on the past and if he does pan out the Twins may have an ace. Not only did Stewart have video game-like numbers as a senior with a 0.18 ERA in eight starts, he's a two-sport star and ESPN ranks him as the sixth-best prep quarterback in the country. He committed to play football at Texas A&M, but Stewart is expected to sign instead of waiting behind Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel.

Baseball America rates Stewart as the draft's fifth-best prospect and quotes one scouting director as saying that "his pure stuff is as good as" Appel and Gray, touting his mid-90s fastball and "a power mid-80s slider" that's considered his best pitch. According to BA his changeup and curveball give Stewart the potential for four above-average pitches and at 6-foot-3 he has "a clean delivery and should get even better once he concentrates solely on baseball."

ESPN rates Stewart as the draft's fourth-best prospect, praising a mid-90s fastball "with good downhill plane" and a slider that "is his best pitch." Within the ESPN scouting report there are questions about Stewart's mechanics and command, but that tends to be the case with teenage pitchers and "even with those issues he's by far the best prep arm in the class." MLB.com rates Stewart as the draft's seventh-best prospect, behind only Appel and Gray among pitchers.

Here's what Twins scouting director Deron Johnson told reporters after making the pick:

He was the best prospect on the board left for us. It just so happened to be a high school right-hander. I think his ceiling is unlimited. I think he has the makeup and attributes to be a front-end starter. I'm not going to sit here and say he's going to be a No. 1, but he has the ability and athleticism to be as good as the guys taken ahead of him.

"It just so happened to be a high school right-hander" is interesting because the Twins have long favored college pitchers and high school hitters in the draft. In fact, from 2005-2012 they used a top-50 pick on seven college pitchers compared to just one high school pitcher, J.O. Berrios at No. 32 last year. For an organization that has shied so heavily away from high school arms to use the fourth overall pick on Stewart suggests they feel he's truly special.


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May 30, 2013

Getting to know the Twins’ draft options with the No. 4 overall pick

2013 draft appel gray bryant

Next week the Twins will add the No. 4 pick to their stacked farm system, making a top-10 pick in back-to-back drafts for the first time since taking Adam Johnson second in 2000 and Joe Mauer first in 2001. Johnson was a bust and Mauer is on a Hall of Fame path, which is the draft in a nutshell even when picking so high. Their other top-10 picks since 1990 are B.J. Garbe, Ryan Mills, Michael Cuddyer, Travis Lee, Todd Walker, and David McCarty. You get the idea.

Last year having the No. 2 pick worked out perfectly for the Twins when the Astros passed on the consensus top high school player and the consensus top college player with the No. 1 pick, leading to the Twins choosing Georgia high school outfielder Byron Buxton over various high-end college arms. They could use a similar break this year because most draft analysts agree on three players standing out above the class, possibly leaving the Twins to choose among the best of the rest.

Let's get to know the players who could potentially be the Twins' choice with the fourth pick ...


Mark Appel, Stanford University right-hander

Last year at this time Mark Appel was widely projected as the No. 1 pick, but when his hometown Astros passed on him in favor of high school shortstop Carlos Correa the Stanford right-hander fell all the way to the Pirates at No. 8. Appel and agent Scott Boras then played hardball with the Pirates, ultimately turning down a $3.8 million offer. He returned to Stanford for his senior season and was fantastic with a 2.12 ERA and 130-to-23 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 106 innings.

Appel is once again projected as the potential No. 1 pick, although if Houston passed on him there once it seems likely to happen this year too. That probably won't be enough for Appel to fall to the Twins at No. 4, although with Boras in the mix anything is possible. It's also unclear if the Twins would actually take Appel at No. 4 even if he's there, because just like the Astros they've already passed on him once in favor of Buxton.

Keith Law of ESPN writes that Appel has improved his off-speed pitches, which were often cited as a relative weakness last year, and calls him "clearly the draft's top talent" thanks to "top-of-the-rotation stuff and great command." Baseball America rates him as the draft's No. 2 prospect and calls Appel "everything scouts look for in a frontline pitcher" with a 6-foot-5 frame, mid-90s fastball, and plus slider "that generates swings and misses."


Jonathan Gray, University of Oklahoma right-hander

At the beginning of the season Jonathan Gray wasn't even rated among Baseball America's top 50 draft prospects, but the University of Oklahoma right-hander has vaulted all the way to their top spot by throwing 110 innings with a 1.55 ERA and 127-to-21 strikeout-to-walk ratio. According to BA he was "a live-armed but chubby high schooler" whose raw stuff now compares to Gerrit Cole, the No. 1 overall pick out of UCLA in 2011.

Law rates Gray second behind Appel, but says he "might have better pure stuff ... touching 100 miles per hour regularly, with a plus slider." Last year Gray was good but not great for Oklahoma and he came into this year as his own team's No. 2 starter, which is why he's generally viewed as less of a sure thing than Appel. However, his odds of actually falling to the Twins at No. 4 seem even lower than Appel's and right now Gray looks like the favorite to go No. 1.


Kris Bryant, University of San Diego third baseman/outfielder

Considered the best college bat in the draft, Kris Bryant is a 6-foot-5 right-handed slugger with huge power and an excellent eye at the plate. He's hit .340/.500/.860 with an NCAA-leading 31 homers and more walks (62) than strikeouts (40) in 58 games for the University of San Diego as a junior. As a sophomore last year Bryant hit .366/.483/.671 with 14 homers and more walks (39) than strikeouts (38) in 57 games.

In addition to topping a 1.000 OPS in each of his three college seasons Bryant was also projected as a potential first-round pick out of high school, so there are no holes to poke in his track record offensively. Defensively is another issue. His arm strength draws positive reviews and it's possible he could stick at third base, but both BA and Law expect him to wind up as a right fielder or first baseman. If he falls would the Twins pass on pitching help for another high-upside bat?


Kohl Stewart, Texas high school right-hander

Considered the top high school pitcher in the draft, Houston right-hander Kohl Stewart is also a star football player signed to play quarterback at Texas A&M. Like most high school aces Stewart throws in the mid-90s, but he's unique in that Law says he "has four legitimate pitches" including a hard slider that's considered his best offering. Even in citing his inconsistent control Law calls Stewart "by far the best prep arm in the class."

Baseball America quotes one MLB scouting director who says Stewart has better raw stuff than Appel or Gray, but also notes that "some clubs could shy away from Stewart because he's a Type 1 diabetic." BA has published two mock drafts and both have the Twins taking Stewart, but it's worth noting that J.O. Berrios last year is the only high school pitcher they've selected in the top 50 picks since 2005. Even more so than the draft in general high school pitching is boom or bust.


Colin Moran, University of North Carolina third baseman

Colin Moran can't compete with Bryant's raw power, but the University of North Carolina junior is a helluva college hitter and may have better odds of remaining at third base long term. Moran has hit .352 in three college seasons, including .357/.485/.579 with 55 walks versus just 20 strikeouts in 60 games this year. And the left-handed hitter is certainly not without power, smacking 13 homers this season and 25 total homers in 650 college at-bats.

In ranking Moran seventh in the class BA says "he covers the plate, lays off pitcher's pitches, has excellent hand-eye coordination, and drives the ball to all parts of the ballpark." That's evident in his great production and strikeout-to-walk ratios, but Law raises questions about an "unorthodox" and "not pretty" swing, which includes "a long stride forward in the box." And if Moran is forced to move down the defensive spectrum any lack of power development would hurt a lot.


Braden Shipley, University of Nevada right-hander

Assuming that Appel and Gray are both off the board Braden Shipley would be the best available college pitcher and the Twins have targeted a ton of college right-handers in recent years. They've chosen the following college righties within the first 50 picks since 2000: Adam Johnson, Aaron Heilman, Matt Fox, Matt Garza, Shooter Hunt, Carlos Gutierrez, Kyle Gibson, Alex Wimmers, Luke Bard. However, choosing Shipley this year might be a stretch.

He ranks among the top 10 according to BA, ESPN, and MLB.com, but none have Shipley in the top five and everyone seems to agree he's a clear step below Appel and Gray. Shipley starred for a bad Nevada team as a junior, posting a 2.77 ERA and 102/34 K/BB ratio in 107 innings, which is impressive for a guy who moved from shortstop to the mound as a sophomore. Shipley reaches the mid-90s with his fastball and BA praises his changeup as "one of the draft's best."


Austin Meadows, Georgia high school center fielder

Last year the Twins selected Buxton out of a rural Georgia high school and the consensus two best high school position players in this year's class are also Georgia outfielders. Austin Meadows was considered the best of the bunch coming into the season, although his stock has seemingly dipped a bit since then. Meadows is 6-foot-3 and already pretty big at 210 pounds, so sticking in center field long term may be an issue despite good speed and athleticism.

Baseball America praises Meadows' "mature" approach at the plate and calls his left-handed swing "smooth and easy" while questioning how much power he'll develop. Law reports that some scouts are put off by Meadows' lack of energy and notes that his "fringy" arm would likely limit him to left field if he outgrows center field. Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com cites Meadows' "five-tool potential," which is the most common trait attached to high school center fielders.


Clint Frazier, Georgia high school center fielder

Clint Frazier is the other stud high schooler from Georgia and rates slightly higher than Meadows according to both Baseball America and MLB.com. He's much smaller than Meadows and Mayo cites Frazier's "lack of physicality" in wondering how much room he has to develop. He does have plenty of power potential as a right-handed hitter and Law says Frazier "has the best bat speed in this draft ... maybe the best I've seen on an amateur prospect."

He's a center fielder now, but Law is convinced he'll wind up in right field and that puts Frazier's long-term upside in some question. No team drafts more toolsy high school outfielders than the Twins and they've stressed a "best player available" approach of which I'm definitely in favor, but given their outfield-heavy prospect crop it's hard to see Meadows or Frazier being a top target. According to BA scouts don't consider Meadows or Frazier to be on the same level as Buxton.


Reese McGuire, Washington high school catcher

It never would've occurred to me to have a high school catcher in the mix, but Jim Callis reported in the aforementioned mock draft that "rumors persist that Minnesota could cut a deal with Reese McGuire and spend heavily further down in the draft." He'd be an overdraft at No. 4, but perhaps not by a ton. BA, ESPN.com, and MLB.com all have McGuire in their top 20 and all rave about his defense behind the plate. And all question his offensive potential.

The track record of high school catchers drafted in the top 10 isn't encouraging to say the least, although Mauer being one of the biggest success stories probably makes the Twins less wary of that than most teams. McGuire, like Mauer, is a left-handed hitter with a good glove, but unless the Twins have something big up their sleeve with the money they'd save it would seem awfully risky to use a top-five pick on a catcher who may not hit a ton.


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December 5, 2012

Twins Notes: Guerra, Field, Oliveros, Butera, Allen, Appel, and Hendriks

• Last week the Twins filled the 40-man roster by adding eight new players, but they've already created four openings. One came by trading Denard Span to the Nationals for a 22-year-old pitching prospect, Alex Meyer, who doesn't have to be added to the 40-man roster for several years, and the other three spots came by designating Deolis Guerra and Tommy Field for assignment and non-tendering Lester Oliveros.

Guerra passed through waivers unclaimed and was sent outright to Rochester, meaning the Twins keep him at Triple-A without taking up a 40-man spot. Once upon a time Guerra was a top prospect and arguably the centerpiece of the haul for Johan Santana, but at this point they'd be happy if he developed into a middle reliever. Field was claimed off waivers from the Rockies last month and when the Twins put him back on waivers the Angels claimed him.

Oliveros was acquired from the Tigers in the Delmon Young trade and the hard-throwing right-hander showed some promise between Double-A and Triple-A this year, logging 48 innings with a 2.42 ERA and 51-to-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Unfortunately he underwent Tommy John elbow surgery in August and won't be at full strength until 2014, but after being non-tendered Oliveros opted to re-sign with the Twins on a minor-league deal.

• As expected the Twins tendered contracts to all three arbitration-eligible players: Jared Burton, Brian Duensing, and Drew Butera. Non-tendering Butera and his .183 career batting average would have made sense, but the Twins have stuck with him for three seasons already. In other words, if they thought he was worth $450,000 then a raise to, say, $600,000 isn't going to sway their opinion. Obviously with Butera money isn't really the main issue.

Chad Allen, who played for the Twins from 1999-2001 after being their fourth-round pick in 1996, is the new hitting coach for Double-A New Britain at age 37. I'll always remember Allen hopping after a hit to the gap in Cleveland after tearing his ACL and somehow keeping speedster Kenny Lofton from an inside-the-park homer by getting the ball back into the infield before collapsing. He never played for the Twins again.

• With the Twins set to pick No. 4 overall in June's draft Baseball America's early player rankings have Stanford right-hander Mark Appel in the top spot, followed by Indiana State left-hander Sean Manaea, Arkansas right-hander Ryan Stanek, North Carolina third baseman Colin Moran, and Florida right-hander Jonathan Crawford. They passed on Appel with the No. 2 pick this year and he went back to school rather than signing with the Pirates as the No. 8 pick.

Liam Hendriks underwent minor elbow surgery and won't pitch for Australia in the World Baseball Classic, but should be ready for spring training.

• Old friend Pat Neshek, who spent most of this year at Triple-A before thriving for the A's down the stretch, has signed a one-year, $975,000 deal with Oakland to avoid arbitration.

• Old friends Danny Valencia and Lew Ford might be teammates at Triple-A after the Orioles purchased Valencia from the Red Sox. Neither player is on the 40-man roster.

• As expected, Terry Ryan indicated that Chris Parmelee will be given every opportunity to be the starting right fielder following the Span trade, with Ben Revere shifting to center field.

• It turns out Span was born to play in Washington, D.C.

Parker Hageman of Twins Daily analyzed Meyer's pitching mechanics, which are especially important for someone 6-foot-9.

• I'd bet on the Twins signing at least one of the five starting pitchers on this list.

• Target Field was supposed to solve a lot of the Twins' payroll issues, but things haven't gone as planned and the growing local television revenue chasm doesn't bode well for the future.

• For a lengthy discussion of the Span-for-Meyer trade, plus talk about prospects in general and the Twins' next offseason steps, check out this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode.

September 6, 2012

Twins Notes: September call-ups, Dozier, Slama, Span, Parmelee, and AFL

• As of September 1 rosters can expand from 25 to as many as 40 players, but the Twins waited until September 4 to do so and then called up just two players: Eduardo Escobar and Luis Perdomo. Escobar is a light-hitting 23-year-old middle infielder who was acquired from the White Sox in the Francisco Liriano trade and hit just .217/.259/.304 with a 26-to-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 35 games at Triple-A following the deal.

Perdomo is a 28-year-old journeyman reliever who was signed as a minor-league free agent back in November and began this season at Double-A before moving up to Triple-A. Between the two levels he threw 73 innings with a 2.60 ERA and 68-to-22 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and Perdomo also got a five-game stint with the Twins earlier this season in which he walked seven in six innings. He throws hard, but has iffy control and a 4.07 career ERA at Triple-A.

• Apparently those are the only planned additions for the entire month, which means players on the 40-man roster not getting call-ups include Brian Dozier, Deolis Guerra, Jeff Manship, Pedro Hernandez, and Oswaldo Arcia. Dozier's lack of a call-up is the most surprising, because when the Twins demoted him to Triple-A last month the assumption was that he'd definitely be back once rosters expanded.

Instead he was a mess in Rochester, hitting just .171 with a 16/3 K/BB ratio in 20 games to continue the troubling lack of strike-zone control he showed in the majors. Combined between Triple-A and the majors Dozier hit .233 with a .276 on-base percentage and .334 slugging percentage while striking out 92 times compared to 30 walks. Plenty of prospects bounce back from a terrible season, but the difference with Dozier is that he's already 25 years old.

• And then there's Anthony Slama, who as usual posted amazing numbers at Triple-A and as usual is ignored by the Twins. Slama finished his fourth consecutive season in Rochester with a 1.24 ERA, .195 opponents' average, and 56 strikeouts in 36 innings, giving him a lifetime 2.27 ERA and 191 strikeouts in 154 innings at Triple-A. Slama is 28 years old, so whatever career he was capable of having has been wasted because the Twins wouldn't give him a chance.

For his minor-league career Slama has a 1.99 ERA and 12.4 strikeouts per nine innings, racking up more than twice as many strikeouts (446) as hits allowed (213) in 325 innings. Maybe he would have struggled against big-league hitters, but the Twins will never know because they repeatedly left Slama in the minors to rot. This year that involved giving Jeff Gray five months and 50 innings to show that his lengthy track record of mediocrity wasn't a fluke.

Denard Span was finally placed on the disabled list after staying on the Twins' active roster for 18 days with a shoulder injury that allowed him to play just four games during that time. Rather than another rant about the Twins' medical staff I'll focus on the fact that Span's injury opens the door for Chris Parmelee to get an extended opportunity down the stretch after mostly sitting on the bench for a month last time he was in the majors.

Parmelee certainly deserves a chance after hitting .338/.457/.645 with 17 homers, 17 doubles, and a 52-to-51 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 64 games at Triple-A, but as I wrote three weeks ago without a trade or an injury there wasn't anywhere for him to play. It's interesting that the Twins are using Parmelee in right field because he figures to be below average there and played zero innings in the outfield for Rochester.

• This year's Arizona Fall League participants are out and the Twins are sending Kyle Gibson, Michael Tonkin, Logan Darnell, Caleb Thielbar, Chris Herrmann, Nate Roberts, and Evan Bigley. Going to the AFL is a way for Gibson to get some work in after missing most of the season following last year's Tommy John surgery and a strong performance there could give him at least some chance to compete for a spot in the Twins' rotation next spring.

Gibson, Herrmann, and Roberts each cracked my list of the Twins' top 40 prospects heading into the season and Tonkin will definitely be on the 2013 list after breaking out between two levels of Single-A. This will be Herrmann's second trip to the AFL, as he was part of the Twins' contingent there last year along with Dozier, Aaron Hicks, Cole DeVries, Scott Diamond, Dakota Watts, Brett Jacobson, and Bruce Pugh.

Lester Oliveros pitched well enough in the minors this season to emerge as a bullpen option for 2013, but now the hard-throwing right-hander will likely miss all of next year after Tommy John elbow surgery. Acquired from the Tigers in last season's Delmon Young trade, Oliveros threw 48 innings with a 2.42 ERA and 51-to-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio between Double-A and Triple-A at age 24 and has (or at least had) a legitimate mid-90s fastball.

• As the Twins appear headed for another top-five draft pick it's worth noting that the 2013 draft class, much like the 2012 draft class, is viewed as lacking elite-level talent. Keith Law's early ESPN rankings include Mark Appel in the top spot after the Stanford right-hander fell to No. 8 and turned down $3.8 million to go back to school, followed by Arkansas right-hander Ryne Stanek, Stanford outfielder Austin Wilson, and Indiana State left-hander Sean Manaea.

• After bludgeoning the White Sox for 18 runs Tuesday night the Twins rank fourth among all MLB teams in games with double-digit runs scored this season, yet they rank just 13th in overall runs per game. When the Twins score double-digit runs they're 13-0. In all other games they're 43-81 while averaging 3.6 runs per game.

Jamey Carroll snapped the majors' longest homerless streak Monday, going deep off White Sox starter Hector Santiago for his first home run in 1,540 plate appearances dating back to August 9, 2009. In between Carroll long balls Jose Bautista led the majors with 134 homers, seven players homered at least 100 times, and 93 players homered at least 50 times.

Parker Hageman of Twins Daily used video and numbers to examine Joe Mauer's struggles throwing out runners this season.

Ben Revere is now hitting .300 with a .690 OPS, which would make him the first player since Lenny Randle in 1974 to hit .300 or higher with an OPS below .700. Aside from Revere and Randle no other .300 hitter has posted a sub-.700 OPS since 1943.

• In the comments section of my post last week about Darin Mastroianni's future several people wondered if he could be an option at second base after seeing some time there in the minors, but Ron Gardenhire has already shot that idea down pretty thoroughly.

• For a lot more about September call-ups, Dozier, Slama, and the Twins' medical staff check out this week's episode of Gleeman and The Geek (which is back to being fueled by beer).

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July 18, 2012

Twins Notes: Liriano, Santana, Mauer, Blackburn, Capps, and Pavano

• How dominant was Francisco Liriano against the A's on Friday night? Not only were his 15 strikeouts the second-most in Twins history behind Johan Santana with 17 on August 19, 2007, his 30 swings and misses induced were the most by any MLB pitcher since ... Santana had 32 on August 19, 2007. I went back through the AG.com archives to find what I wrote about his incredible performance that day and shockingly it included a Jessica Alba comparison.

Liriano's first start following his brief demotion to the bullpen also came against Oakland and he overpowered the A's then too, giving him a ridiculous 24-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 14 innings against them since May 30. And it was good timing, as at least a half-dozen teams reportedly sent scouts to evaluate Liriano for a potential trade. Since rejoining the rotation he's thrown 57 innings with a 2.83 ERA, .170 opponents' batting average, and 67 strikeouts.

• Some fun facts from that Santana start on August 19, 2007: He struck out 17 in eight innings and then closer Joe Nathan struck out two more in the ninth inning, as they combined for 19 strikeouts, zero walks, and two hits allowed in a 1-0 shutout of the Rangers. Michael Cuddyer homered for the game's only run, C.J. Wilson pitched in relief for Texas, and the Rangers had a 38-year-old Sammy Sosa batting cleanup. And here was the Twins' lineup:

1. Alexi Casilla, 2B
2. Joe Mauer, DH
3. Torii Hunter, CF
4. Justin Morneau, 1B
5. Michael Cuddyer, RF
6. Mike Redmond, C
7. Rondell White, LF
8. Tommy Watkins, 3B
9. Nick Punto, SS

Oh, and Jason Tyner came in defensively for Rondell White late in the game. One not-so-fun fact about the game: Santana made just seven more starts in a Twins uniform.

• Friday's deadline to sign draft picks came and went without much drama for the Twins, who'd already agreed to deals with their first 11 picks weeks ago. Or so everyone thought. It turns out sixth-round pick Andre Martinez, a high school pitcher from Florida who originally agreed to an over-slot $260,000 bonus, ended up reworking his deal after a pre-signing physical exam revealed shoulder issues. He signed Friday for $80,000 compared to the $200,000 slot.

Another last-minute signing was 20th-round pick Zach Larson, a high school outfielder from Florida who agreed to a $190,000 deal that's nearly twice the slot value for picks after the 10th round. By saving money elsewhere compared to the slot values for various picks the Twins had plenty of extra money to throw Larson's way and in fact overall they spent about $300,000 less than their MLB-high $12.3 million allotment.

Ninth-rounder L.J. Mazzilli is the earliest Twins pick not to sign, as the Connecticut second baseman and son of longtime big leaguer Lee Mazzilli presumably turned down close to the $130,000 slot amount for the No. 280 overall pick. Mazzilli hit .339/.404/.548 with 16 steals in 58 games as a junior, but also committed 20 errors and was no sure thing to stick at second base defensively as a pro. In all the Twins signed 27 of 43 picks, including 14 of their first 15.

Mark Appel, the Stanford pitcher represented by Scott Boras who fell to No. 8 after being an oft-projected No. 1 pick and possible Twins choice at No. 2, ended up as the only first-rounder not to sign. He turned down $3.8 million, which is $900,000 more than slot and the most the Pirates could offer without forfeiting next year's pick. Appel can return to college for his senior year and be drafted again, while the Pirates get the No. 9 pick in 2013 as compensation.

• After going 3-for-4 with a walk (and a great diving catch) last night Joe Mauer is now hitting .333/.420/.462, which is nearly identical to his .324/.404/.470 career line despite offense being down across baseball. He leads the league in on-base percentage and ranks second in batting average, has hit .385 in his last 45 games, and is projected to be worth $26 million this year according to Fan Graphs. He's being paid $23 million.

Nick Blackburn is already back with the Twins after allowing one earned run in two starts at Triple-A following his demotion, but the bad news is that he managed just five strikeouts in 15 innings. He succeeded there by keeping the ball in the ballpark, but his ground-ball rate wasn't exceptional and as usual there's little reason to think pitching to that extreme level of contact is going to get the job done against big-league hitters.

Matt Capps' return from the disabled list lasted all of five days, as he showed decreased velocity and was shut down again with more shoulder problems. That ruins whatever chance the Twins had of trading Capps before July 31, which is a shame because reportedly at least one team was actually showing interest. Suffice it to say that the Twins' decision to forfeit a draft pick in order to re-sign Capps for $5 million has gone about as well as expected.

Carl Pavano isn't close to returning from his own shoulder injury, so the even slimmer odds the Twins had of trading him before the July 31 deadline is officially gone. It's possible that he could return in time to make a few starts before the August 31 waiver trade deadline, but even that's no sure thing and obviously counting on Pavano to be effective enough to draw interest at that point would be wildly optimistic.

David Laurila of Fan Graphs interviewed Terry Ryan and the lengthy transcript is definitely worth reading, but here's one particularly interesting excerpt about the team's oft-questioned involvement with statistical analysis:

We never messed with that too much back in the '70s, but we did in the '80s and the '90s and the 2000s. We've been looking at that forever. ... People don't want to hear that out of the Minnesota Twins. But we've been looking at that forever. Way before some. We're not as deep as some, but we do believe in certainly doing our work, and that stat page is one big piece to the puzzle of putting players together.

Our scouts, and our people, will tell you if I'm looking at a player, and I go down and look at his line, and it doesn't add up, I've got to give him a call quick. I tell him, "This doesn't make any sense." His role, his skills and his statistical history, and you're going to tell me this? How do you get there? I believe in that.

All forms of information are good. I've drilled that into our people. Bring it on. All forms, let me sort it out. ... I read all that stuff, and sometimes it's so much information that I do get paralyzed reading it and taking it all in. You can spend as much time as you want on everything that is available. It's almost mind-boggling how much stuff is out there.

Ryan and other Twins decision-makers have adopted "we're into that even if you don't know it" as their response to those questions. And that's fine, although it's worth noting that, for instance, assistant general manager Rob Antony lacked familiarity with basic aspects of statistical analysis as recently as two years ago and even in the above excerpt Ryan talking about looking at stats isn't really what anyone would consider a new-school approach.

When people wonder if the Twins are involved with statistical analysis the questions aren't about literally looking at a player's stats--that much is assumed, no matter a team's public stance--but rather taking full advantage of new technology and the increasingly in-depth data available. They've recently hired some stat-heads and clearly want to keep things secretive, but what little Ryan and others do say about the issue leaves plenty of room for skepticism.

• Midseason prospect rankings are out and Baseball America moved Miguel Sano from No. 18 to No. 22, whereas ESPN.com moved Sano from No. 28 to No. 26. In other words Sano remains a top-30 talent as an all-around prospect and among hitters who don't play up-the-middle positions only Wil Myers of the Royals, Oscar Taveras of the Cardinals, and Nick Castellanos of the Tigers rank ahead of Sano on both lists.

• As part of their minor-league roster shuffling the Twins released Jairo Perez, who ranked 34th on my preseason list of the team's prospects. He hit .337/.413/.580 at low Single-A last year and .265/.350/.403 at high Single-A this year, which makes cutting Perez in July an odd move. On the other hand at age 24 he was very old for Single-A and didn't really have a clear defensive home. And now he's playing in an independent league.

Matt Maloney parlayed a good spring training into an Opening Day bullpen spot after the Twins claimed him off waivers from the Reds in October, but the soft-tossing left-hander coughed up 10 runs in 11 innings and not surprisingly passed through waivers unclaimed in May. He was even worse at Triple-A, allowing 33 runs in 24 innings, and now he'll be out until mid-2013 following Tommy John elbow surgery.

• Twins castoff Luke Hughes was released by the A's after hitting .223/.316/.338 in 42 games between Double-A and Triple-A.

This week's blog content is sponsored by Ballplayer: Pelotero, a controversial new documentary about baseball prospects in the Dominican Republic starring Miguel Sano as a 16-year-old.

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