Every team blows a certain number of first round draft picks. Such is the lottery that is the imperfect science of player evaluation and projection. Some teams are worse at it than others, but we can make broad sweeping statements about the Royals or Yankees versus the Rays or what people hope will turn into the Astros - and probably get it right. Or close to it. Let's not do the science right now, okay?
The Twins, you won't be surprised to learn, haven't always been drafting at the top of the first round. And to be honest, even that isn't the sure shot you hope it would be. As you'll find out. Here's a team of the Twins worst first round picks ever. Well, since 1961.
Right-Handed Pitcher: Tim Belcher (#1 Overall, 1983)
This is going to be a recurring theme. Belcher refused to sign with the Twins, in no small part because the team lost a still franchise record 102 games in 1982, and also possibly because the club hadn't finished better than third since 1970. The organization was stuck in a rut of mediocrity, with a recent history in absolute bad-at-baseballness. And so Belcher risked his career to be a prick and go elsewhere. Sure enough he signed the following season, as the number one overall pick again, with the Yankees. Belcher was worth 29.2 fWAR over the course of his career. Blame Belcher all you want, but the Twins still swung and missed.
Runner-Up: Adam Johnson (#2 Overall, 2000)
Left-Handed Pitcher: Ryan Mills (#6 Overall, 1998)
Mills was tall with a projectable frame. Who had control issues, even in college. Whoops. He struggled with base runners but the Twins continued to promote him, but even though they moved him into a bullpen role by the time he reached Triple-A it never made him more effective. And he never made the Majors.
Runner-Up: Bryan Oelkers (#4 Overall, 1982)
Catcher: Jason Varitek (#21 Overall, 1993)
Varitek is another guy who refused to sign with the Twins. Just think what a core this team could have had with both Varitek and Torii Hunter coming out of the same draft. Granted, it would have made the A.J. Pierzynski situation interesting, but that's a good problem to have. Tek was worth 24.3 fWAR in his career, and ten years after Belcher was no doubt bringing back a lot of bad memories for people.
Runner-Up: Matt LeCroy (#50, 1997)
First Base: Dave McCarty (#3 Overall, 1991)
McCarty made Baseball America's Top 100 list before the '92 and '93 seasons, and sure enough he started in Triple-A in 1993 and hit .385/.477/.629 in 40 games. The Twins called him up and, after a good first month or so, he went in the tank. McCarty had 100 decent games for the Royals in 2000 and had a fine role to play for the Red Sox in 2004, but that was it. He was supposed to be a hitter to lead the next wave after the Puckett and Hrbek era. That was a tough one to whiff on.
Runner-Up: Travis Lee (#2 Overall, 1992 - I decided not to write about another player who didn't sign with Minnesota)
Second Base: Todd Walker (#8 Overall, 1994)
This is maybe a bit unfair, but the Twins haven't drafted many straight up second basemen in the first round. They're usually shortstops that shift over. Walker was rocketing up Baseball America's prospect charts (topping out at number seven pre-'97) and, when Chuck Knoblauch departed following 1997, Walker stepped in and hit .316/.372/.473 in 1998. He had a couple of decent years with the Twins, but in the end he wasn't hitting and he allowed the team to dump Butch Huskey in return for Todd Sears. That didn't work out, either, but at least the Twins managed to get rid of Huskey.
Third Base: Mike Sodders (#11 Overall, 1981)
Sodders spent three seasons in the Twins system and never hit a lick, and never played above Double-A. Done.
Runner-Up: Matt Moses (#21 Overall, 2003)
Shortstop: Ted Shipley (#14 Overall, 1974)
It's actually depressing to look at the string of shortstops that the Twins drafted in the 70s that did absolutely nothing. Eddie Leon was a prep pick in '65 who chose to go to college, but still didn't play when he was drafted again a couple of years later. Then there was Bob Gorinski (1970), Dale Soderholm (1971), Shipley, Rick Sofield (1975), and Lenny Faedo (1978). All of them drafted as shortstops, by the Twins, in the first round. And none of them, not a single one, made a positive contribution to the Major League team. This is why the organization was spinning its wheels in the 70s - they kept taking shortstops for their first round selections, and the shortstops kept being terrible. But Shipley wins, a dubious honor, because he was drafted the highest (not including Leon).
Runner-Up: Everyone else on that list
Outfield: B.J. Garbe (#5 Overall, 1999), Paul Powell (#7 Overall, 1969), Kevin Brandt (#11 Overall, 1979)
B.J. Garbe is going to be another sore spot. The Twins had drafted pretty well through the 90s, and Garbe was going to be another big bat that would eventually help legitimize the Minnesota offense. Instead he wallowed in the system for six seasons before eventually fading away. And remember, the team needed a then-franchise record signing bonus to get him in the door.
Powell, unlike Garbe, actually made the Majors. For 20 splendidly bad games in 1970. But he did hit a home run for a big league club, and you didn't, so there.
Brandt fared worse than either of the previous two. Taken out of high school, he managed a .477 OPS in 45 games in his first season in pro ball, and then put in a couple of games in his second season before calling it a career. It wouldn't have been so bad if the team hadn't already wasted most of the decade's first round picks on bad shortstop choices.
Runners-Up: Paul Croft (#15 Overall, 1977), Alexander Rowell (#16 Overall, 1968), Midre Cummings (#29 Overall, 1990)
Tomorrow, I'll put together a team of the organization's best first round picks. But somehow, I think it was this list that will have been more entertaining to put together.