The last few years the Twins have been less than good. While this upsets the average fan and even the die hard fan, it does give the team the ability to draft early in the annual June draft. The Twins have used their latest early picks on unanimous top-prospect/baseball god Byron Buxton, and Texas flamethrower Kohl Stewart.
With the 5th pick in the 2014 Draft, the Twins likely won't get a shot at Carlos Rodon or Jeff Hoffman, but there are some intriguing prospects that will likely be available with the 5th pick. I will provide a small list of intriguing prospects, although the there is lots of baseball to be played yet this spring, and draft stocks may rise or fall accordingly.
Tyler Kolek, RHP, Shepherd HS, TX
Kolek is a big bodied Texan (6'5" ~250) with a big time fastball and both a curve and a slider. The Max Preps site for Shepherd HS only lists stats for Tyler and his younger brother, so take these stats with a grain of salt, but thus far he has had an impressive stat line, with 35 strikeouts and 1 walk in 16 innings. He has yet to allow a hit (with one complete game no-hitter) but has hit 6 batters, which must hurt with his mid-upper 90s heater. Baseball-savy sites list his command as an issue, and I suspect his conditioning could be a touchy subject in the future, as sites list his weight between 230-250 pounds. Weight can be a good thing for a big guy like Kolek, but even greats like CC Sabathia need to watch their weight. If Kolek keeps up his incredible spring, he might not even be on the board for the Twins at pick number 5.
Trea Turner, SS, NC State
Unlike Levi Michael, a tweener SS the Twins took out of North Carolina at the back end of the 2011 draft, Trea Turner is a legitimate early first round pick. His speed is his best tool, grading out at a 80 on many grading scales, including mlb.com. He has a quick bat, line-drive power and the physical tools to stick at shortstop. Turner was supposedly hobbled by a broken ankle but still hit .368 with 30 stolen bases last year. Early this year he is hitting .316 with 7 stolen bases, numbers that should easily improve as the year goes on. He has great patience at the plate, with more walks than strikeouts in each of his college seasons. His hitting this season may determine his draft stock, potentially falling down the board if he has a lackluster season.
Tyler Beede, RHP, Vanderbilt
When the Twins drafted Kyle Gibson and Alex Wimmers, they expected their college pitchers to rise through the system and be middle rotation pitchers in a few years. Of course, that has yet to happen for either prospect. Tyler Beede has a bit more upside than either Gibson or Wimmers, projecting as a true number 2 starter or maybe a 1A type. He has a fastball that reaches 97 at times, usually sitting between 92-94, as well as a curve and change-up that rate out at above average. Struggles with the repeatability of his delivery can lead to control issues, but thus far this season he has posted an impressive 40/6 K/BB ratio through 32 innings with a minuscule 0.84 ERA. If Beede can continue to show this command, he may slot in quite well at the 5th pick.
Aaron Nola, RHP, LSU
There are a handful of high school prospects who figure to be drafted before Aaron Nola, including SS/RHP Nick Gordon, but I personally like Nola. Former teammates with Twins prospect Ryan Eades, Nola has played the role of ace for LSU, leaving Eades to play second fiddle during his time their. Nola lacks an awe-inspiring fastball, sitting between 91-93 but with good movement, he also has an above average change-up and a serviceable curveball. Nola's biggest asset is his control, with a 48/4 K/BB ratio in 33 innings so far this year. He has given up one run so far in 5 starts for a 0.27 ERA and a 4-0 record. Last year he posted an amazing 122/18 K/BB ratio in 126 innings for a 1.57 ERA and a 12-1 record. Nola may lack ace quality stuff, but the kid can pitch. Currently, Nola would be a reach for the 5th pick, but if he continues his impressive season, he may trend up draft boards come June. The question the Twins face is can they justify a pick that is so similar (albeit much better) to the failure of Wimmers and the question mark that is Kyle Gibson?
Touki Toussaint, RHP, Coral Springs Christian, FL
I was going to end this post after Nola but with a name as awesome as Touki Toussaint, I couldn't pass this kid up. With a fastball that reaches 97 and sits between 91-93 and a curveball that literally caused my jaw to drop, the best named player in the draft has legitimate early first round talent. His change-up should be league average and his command will be a work in progress, but isn't that what the Twins are best at teaching their young pitchers? Still early in the season, Toussaint has posted a 28/8 K/BB ratio in 18 innings, good for a 0.38 ERA and a 3-1 record. If the Twins think they could sign him away from his Vanderbilt commitment and could add to his command, he would be another great young arm to add to the farm system.
(Seriously, see the kid's curveball. Skip to about the 1 minute mark)
While it is still too early to accurately guess, with most of the HS and college season to go and injuries yet to come, if I were the Twins I would pass on Tyler Beede. Beede is incredibly talented and a tempting pick, especially if his command improves, but college pitchers are heavily taxed which often leads to injuries (see: injuries to Gibson, Wimmers, Strasburg, etc.). I also think it is important to continue to restock the bottom of the farm system with talented pitchers. Drafting college pitchers is great, and could help the team in 2 to 3 years, but what happens when the Twins get good again and they pick in the 20s?
For that reason, I would pick Kolek or Toussaint. They are great young pitchers with plenty of upside, have less wear and tear than a college pitcher, and project to make an impact on the MLB level in 2017, 2018, or later when the Twins should (hopefully) have already righted the ship. This should give the Twins the depth to make a long playoff run, similar or even better than the run we saw in the 2000s.
Plus, how great would it be to show up to Target field in 2020 and cheer for TOUKIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII!