The 2017 MLB Draft started on Monday and since the beginning, many casual Twins fans have been upset with their draft strategy. Prep phenom Hunter Greene was a sexy first pick, but college two-way star Brendan McKay and righthanded pitcher Kyle Wright were also considered to be just a half-step behind in talent and projectability.
Thus, many fans were upset when the Twins did a hard 180 and instead drafted high school shortstop Royce Lewis. I had never even heard of the kid until I checked on the draft results during my regularly scheduled procrastination period. Nonetheless, my reaction was far different from many fans’ opinions, which was that we could already shut the door on yet another failed draft in Minnesota sports history. Issues were compounded when righthanded masher Brent Rooker was taken in the competitive balance round, which was then followed by high school pitcher Landon Leach. All were seen as draft reaches that allowed the Twins to save plenty of money, which caused the rallying cries of “stupid cheap Pohlads!” and “Terry Ryan is still running this team!” to start up again. Never mind that the Twins then selected pitcher Blayne Enlow in the third round, a player that many teams passed on due to signability concerns but became more attractive to the Twins as they could throw more money at him.
While I have several strong reactions that I would love to share (I might just throw them into a comment below), I’ll keep this professional instead. Here are the top complaints I’ve seen and my reactions on why you need to chill the &%^$ out on this draft.
The Twins need pitching
Yes, they do, but this is not the NFL or NBA. In those sports, it’s very easy for a team that needs a quarterback or shooting guard to select one and vault up the standings the very next year. In MLB, virtually every prospect needs 2-6 years in the minor leagues before he makes his debut. Drafting a bunch of pitchers will help the Twins in 2020 or later, not now (failing to recognize that is how you end up with Alex Wimmers and Tyler Jay as your first-round picks). NBA and NFL teams typically draft by need; MLB and NHL focuses more on the best available player. While it’s arguable that Royce Lewis was not the best available player and was drafted to save some money, that leads me into the next point...
Stupid cheap Pohlads!
Umm, no, and not just because Lewis is a Scott Boras client. Every MLB team is allotted a pool of money and is encouraged to spend a certain amount on each pick. The Twins, being the worst team in the majors last year, were gifted with the largest pool (just over $14 million) and the #1 overall pick’s recommended slot value is just under $8 million. Though the slot recommendations exist, teams often will overspend or underspend due to their draft strategy. In this case, the Twins anticipated that some top talents would fall in the draft, and rather than burn half of their money on Hunter Greene, they selected Lewis to save some cash which could then be allocated to other players that would fall in the draft. That was exactly what happened with Enlow, a high schooler that would need a large bonus to forgo college.
But Enlow will just demand the same amount as if he had been drafted earlier
That’s entirely possible. If a team fails to sign a player, they forfeit the recommended allocation for that draft pick. I’m no draft expert, but I feel like I read that Enlow was projected to be taken in the mid-30s overall. Leach, whom the Twins selected 37th overall, has a recommended slot value of $1.8 million. However, the Twins drafted Enlow at #76 overall, which carries a much tidier $755,500 amount. Now, the Twins can offer Enlow whatever amount he expected to receive in the 30s, but if he declines, they stand to lose $1 million less than if he had been selected earlier and declined. You can cry that the Twins are being cheap, but is it worse for them to lose $1.8 million or $750K? Any successful business owner would plead no contest to that question.
The Twins already have shortstops!
Wait, since when have we argued that the Twins were settled at the shortstop position? Just last year, we were still questioning if Jorge Polanco had the defensive chops to stick at the position, plus he has quietly been struggling offensively this year. Nick Gordon looms in Double-A, but he is no guarantee to succeed, either. I saw someone throw out Wander Javier’s name - come on, he’s just 18 years old. Besides, tons of players start at SS and then move to other positions, like Michael Cuddyer and Miguel Sano. Tell ‘em, Michele.
Oh, and if the Twins truly do have too many shortstops down the road, they could easily trade one of them to acquire that pitching that they sorely lack. Really makes you think.
But, but, but, Hunter Greene!
You know of his name because he’s a high schooler that throws 100 and because he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated. You know, the same publication that told us that Joe Mauer just became an opposite-field hitter last year. Hey, Kate Upton was on the cover this year as well. Maybe she should have been drafted.
It’s like Terry Ryan is still running this team!
What an utter joke. The Twins brought Hunter Greene for a workout at Target Field and openly admitted that they used TrackMan data to get more information about his pitching repertoire. I’m willing to bet that the old Twins front office scoffed at using anything of the sort to scout pitchers. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine not only are using more sophisticated methods to evaluate players, but they also came from organizations that were consistently successful at finding and evaluating talent. Let’s pump the brakes on this one.
Why draft a worse player overall just to get some barely better players in later rounds?
Falvey talked of building a “portfolio” in this draft. A draft with Hunter Greene meant taking, let’s say, an 8/10 player first and then filling out the rest of their top picks with some 5s. Instead, they took Lewis who could be considered a 7/10, but it allowed them to stock up on a bunch of 6s as well. If Greene fails as a baseball player, the 2017 draft class takes a huge hit on producing major league value. However, if Lewis fails, the risk was more evenly spread out and the hit isn’t as much. It quite honestly is like a stock portfolio, just as Falvey suggested.
Overall, I feel that many of us are wasting far too many breaths on a draft that will carry almost no impact for years down the road. Step back from the computer and relax. The purpose of the MLB draft is to stockpile talent for the future, not for the present, and it’s simply too early to be concerned whether Greene, McKay, Wright, or Lewis was the correct first pick. Go outside, crack open a rally beer, and enjoy the summer. That’s far more important right now.