With a trio of amazing pitching prospects at the top end of mock drafts, the Twins are in an interesting place picking fifth in this years Amateur Draft.
The trio of Carlos Rodon, Brady Aiken, and Tyler Kolek are the talk of the town right now, as they all have a ceiling of #1 Ace starting pitchers. It is highly unlikely that any of these players fall to the Twins at number 5, barring any crazy setbacks in the next few days. If one of these prospects were to fall to the Twins, I assume that the Twins initial plan would be scrapped in order to take whoever fell. If more than one of these players fall to number 5, kiss your butt goodbye because the world is probably going to end.
Alex Jackson, a high school C/OF is generally considered the best position player in the draft. He will likely go in the top 4, and if he were to fall I doubt the Twins will draft him. While he currently plays catcher, its almost a given that he will be shifted to outfield or third base as a professional. While the kid can hit, I doubt the Twins will take him as an outfielder that can't run, or as a third baseman who has never really played the position.
If the drafts works out the way most experts are saying, the four players mentioned above will be taken by the time the Twins pick at number 5. So who is left, and who is there to take?
A slick fielder with speed and a left handed swing that needs work but has potential. His lack of power is the only thing from keeping him from being labeled a five tool prospect.
Tyler BeedeA typical college flamethrower who will need to learn some command and a change-up in the minors.
Kyle FreelandA college lefty with a good fastball and plenty of command.
Barring anything drastic, I think these four players are who the Twins are realistically thinking about with the 5th pick. Right out of the gate, however, I'd probably cross Tyler Beede off the list. I kept up with his stats throughout the year, and his command got worse as the season went on at Vanderbilt. I know I'm leaving the visual scouting out of the picture, but I doubt the Twins would take a college pitcher whose command is such an issue. Previously chosen college pitchers (Kyle Gibson, Alex Wimmers, Ryan Eades) were all college pitchers who had average or above average control.
With Beede out of the picture, it leaves a high school short stop and two college aces with a ceiling of #2 or #3 pitchers. I have been very high on Nola all spring, even including him in one of my earlier posts when pundits had him being selected between the 10th and 15th picks. The kid can pitch: many believe Nola will be in the big leagues next year already, being a full-time rotation member by 2016. Freeland is a bit more of a project but has plenty of skill. He reportedly has a delivery that could be problematic, and after watching one of his scouting videos even I can see this. I'm not sure I'm too high on him, so Freeland gets crossed off the list next.
At least for me, it boils down to Nick Gordon v. Aaron Nola. Do you take the fielding wizard who hopefully can hit, or the starting pitcher who will almost certainly be a major leaguer? Like I said, I've been very high on Nola all spring, I think he will for sure be a #4 or #5 pitcher a la Homer Bailey if he doesn't hit his potential as a solid #2.
But as Twins fans know, drafting college pitchers devotes your team to a specific mentality. College pitchers, when drafted in the first round, are meant to fly through the minors and make an impact in the majors two to three years after being drafted, much like Matt Garza. If those players work out, the pick is deemed a success, even if the pitcher doesn't meet his full potential and settles in at the back end of a rotation.
When those players get hurt or bust, however, the entire minor league system can falter. Look at the picks of Kyle Gibson and Alex Wimmers. While Gibson is turning out to be a useful starter, he made it to the majors roughly two years after it was expected. Alex Wimmers is still no where near the majors, even though it was expected he would have made it last year or perhaps this year. Drafting college pitchers can make a minor league system top heavy, with fewer high-ceiling players in the lower levels. As the Twins have seen, when there is less talent at the lower levels, that weakness eventually reaches the upper levels and then the Majors. Of course, drafting Nick Gordon does nothing to stock the Twins low-level pitching depth. With recent picks like Kohl Stewart, Stephen Gonsalvez, and Jose Berrios, however, I'm less worried about this.
With Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano injured this year, the Twins timetable for success has likely been pushed back a year or two. Do the Twins go all in for that timetable, taking Nola and hoping for success in 2016-2017, or do they refill the cupboards by taking Gordon? Either scenario can work out:
If the Twins draft Nola fifth and then commit to high-ceiling high schoolers in the second and later rounds (unfortunately, the Twins do not pick again until pick 46), they will likely be able to avoid depth issues. There are a number of quality HS pitchers that project to go around the 46th pick that could function much like the pick of Berrios in the suplemental rounds a few years ago. Garret Fulencheck, Michael Kopech, and Cameron Varga are HS pitchers who may go at that time according to MLB.com's prospect list.
Or, the Twins could draft Gordon, and commit to pitching in a similar fashion in the later rounds, mixing college and high school pitchers later on. Of course, drafting high school pitchers later in the draft does carry risk, as many of these players have commitments to play college ball.
Overall, I think the Twins should select Nick Gordon, on the basis that there is no player like Gordon in the draft. There might be two or three true shortstops in the entire draft, with Gordon being the best. Behind Danny Santana, shortstop is a position of need in the Twins system, and they will be well positioned to take more pitching in the later rounds.