The Major League Baseball Amateur Draft is fast approaching and the Minnesota Twins are currently slotted to pick fourth overall. With the way the season has been going for the Twins, many fans are already setting their sights back on the future and the draft is always a good place to drum up optimism and hope for a struggling team’s future.
Last season, the Twins took outfielder Byron Buxton with the number two overall pick in the draft and early indications are that the Twins hit a “homerun” with their selection. Buxton has lived up to the hype so far by hitting .324 with 59 hits, seven HR, 38 RBI, an astounding 35 walks and an OBP of .432 over 182 at-bats in 48 games for low Class-A Cedar Rapids. Buxton certainly has embraced playing at this level, but it soon may be time for the Twins to send Buxton on his way to high Class-A to see how Buxton matches up against better competition. Could the Twins have a fast-track outfielder on their hands like the Los Angeles Angels did with Mike Trout? It’s possible, but time will tell.
When the Twins selected Buxton, he was widely considered the “best available” player on the board and some even argued that he was the most talented player in the draft; so by getting him with the number two overall pick, the Twins were very fortunate. Often, however, teams seem to debate whether or not to draft for “need” and “major-league readiness” or to take the “best player available” which may mean waiting a few years before the prospect is “major-league ready”. The Twins have often claimed to be subscribers to the “best player available” theory with their high picks and last year’s draft seems to fit that mold; but with another season underway and the Twins still struggling from a talent deficiency in their starting rotation, will need and “major-league readiness” overcome “best available” this year?
There are plenty of pitching prospects that have been rumored to be on the Twins radar ranging from Mark Appel, Jonathan Gray, Ryne Stanek and Sean Manaea to Braden Shipley and Kohl Stewart. As of late, Stewart has been a hot name associated with the Twins; but no matter which prospect you take out of this list of pitchers—if the Twins decide to go in that direction—each comes with a certain amount of risk, weaknesses and talent. The same goes for position players like Austin Meadows, Kris Bryant and Reese McGuire who all have obvious talent, but are still raw and have their fair share of question marks surrounding their potential and future.
So with that in mind, what should the Twins’ strategy be for the upcoming draft? Do they draft a pitcher simply because the rotation is in such bad shape or do they take the best available player and then continue to build pitching depth in the later rounds? For a team that is starting to restock its minor league system with some very talented players, I would personally subscribe to the “best available” theory once again for the Twins. Although money will play a significant role in who the Twins decide to choose, the position they play and their immediate readiness for the majors should not. The question the Twins should ask themselves, regardless of position, is which player is going to have the best overall career when it is all said and done; not which player will get here the soonest? I personally think a pitcher will still be the best player available when the time comes for the Twins to draft at number four and that is the position I believe they will choose from.
The Twins are couple years away from returning to contention; not a few years from returning to the World Series, but a few from just returning to contention. With that in mind, the team has time to draft the best available prospect and let them develop in a timely fashion. There seems to be enough talented starting pitchers in the organization—albeit at low levels—that will soon be coming up to improve the major league staff; so drafting additional talent for the lineup would be ok as well.
It is a crucial draft for the Twins, make no mistake about it; but if the team can continue to employ their theory of drafting the best available prospect, they will continue to inch closer to their return to contention and dominance.