Thursday, January 26, 2012

Plotting a path through the 2012 MLB Draft

It is Minor League Appreciation Week here at NoDak Twins Fan. That means the entire week's post will be dedicated to the young players who hope to one day take their place in the line-up at Target Field. These young players work tremendously hard to try and reach the ultimate dream of being a big league player and they should be recognized for efforts on the field. This week I will unveil my Top 20 Prospect List and feature some stories around the players who make their living wearing the jersey's of the Twins farm system.

Here is the schedule of posts that will be featured during the next week:
Thursday (Today): Plotting a path through the 2012 MLB Draft
Friday: Minor League Edition of Friday Links-N-Thinks
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[The following is an excerpt from an article I wrote for the "2012 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook." If you would like to read the entire article, make sure you order a copy of the book by CLICKING HERE]
(Photo: Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
After a decade of finishing near the top of the American League Central, the Twins found themselves in a precarious position to end the 2011 season. The team finished in last place in the division and they also had the worst record in the American League. It was a tough season to follow the team but in the end the Twins have “earned” the second pick in the Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft this coming June.

All of the success of recent years has meant that the Twins were picking in the later half of every round in the draft. Since the draft is the main way a team can replenish their minor league system, it can be tough on the farm clubs to be picking that low for ten consecutive years.

Predicting a path for the Twins in the upcoming draft can be a difficult task since the players who will be selected still have an entire season of games in front of them. The Twins have some glaring weaknesses in the minor leagues and the draft is the best way to remedy those flaws.

The path to the big league team can take multiple routes for those that are selected in June. High school players can spend many seasons in the minor leagues to develop themselves into a mature prospect. College level players could move through the system very fast and start to help the Twins in as little as a year. Each player’s path is different and their road to Target Field is something the Twins have to consider when looking at drafting players.

Here is a look at the areas of need for the Twins and a glace to some of the players that have the possibility of being selected with the second overall pick [Player profiles are exclusively in the
2012 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook].

Starting Pitcher
Every team in baseball is looking for an ace to steady their rotation for the foreseeable future. The Twins have used a philosophy of finding pitch-to-contact players and it could be time for the organization to look in another direction. The team has claimed to be looking for power arms over the past year but the hurlers brought in have been rejected relief pitchers that were cast off from other organizations. The easiest and cheapest way to address a starting pitching need is to find someone in the draft and develop him in the minor leagues.

In both the 2009 and 2010 Draft, the Twins took college pitchers with their first round pick. One of those pitchers, Kyle Gibson, was on track to make his MLB debut in 2011 before Tommy John surgery forced him to the sidelines for all of next season. The other first round pick, Alex Wimmers, had a rough start to 2011. But after working on some mechanical issues for most of the season, he finished strongly with a seven-inning no-hitter.

Players to watch:
[Exclusive to 2012 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook]

Catcher
The Twins have their superstar catcher Joe Mauer locked into a deal for the majority of the next decade. But as this year showed, injuries can always be a problem and Mauer won’t be behind the plate for the entirety of the rest of his career. Chris Herrmann has shown that he deserves a look this spring but the Twins could still use some depth in catching position of their farm system. If the Twins feel this is a big enough need, they could have to make a reach to draft the best available catcher.

The minor league system of the Twins has created a couple of excellent catching prospects over the last decade. Joe Mauer was taken the last time the Twins had a top three pick in the MLB Draft and he worked his way through the system to become a three-time batting champion and the MVP of the American League. Justin Morneau also won an MVP and he started out as a catcher but was moved to first base to make room for Mauer. Wilson Ramos was another player that moved through the Twins farm system and he blossomed into a very good catcher in his rookie season with the Washington Nationals in 2011.

Players to watch:
[Exclusive to 2012 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook]

Middle Infield
During the 2011 season, the Twins saw what could happen when the players in the middle infield are a little shaky. The team struggled to find stability at shortstop and second base, which translated to some bad defense and weak offensive output. Players such as Trevor Plouffe and Tsuyoshi Nishioka were given ample opportunities to show they belonged in the long-term plans of the organization. Each of these players was very underwhelming in their time with the big league squad.

Last season’s MLB Draft saw the Twins trying to address some of their weakness in these middle infield positions. With their first round pick, the Twins selected Levi Michael from the University of North Carolina. Regardless of whether he is playing shortstop or second base, Michael’s bat projects to be a solid hitter at the MLB level. The emergence of Brian Dozier also adds some stability to the Twins up-and-coming middle infield prospects. His 2011 campaign caught the attention of the big league squad and he could project to be in Minnesota in the very near future.

Players to watch: [Exclusive to 2012 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook]

1 comment:

TT said...

I don't think the current majoe league Twins roster has much to do with the draft. The Twins will take the best player available, regardless of position, in the first round. As the draft pool quality evens out later in the draft, overall organizational depth may be a bit of a factor. And, even then, its more the depth in the minor league system than the major league roster.

As you point out, the path to the big leagues for most players is going to take several years. Ben Revere is the most recent draft choice to reach the major leagues and he was taken in 2007. Mauer, Morneau, Cuddyer and Kubel were the only position players from the 2007 team still with the Twins.

After the first 100 players minor league organizational depth may be a bit more significant issue. But most of those players will spend their entire careers filling out minor league rosters. When they contribute at the big league level its a pleasant surprise, not part of any long range plan on draft day.