We're less than one week from the MLB draft, in which the Twins will have the 30th overall selection. At a time in which focusing on the current on-field product leads to dents in your walls, bruised knuckles, and fistfuls of hair yanked from your scalp, perhaps this is a good time to take a look at some of the names that have been linked to the Twins thus far.
The draft is an impossible beast to predict; the intricacy that goes into each team's selection, the limitless numbers of contingency plans each team possesses, and the butterfly effects that trickle down from a single team drafting an unexpected player make it entertaining. Experts such as ESPN's Keith Law, Baseball America's Jim Callis, and many more have tried to nail down the early selections of each team, but with an especially deep draft in 2011, it's all but a guarantee that we'll see some surprises.
Still, it can't hurt to brush up on some names that the Twins have likely been studying as the draft approaches. Potential targets and a draft poll after the jump.
Kolten Wong, 2B, University of Hawaii
The Twins drafted Wong in the 16th round of the 2008 draft, but the left-handed hitting Hawaii native elected to play college ball for the University of Hawaii and has enjoyed tremendous success. He hit .341 as a freshman and .357 as a sophomore and has totaled a .378/.492/.560 line with seven homers and 11 doubles through 209 at-bats in 2011. His 23 stolen bases (in 30 attempts) are a career high.
Wong is undersized, standing at just 5'9" and 180 pounds, and doesn't profile to develop an abundance of power. This may have led to the discrepancy between rankings by outlets such as Baseball Prospectus and Baseball America (both Top 30) as opposed to Law's ranking as the 89th best prospect in the draft. BA projects 10-15 home run power in the Majors and calls him "fearless" on the basepaths with great baseball instincts. He's played center field and catcher as well throughout his college tenure. Wong's availability may depend on whether or not Utah first baseman C.J. Cron is selected prior to the Rockies' pick at #20 overall, as Law says Colorado is set on drafting one of the two.
Tyler Anderson, LHP, University of Oregon
Like Wong, Anderson was drafted by the Twins in 2008 (50th round) but didn't sign, instead going to Oregon. After a rough freshman season, Anderson has been dominant as a sophomore and junior, posting a combined 2.57 ERA through 210.1 innings while managing 219 strikeouts to just 68 walks.
The 6'4", 215 pound Anderson boasts five pitches (four-seam and two-seam fastball, slider, curve, change) and sits comfortably from 89-93mph with his heaters. BA praises his plus changeup, something the Twins are sure to have noticed. The Twins have nabbed college pitchers with their last two first rounders (Kyle Gibson in 2009 and Alex Wimmers in 2010) and have shown interest in Anderson in the past, so if he's available he's a definite possibility. Most outlets praise his polish and work ethic. He could climb the ranks of the Twins' minor league systems quickly.
Tyler Beede, RHP, Lawrence Academy (Massachusetts)
One of the top high school arms in the draft, Beede's commitment to Vanderbilt makes him a risky draft pick with plenty of upside. He sits comfortably in the low 90s (92-93mph) with his fastball but can touch 95, and Law suggests that his velocity will improve as he develops. He also features a curveball in the upper 70s, a change-up, and is working on a slider. BA praises the arm speed on his change, while citing his curve as merely average for the time being. As a high school pitcher, however, he'll have ample time to hone his secondary arsenal, which is already advanced for his age. His 6'4", 200 pound frame, plus command, and overall approach to pitching will likely lead someone to roll the dice on him with a late first round or supplemental round pick.
Brandon Nimmo, OF, East High School (Wyoming)
Nimmo is a toolsy high school outfielder, a type that's attracted the Twins with several of their early round picks (Aaron Hicks, Ben Revere, Joe Benson) in recent years. Nimmo is likely to go down as the highest high school pick ever from Wyoming, due to the fact that the state does not offer high school baseball. He tore his ACL playing football in 2009, but the 6'3" outfielder has shown no ill effects since, as evidenced by his flawless 35-for-35 on the basepaths with his 2010 Post 6 American Legion team. He lacks power at the moment, but scouts believe that as he fills out he'll add loft to his swing and develop the power to turn his doubles into home runs.
Nimmo has a commitment to the University of Arkansas, and has a reported price tag of as much as $2.5M. Both of these factors make him a risk if he's available in the late stages of the first round. Like Beede, though, that risk comes with high upside.
Sean Gilmartin, LHP, Florida State
On paper, the 6'2, 192 pound southpaw sounds like the epitome of a Twins pitcher. He's not overpowering, with his fastball sitting from 88-91mph, but his plus change-up and command help him set up and put away hitters by working the count into his favor. Gilmartin struck out 116 through 106.1 innings of work en route to a 1.52 ERA in 2011. He walked just 18 and held opponents to a .193 average. His third pitch is a slider, which scouts have described simply as "average," though that's not necessarily a bad thing. He'd have time to develop the pitch more fully as he climbed through the minors.
The Padres attempted to draft Gilmartin out of high school in the 31st round of the 2008 draft. He's drawn comparisons to Mike Minor, who the Braves took seventh overall in 2009. Like Wimmers in 2010, Gilmartin is thought of as a "safe" pick, but therefore comes with some limited upside.
These are just a few of the top names linked to the Twins in various mock drafts from some of the industry's top draft analysts. My personal preference would be to see the Twins draft a college bat (preferably an infielder, though there's admittedly not many highly regarded names on that front), something they haven't done with their first pick since they drafted Travis Lee in 1996 (Matthew LeCroy was selected out of Clemson in the 1997 supplemental round).
The Twins have struggled tremendously in recent years to develop infielders (Matt Moses, Trevor Plouffe, Alexi Casilla), and selecting someone such as Wong who's already at a more advanced level could be beneficial to a minor league system that's devoid of any depth to present solid alternatives to Plouffe and Casilla. I was surprised last year to see Zack Cox fall as far as he did in the draft, and had hoped the Twins would pass up Wimmers as a result.
That didn't happen (Cox is now hitting .333/.393/.428 thus far in 2011 and has reached Double-A for the Cardinals), but perhaps the exploitation of a lack of infield depth will lead the Twins to break from tradition. However, I don't know that it's realistic to expect an organization that's so obviously set in its ways in nearly every other aspect to buck the trend and take such a reactionary approach based on the first few months of play in 2011.
Steve Adams also writes for MLBTraderumors.com and contributes at 612Sports.net. You can follow him on Twitter: @Adams_Steve