We're a little more than a month away from June 4, when the Twins will have the second overall pick in this season's First-Year Player Draft (followed by four more of the next 70 picks). With a farm system that's pretty desolate at the upper levels, owning five of the draft's first 72 selections offers Terry Ryan and Co. a nice chance to restock the shelves, so to speak.
By now, most are familiar with names like Stanford right-hander Mark Appel, Florida catcher Mike Zunino, and California prep righty Lucas Giolito. Some of the bigger names have begun to slide though, and others have risen the ranks in their stead. I'll run down some names and brief overviews (with some help from the outstanding work from Baseball America and MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo) after the jump.
Baseball America's Midseason Top 60 gives a brief preview of each prospect to make the cut, though it does require a subscription (which I can't recommend enough -- BA does amazing work). Jonathan Mayo's Top 50, meanwhile, is free, and offers some very in-depth looks at each of his candidates. Take some time and familiarize yourself with some of the names if you're curious. In the meantime, here's a rundown of the top candidates from each:
- Byron Buxton, OF, High School (Georgia)
- Mike Zunino, C, Florida
- Kyle Zimmer, RHP, San Francisco
- Mark Applel, RHP, Stanford
- Kevin Gausman, RHP, Louisiana State
- Lucas Giolito, RHP, High School (California)
- Michael Wacha, RHP, Texas A&M
- Deven Marrero, SS, Arizona State
- Albert Almora, OF, High School (Florida)
While there's a few differences, neither list disagrees wildly with the other. BA has Almora at 12 and Marrero at 13. Mayo has Zimmer at 10 and Macha at 11; scouts love all of these guys.
Appel's been the big name for awhile, in part because of his electric fastball, but while he can reach the upper 90's with it, BA is hesitant because he simply doesn't dominate with the pitch. In fact, the BA team cites that the pitch can get a little bit flat, and that's why he was sitting with a 3.32 ERA and "only" 55 strikeouts in 57 innings at the time of their piece (he's now at 2.88 with 71 Ks to just 20 walks in 72 innings, though he's hit six batters as well). Mayo looks beyond his performance in college though, noting that while he has a tendency to overthrow (and flatten his heater in the process), he's got great makeup to go along with an athletic frame and three plus pitches.
Zimmer is probably the next most intriguing option to yours truly, as he's skyrocketed from No. 28 to No. 3 on BA's list with his performance this season and cracks Mayo's Top 10 as well. Zimmer can ratchet his fastball up to 98mph, and features a mix of four pitches that project to be at least big league average, including a power curve that Mayo loves. He pounds the zone, and the 6'3", 210-pound right-hander has fanned 75 while walking only 11 through 69.1 innings thus far.
Gausman, ranking fifth on both lists, has drawn praise for his upper 90s fastball and plus changeup. He's also got two different breaking balls, though Mayo's review doesn't sound as confident in Gausman's secondary pitches or command. He's just a sophomore though, and he'll undoubtedly continue to grow and fill out a frame that's 6'4" but right now weighs just 185 pounds. He's struck out 88 while walking 20 through 69 innings en route to a 3.00 ERA. The control issues mentioned by Mayo seem to be against the Twins' mold. His 20 walks in 69 innings aren't all that concerning, but Gausman's snapped off nine wild pitches in there as well.
Zunino is hitting .336/.395/.671 with 11 homers through 39 games at Florida. BA named him its Midseason Most Outstanding Player, and Mayo praises his bat speed and loft, projecting power and a future middle-of-the-order bat. That's complemented by good hands and agility as well as a strong, accurate arm. Mayo does note that his swing gets long and he can struggle with offspeed pitches. If the Twins are serious about moving Joe Mauer from behind the plate at some point, Zunino projects as a terrific heir-apparent. If Josh Willingham has taught us one thing in his brief Twins career, it's that right-handed power plays at Target Field.
Just to briefly touch on a few others, Marrero has seen his stock fall tremendously due to offensive struggles this season. He figured at one point to be a lock for the Top 5, but he's hitting .278/.340/.410. He's said to be a fantastic defender at short, but BA's Jim Callis went as far as saying that if he were the Padres, he'd pass on Marrero at No. 7 in favor of someone with more ceiling. Lucas Giolito sprained his UCL earlier this Spring, an injury that won't require Tommy John but will likely scare off a number of suitors early in the draft. BA calls Macha "a sleeper to go No. 1 overall," because of his polish and "loaded arsenal." He's shot from No. 23 to No. 7 on their list. Mayo doesn't speak as highly, likening him to Jon Garland and noting that he can be a "big, durable starter" and that those "don't grow on trees." Boy, don't the Twins know that.
Lastly, of course, Buxton may well be the best player in the draft in terms of future upside. It's for that reason that I can see the Astros drafting him ahead of the Twins. I'm also lukewarm on the idea of the Twins drafting yet another toolsy high school outfielder. Aaron Hicks, Ben Revere, Joe Benson... the Twins love these guys, but given the lack of pitching talent at the top levels of the system, my preference would be to see them go out and grab someone like Zimmer who can hopefully fast-track to the Majors.
If Kyle Gibson and Alex Wimmers can join the big league rotation in 2013, and this year's first rounder can be along come 2014, the Twins will have been able to rebuild a rotation that's currently in shambles in a relatively short time. Add a free agent signing, perhaps, and things might not be looking too bad at all. I've seen enough shaky reviews of Appel to cast my vote for Zimmer, but that may be unfair to Appel because he's been in the spotlight far longer than Zimmer, lending him to more scrutiny in spite of what's clearly great talent. Heck, maybe I just like saying "Wimmers and Zimmer." ...That's probably the case.
Steve Adams also writes for MLBTradeRumors.com, RotoAuthority.com, and MLB.com Fantasy Baseball. You can follow him on Twitter: @Adams_Steve