June 5, 2003

Breaking down the picks (Guest Column)

Today, you get a break from me (don't get too excited, I'll be back first thing Monday).

Earlier this week, the Minnesota Twins drafted 50 players in the Major League Baseball amateur draft. They took 30 pitchers and 20 position players. And, in looking at the list of players that are the newest members of my favorite organization, I realized I know absolutely nothing about any of them.

But I want to. I want to know about these guys. I want to know who might be a star in five years. I want to know which "sleepers" the Twins may have found that other teams have overlooked. I want to know what to expect from this group of young players that are the future of the Minnesota Twins.

So, in my effort to learn more about the Twins' 2003 draft class, I went to ProspectReport.com and read a bunch of their awesome draft coverage. But I still needed to know more, so I contacted ProspectReport.com writer Derek Welvang and asked if he'd be willing to write a guest column to quench the thirst for information that I and other Twins fans I know have about the draft.

The time right before and right after the draft is very hectic for the guys at ProspectReport.com, but Derek found time in his busy schedule to write up an in-depth look at the Twins' first 11 selections. I really enjoyed reading it and I know you all will too.

So, without further ado, I present to you Derek Welvang of ProspectReport.com's guest column on the Minnesota Twins' 2003 draft...

By Derek Welvang



Oakland has gotten a lot of attention of late for its draft strategy, as profiled in Michael Lewis’ book Moneyball. While there are several reasons to believe that that can be a winning strategy, the Minnesota Twins have followed a very different tact, with considerable success.

They focus on high school position players, often ones with already advanced hitting skills (like Michael Cuddyer, Michael Restovich, Justin Morneau), and a mix of pitchers, whether polished (Aaron Heilman and Jesse Crain) or raw (Scott Tyler and Brent Hoard). It’s riskier than what Oakland does, but successes, when they come, are more likely to be athletic than those of, uh, the Athletics. Also, the Twins have done well in developing players, increasing the degree to which an organization should prefer tools over performance.

They’ve also shown an irritating habit of not signing some of their best picks. Sometimes, that’s expected - they lost out on stud catcher Jeff Clement in the 12th round last year - but he was available there because he was thought to be unsignable. Sometimes - it’s not - the Twins should have inked Aaron Heilman, for example, a year before the Mets tabbed him. The Twins fail to sign a higher percentage of their top picks than any other organization.

This year, the Twins followed their traditional tendencies with regard to position for their early picks, focusing on young position players (2 high school, 1 junior college) and pitching (4 college, 2 high school, 1 junior college). It looks like they may have headed off some of their usual signability concerns by possibly overdrafting a few players, third-rounder Johnny Woodard and fifth-rounder Brandon McArthur, in particular.

But, enough about that - who are Minnesota’s top 11 picks?

#1 (21st overall) | Matt Moses | 3B | Mills Godwin HS (Richmond, VA) | L-R | 6-0, 210 | 2/20/85

Moses reminds me of a bigger (read stronger), slower Brent Butler. Both players were prep shortstops considered among the best left-handed high school bats available at the time when they were drafted. Moses has a plus arm, average speed, good plate discipline, and a knack for lining balls all over the field with a swing that suggests eventual power. Mechanically, he could use refinement, particularly on defense. He won’t stay at shortstop - it looks like the Twins will move him to third base (to make use of his arm), but second base, right field and catcher have all been suggested.

More than one analyst has made Matt Stairs comparisons, which sounds a little funny at first, until you think about what Stairs looked like in the mid-to-late 80s, when he was a second baseman in the Expos organization - Moses is a quicker, taller version of that. Like with Stairs, there’s concern about Moses’ ability to keep weight off, though he’s considered a very hard worker. He's a Clemson signee, but will probably play pro ball.

#2 (58th overall) | Scott Baker | RHP | Oklahoma State | R-R | 6-4, 200 | 9/19/81

I like Baker. He’s got four pitches - a moving low 90s fastball, plus slider, change, and knuckle curve - and all four are average or better. He has solid mechanics and decent arm action from a 3/4 slot and isn’t afraid to pitch inside (13 HBP this year). He’s also been successful, both with OSU (10-5 3.79 ERA, 111.2 IP, 117 H, 9 HR, 29 BB, 97 SO) and in summer ball (3-1 1.61 ERA, 56 IP, 38 H, 8 BB, 52 SO with Orleans of the Cape Cod league). His control is good and he might be able to add a little velocity as he tones his body. He’s had Tommy John surgery, but I don’t think that’s any kind of problem. He was the Pirates' 36th round pick in the 2000 draft.

#3 (88th overall) | Johnny Woodard | 1B | Cosumnes River JC (CA) | L-L | 6-4, 190 | 9/15/84

Woodard was a surprise at round three, having been projected to go between rounds six and eight. Not well regarded out of high school, Woodard hit .374/.487/.599 in 147 AB (7 HR, 28 RBI, 4 SB, 28 BB, 27 SO) as a freshman for Cosumnes River JC. The 28 walks was the second highest total among players qualifying for the league leaders in batting - interesting for a Minnesota signee. He’s thin and projects considerable power. Curiously, he was named Bay Valley Conference Player of the Year, but not selected as a conference all-star.

#4 (118th overall) | Dave Shinskie | RHP | Carmel Area HS (Kulpmont, PA) | R-R | 6-4, 205 | 5/4/84

A top rated QB prospect, Shinskie is still pretty raw on the mound. From a 3/4 slot, he throws a low 90s fastball, as well as still developing changeups and sliders, but lacks command. For an indication of his current pro readiness, he went 1-5 with a 3.11 ERA in his first 7 decisions against Pennsylvania preps. His mechanics need work, but he’s got a durable looking body and loose arm action. Success could be as simple as his getting reps. Committed to Delaware, Shinskie supposedly has baseball as his primary focus.

#5 (148th overall) | Brandon McArthur | 3B | Armwood HS (Seffner, FL) | R-R | 6-1, 170 | 9/24/84

Like Moses, McArthur will have to move from short to third in the pros. He doesn't have Moses' bat, though he does have a nice, quick swing. He also has more defensive polish than Moses and a plus arm. He's considered very steady and has the usual gamer/scrapper qualities. The Florida signee was third team all-state as a SS/P.

#6 (178th overall) | Errol Simonitsch | LHP | Gonzaga | L-L | 6-4, 225 | 8/24/82

Simonitsch has a big body and loose arm stroke, but suffered from season-ending shoulder tendinitis after 8 starts. He’s made a habit of posting bad ERAs and good strikeout/walk ratios the last two years - going 4-3 with a 5.33 ERA in 49 IP, with 57 H, 7 HR, 14 BB, 58 SO this season. He works mostly off an upper 80s fastball that has a little sink from a high arm slot and could stand to improve his offspeed stuff. It's a little surprising that Simonitsch went this high, given his health.

#7 (208th overall) | Chris Schutt | RHP | Cornell | R-R | 6-1, 200 | 2/8/82

Schutt came out of nowhere to emerge as one of the two top pitchers in the Ivy League this season, going 3-5 with a 1.89 ERA in 62 IP for Cornell, with 43 H, 2 HR, 23 BB, 89 SO. Though he’s not big and his fastball tops out at 90 MPH, he’s got a very good out pitch in his slider and he should be durable enough to start, should he develop another plus pitch. His command is good. I don’t know whether or not his Ivy League status will affect his signability.

#8 (238th overall) | Brandon McConnell | RHP | Foothills HS (Red Bluff, CA) | R-R | 6-4, 200 | 2/8/85

McConnell is another projection guy, like a lot of Minnesota picks. He has an upper 80s fastball and average breaking ball. Committed to Fresno State, he’d be a good two-way player in college (as a right fielder, he’s shown glimpses of several tools).

#9 (268th overall) | Kevin Culpepper | LHP | Georgia Southern | R-L | 6-5, 190 | 6/28/82

Too raw still to make Georgia Southern’s all-prospect rotation, Culpepper’s tall, skinny frame has a lot of room for development and he has an upper 80s fastball and hard curve to build off of. Mechanically, he’s kind of a mess - which could bode well in that he could get a lot better if/when he smoothes things out. His arm is quick - which suggests an ability to add velocity as well. As a middle reliever, he went 4-0 with a 5.54 ERA in 52 IP, with 60 H, 4 HR, 22 BB, 58 SO - but his future should be in the rotation. He was the Cubs' 43rd round pick in 2001.

#10 (298th overall) | Chris Marini | LHP | Glendale JC (CA) | L-L | 6-1, 190 | 2/11/83

Scouts were divided as to whether Marini should pitch or play in the outfield at the next level - the Twins have drafted him as a pitcher. He has a mid 80s fastball, along with a change and slider from a 3/4 slot and is 6-5 with a 2.26 ERA in 95.2 IP, with 74 H, 36 BB, and 67 SO this season. He also played sparingly (19 AB, 4 IP) for the University of Arizona in 2002.

#11 (328th overall) | Ryan Schroyer | RHP | Arizona State | R-R | 6-1, 215 | 9/28/81

Bonus! Schroyer, should he sign, is a steal in the 11th round. From a high 3/4 slot, he’s got a 90 mph fastball (has hit the mid 90s in the past), a plus curve, slider and change. He went 5-2 with a 1.61 ERA with 8 saves in 44.2 IP, with 2 HR, 19 BB, 50 SO, after dominating in the summer Alaska League (1-0 with a 0.00 ERA with 7 SV in 18 IP, 6 H, 12 BB, 35 SO). He isn't real projectable, but his body looks solid, and he has obvious command. He's probably being viewed as an eventual reliever, but he has enough diversity of pitches to start. He was the 16th round pick of the Detroit Tigers in 2000.

I'm reluctant to provide too much in the way of summary - it's premature to judge this draft class, particularly with the Twins still picking as I write this. However, my initial impression is...blah. Moses looks fine, Baker's good value for the round, and I like Schroyer and Schutt as sleepers, but none of the players jump out at me as "great" picks and a few of them do very little for me (names omitted to protect the innocent). It does look like Minnesota did a lot of what it normally does and that's worked well for them so far.

Today's picks:

Pittsburgh (Wells) +180 over Atlanta (Reynolds)

Minnesota (Rogers) -130 over San Diego (Peavy)

Seattle (Franklin) -130 over New York (Seo)

Saturday's picks:

Philadelphia (Wolf) -130 over Oakland (Harang)

Arizona (Patterson) -120 over Cleveland (Anderson)

Detroit (Maroth) +280 over San Francisco (Schmidt)

Anaheim (Sele) -110 over Florida (Phelps)

Boston (Fossum) -135 over Milwaukee (Quevedo)

Toronto (Davis) -105 over Cincinnati (Dempster)

Minnesota (Santana) -140 over San Diego (Loewer)

Chicago (Colon) -120 over Los Angeles (Ashby)

Total to date: + $915

W/L record: 115-115 (3-2 yesterday for +75 to stop the bleeding.)

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

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