Reviewing the Twins' First-Round Picks from the Last Ten Years

Hannah Foslien

I can't stop thinking about the draft in June. We'll see how many draft-related features I can come up with before it actually happens.

Including supplemental first-round selections, in ten seasons worth of MLB drafts the Twins have picked 22 first rounders. That's not too shabby. How have the Twins performed when it's come to their most valuable picks? Let's find out.

Wins Above Replacement totals are via Baseball Reference. I make note of players taken later in the round not to argue that that's who the Twins should have taken, but to illustrate who was still available as a tool for comparison. Arguing against a team's selections because there were better players available later is an exercise in futility, and would result in the mass firing of every scouting staff in the league; we just want to look at the big picture.

2004

Selections: Trevor Plouffe (20), Glen Perkins (22), Kyle Waldrop (25), Matt Fox (35), Jay Rainville (39)

Plouffe (1.7 Career WAR)

Aside from a few hot weeks in 2012, Plouffe hasn't lived up to expectations. Among first-round shortstops he certainly wasn't the biggest flop, with Matt Bush at number one overall completely falling on his face. Chris Nelson for the Rockies (-2.3 WAR at number nine) hasn't faired well either, in spite of making the Top 100 list for Baseball America in 2005 and Baseball Prospectus in 2008. He's toiling away in Triple-A this year. The most successful shortstop drafted after Plouffe was Dustin Pedroia, at 65 overall; no doubt a stretch for anyone to consider taking in round one. He has the rest of 2014 to show what he can do, and he could even start 2015 as Minnesota's starting third baseman, but no doubt his clock will be ticking once Miguel Sano is healthy.

Perkins (7.1 Career WAR)

After failing miserably as a starter (.827 opponent OPS, 5.06 ERA in 251 innings from 2008 to 2010), Perkins finally made the full-time switch to the bullpen in 2011. He was a dominant set-up man in '11 before becoming the team's closer in late June, 2012. He's been among the league's best closers ever since.

Waldrop (0.5 Career WAR)

Waldrop posted a 3.62 ERA for the Twins in 24 relief appearances between 2011 and 2012, but the peripherals were red flags. He made two starts and three relief appearances for Pittsburgh's Triple-A affiliate last season but has yet to play in 2014. More successful pitchers taken after Waldrop include Gio Gonzalez (38th overall), Huston Street (40th), and Yovani Galladro (46th).

Fox (0.0 Career WAR)

Fox, like Perkins, was a collegiate selection - except Fox's career saw the Twins almost groom him as a swing man. He was never a full-time starter or reliever while in Minnesota's system, missed all of 2005 due to injury, and was moved along so slowly that by the time he was close enough to be called up he was well past any prospect status. Between the Twins and Red Sox, all 7.1 career Major League innings came in 2010.

Rainville (n/a)

Rainville, like Waldrop, was a prep pick. He had a nice fastball and his body drew comparisons to Roger Clemens, and he had made it to High-A ball at age 19. But he lost all of 2006 to a nerve injury in his right shoulder, spent all of 2007 back in High-A, and in 2008 struggled in Double-A. He chose to retire in August of 2009, his shoulder not cooperating.

2005

Selections: Matt Garza (25), Hank Sanchez (39)

Garza (14.4 Career War)

Minnesota's most successful first-round pick of the last ten years was traded to Tampa Bay in the ill-fated Delmon Young trade, prior to the 2008 season. Young had a good season in 2010 but there's no doubt this is a deal that was sour before we even saw the players put on their new uniforms.

Sanchez (n/a)

Sanchez was a powerful first baseman whose ability to hit the baseball an inhuman distance was not matched by his ability to not hit the baseball. He struck out in an astonishing 36% of his plate appearances, and he was out of baseball in 2009. Clay Buchholz was selected three picks later by Boston; Jed Lowrie seven picks later, also by Boston; Chase Headley and Yunel Escobar were both taken in the second round. But Sanchez was the first first baseman selected in the 2005 draft, and Ike Davis didn't sign with the Rays and was re-drafted by the Mets in '08, so it's not like the team could have done better if that's what they were really looking for.

2006

Selections: Chris Parmelee (20)

Parmelee (1.4 Career WAR)

In spite of being the fourth prep position player taken in the 2006 draft, many pundits pegged Parmelee as the best prep hitter in the draft, praising his power potential as a future middle-of-the-order guy. That hasn't happened to date, and Parmelee's career with the Twins is in jeopardy after this season. Six of the next seven outfielders drafted after him didn't (or haven't) seen a plate appearance in the Majors, with Joe Benson being the only exception. Jon Jay (8.3 WAR) at 74th overall is the only outfielder taken after Parmelee (and Drew Stubbs, who was number one overall, really) to make an impact. Taken directly after Parmelee was Ian Kennedy, who has accrued 9.1 wins above replacement for the Yankees, Diamondbacks, and Padres.

2007

Selections: Ben Revere (28)

Revere (3.6 Career WAR)

When the Twins drafted Revere in June of '07, he was pegged as a plus for speed, defensive range, and had decent ratings as a hitter. He didn't grade out so well in terms of power, or arm strength and accuracy. All of these things are still true, although we now also know what a great guy he is. He's accrued the 12th-most value via WAR of the 64 players selected in the first and supplementary first rounds and no outfielder taken after him through the first two rounds has been better, although Josh Donaldson (9.7 WAR, 48th overall), Jordan Zimmerman (12.6 WAR, 67th overall), Giancarlo Stanton - who was drafted as a first baseman (15.6 WAR, 76th overall), and Freddie Freeman (9.9 WAR, 78th overall) have all made big impacts. Revere, obviously, netted the Twins Vance Worley and Trevor May, but they shouldn't be evaluated in a discussion revolving around draft success.

2008

Selections: Aaron Hicks (14), Carlos Gutierrez (27), Shooter Hunt (31)

Hicks (0.1 Career WAR)

Labeled "one of the top three or four players in the draft" by Keith Law, Hicks could have been taken as a pitcher or an outfielder. Considered talented but raw, he was getting by "a lot on strength and speed" and needed time to develop, which he's been slow to do so far. When you draft a project you're essentially admitting that you realize the draft is a gamble. He's still just 24, and apart from Byron Buxton and Oswaldo Arcia there aren't many outfielders in the system who will take his plate appearances, so he should have time to show what he's capable of. He was the first outfielder taken in the '08 draft but nobody from that position taken in the first two rounds has flourished. Brett Lawrie (9.7 WAR, 16th overall) and Ike Davis (5.9 WAR, 18th overall) were players taken shortly after him.

Gutierrez (n/a)

The Twins tried Gutierrez at starter and then shifted him to the bullpen when it became apparent he wouldn't make it in the rotation. His strikeout rates jumped but the command issues remained. He ended up with the Cubs for 2013 but combined for just 11.2 minor league innings. As for this year, he isn't with the Cubs and I'm unsure if he's connected to any organization.

Hunt (n/a)

He allowed just 149 hits in 193 innings, all while striking out 219 batters, but there was just no command with Hunt. For all the men he sent down on strikes he actually gave more hitters a free pass - 236 to be exact. That's a walk rate of 24%. He made 28 relief appearances for Fort Myers in 2011, but was done after that.

2009

Selections: Kyle Gibson (22), Matt Bashore (46)

Gibson (-0.2 Career WAR)

The career WAR doesn't look good but following a missed year-plus thanks to Tommy John surgery, the 26-year old Gibson is finally ready to show the Twins and the fans what he's capable of. Early scouting reports were worried about his frame, which is no longer an issue. He was projected to be a possible top ten pick, so to see him fall to the Twins felt like a possible gift. And it still could be. No other starter from the first and supplementary first rounds has made a great impact, but Mike Trout was taken three picks later.

Matt Bashore (n/a)

Bashore struggled with injuries from the word "Go." Two innings in his debut campaign in '09, followed by missing the whole of 2010, he made three starts in 2011, and then he was non-tendered. He did pitch 60 innings for Yankee affiliates in 2012, but after that he was done. It's unfortunate because, especially as a lefty, he looked like a promising pick - even if he would have profiled as a reliever long-term. Jason Kipnis was still on the board (63rd overall), but the Twins were focused on pitching - and rightfully so.

2010

Selections: Alex Wimmers (21)

Wimmers (n/a)

High floor, low ceiling, nearly Major League-ready, great curveball, average stuff. That's a summary of the scouting reports on Wimmers, who many thought would be ready to contribute by 2012 - even if at the back end of the rotation. It was a good pick for a team desperate for starting pitching. Sadly he's missed time for all kinds of reasons. On the plus side he's had two good starts to the season in Double-A: one earned run in 9.1 innings, with seven strikeouts and no walks. But he is 25, and time is running out on his prospect status. Padres second baseman Jedd Gyorko (59th overall) and defensive wizard Andrelton Simmons (70th overall) were still available, but as for pitchers, Jesse Biddle (27th) and Noah Syndergaard (38th) went before the second round. Here's hoping Wimmers continues a strong comeback.

2011

Selections: Levi Michael (30), Travis Harrison (50), Hudson Boyd (55)

Michael (n/a)

Another pick who was considered very polished, Michael had Keith Law dub him the best shortstop in the draft ("although the competition for that title wasn't very strong") who probably would shift to second base. At the time, it was assumed that by 2014 we'd probably be seeing him in a Twins uniform, which hasn't come to pass. He's struggled mightily, although like Wimmers has started strong this year (.385/.419/.487 in 43 plate appearances at Advanced-A). It's easy to forget that he's just 23 because we've heard so little about him as a first-round pick. The Red Sox like Jackie Bradley (40th overall), and the next shortstop taken, Jace Peterson, has a fantastic eye at the plate and is at Double-A for San Diego this season - although he's also a year older than Michael.

Harrison (n/a)

Harrison has been in our list of top prospects both of the seasons in which he's been eligible. There continue to be doubts about whether he can stick at third or not, but his bat has looked good so far. He's 21 this season and is in Fort Myers, and while he's yet to his a home run 11 games into the season he's otherwise been just fine. In terms of players to keep an eye on this season he should probably on your short list, because if he adjusts and hits well his stock would rise dramatically for next season. Right now this looks like a solid pick.

Boyd (n/a)

Boyd snuck into the Twins' official Top 20 going into 2013 but has now fallen off that list, for good reason. He's back in Single-A again, at least to start the season, and he's now been shifted into the bullpen full time. In a small sample size his strikeout rates have predictably jumped but it will be the command that will need watching. Like Harrison he's just 21, so he needs to re-establish himself as a relief prospect. As a prep pick, like Harrison and unlike Michael, it's still pretty early to really know what is or isn't there.

2012

Selections: Byron Buxton (2), Jose Berrios (32), Luke Bard (42)

Buxton (n/a)

A blue chip prospect. Nobody could have predicted he'd be as promising as he is, but credit to the Twins for making the pick.

Berrios (n/a)

A Top Ten prospect within the organization the last two seasons, Berrios has turned into a solid pick so far. He's 20 years old in 2014 and is already pitching in Fort Myers.

Bard (n/a)

Injuries have held Bard back, so it's hard to say why the command hasn't been there when he's actually pitched. Or whether any of his numbers are in any way indicative of his talent. If he doesn't pitch in 2014, it might be time to move on. A talented player, but as we've seen elsewhere on this list it always takes more than talent to become a player who represents a good pick.

2013

Selections: Kohl Stewart (4)

Stewart (n/a)

Last year's draft saw three pitchers go in the first four picks, and Stewart was the first prep pitcher taken after Mark Appel and Jon Gray. It's too early to really say whether this was a good pick or not, but it was certainly the best decision based on the information we had at the time. Minnesota was also looking at third baseman Clint Frazier (5th overall) and outfielder Austin Meadows (9th overall), among others, but in Stewart the Twins saw the upside of a front-line starter...and that's hard to pass up. It's certainly hard to justify taking a lower ceiling player so high in the draft.

Conclusions

In ten seasons and through 22 picks, the Twins have drafted one All-Star (Perkins), one starting pitcher who you'd be happy to have as a member of a playoff rotation (Garza), two fairly talented players who may or may not be regulars for the next half decade (Gibson and Hicks), two role players (Plouffe and Revere), a Quadruple-A guy (Parmelee), two Major League flameouts (Waldrop and Fox), five Minor League flameouts (Rainville, Sanchez, Gutierrez, Hunt, and Bashore), and then some guys for whom it's still too early to tell.

At some point, players go from what seems to be a pick that does or doesn't make sense - to a pick that has a quantifiable value to the organization. If we're to combine the two into some kind of general list, here's how I'd break the picks down in terms of performance and potential performance - understanding that everyone is up for a change depending on their performance, and admitting that it's an odd line to straddle for a number of players.

Great: Buxton
Good: Perkins, Garza, Stewart
Average: Plouffe, Revere, Hicks, Gibson, Harrison, Berrios
Below Average: Waldrop, Fox, Parmelee, Wimmers, Michael, Boyd, Bard
Bad: Rainville, Sanchez, Gutierrez, Hunt, Bashore

This is just the first of a two-part series looking at the level of success the Twins have had through the draft over the last ten years. Looking at the list now, do you feel like the organization has done well? Knowing that two of the team's four best prospects of the last ten years have yet to step foot on the diamond, is it good enough?

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