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Minnesota Twins crushed the 2017 MLB draft

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In their first MLB draft as front office leaders, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine acquired an impressive amount of talent.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Minnesota Twins Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

After three days and 40 rounds, the 2017 MLB Draft has come and gone, and the dust has settled (a bit). In baseball terms—i.e. the actual value that the players we drafted have in the major leagues—we will not be able to properly judge this draft until 2027 or so. In terms of asset acquisition, though, the Twins’ new front office absolutely crushed this draft.

In all, we drafted 41 players (10 high school, 31 college) with this breakdown:

2017 Draft Positional Breakdown

Position Total Players High Schoolers College
Position Total Players High Schoolers College
RHP 18 4 14
LHP 3 0 3
OF 8 2 6
SS 4 3 1
C 4 1 3
3B 2 0 2
2B 1 0 1
1B 1 0 1

Here are some quick hits on the players we took from all days, and why we should be excited about them.

Royce Lewis, SS: Round 1, Pick 1

Royce Lewis seemed like a controversial pick for many fans who wanted the Twins to focus on pitching, but he has insane upside. Falvey and the Twins see him as a future shortstop, but even if he moves to the outfield he will have value there. Keith Law compares him to Justin Upton, a former first overall pick who made it to the Majors at 19 years old and was an All-Star at age 21.

Law believes that Lewis’s hit tool, as of today, is more advanced than that of Byron Buxton at age 19—the year he hit .322/.411/.509 across three levels of the low minors and cemented himself as the best prospect in baseball. Law also thinks Lewis could become a 70 grade defender in the outfield, again similar to Buxton. That is a lot of value for a backup position.

Brent Rooker, OF/1B: Round 1, Pick 35

Brent Rooker was the first winner of the SEC Triple Crown since Rafael Palmeiro, hitting .389/.495/.810 with 30 doubles and 23 home runs in 67 games. Those are video game numbers.

Now of course, Rooker is already 22 and turns 23 in November, but he will start this summer in Single-A (likely at Low-A Cedar Rapids) and could hit his way to High-A Fort Myers. If he does well enough he could start next year at Double-A Chattanooga, which is an age-appropriate place for a 23 year old hitter.

If Rooker were a 21 year old junior, I assume he would have been a top 20 pick despite questions about his defensive ability (see: Schwarber, Kyle).

Landon Leach, RHP: Round 2, Pick 1

Who? I don’t blame you if you aren’t familiar with the name, as Landon Leach was not on my radar for the 37th pick either. But consider this: as a 17 year old (he turns 18 in July) Leach has hit 96 mph with his fastball and has a decent feel for a curve ball and changeup. With a 6-4 220 lb frame, Leach already has a prototypical pitcher’s body too.

Another thing to consider: Leach did not start pitching until he was 15 years old. So the plus fastball (60 grade) and league-average curve ball, changeup, and control (all 50 grade) have come in two years’ time. He is still learning how to pitch! Even if he spends two years in rookie ball, this kid has legitimate ace potential and is the kind of risk that may pay dividends in the long run.

Why take him so early? The Twins likely knew they could get Blayne Enlow or a similar prep pitcher in round 3, and they didn’t think Leach would last until the first pick of the 4th round. He had that much helium (positive attention) leading up to the draft.

Blayne Enlow, RHP: Round 3, Pick 1

My dream draft scenario hinged on the ability of the Twins to get Blayne Enlow. He has that much potential.

Considered to have one of the best curve balls in the draft (60 grade), Enlow’s stock fell this spring because his velocity was down and teams worried he would honor his commitment to LSU. He only started this summer hitting 88-92 mph after sitting 92-94 mph last summer. By the end of spring he was back up to 91-93 mph, though, so there isn’t actually much of an issue.

As for those signability issues: Enlow changed his Twitter bio within minutes of being drafted, proudly displaying his allegiance to the Twins. It has already been leaked that he will happily sign for about $2 million, which is actually less than I thought he would require.

Why save money with our first three picks? Because Enlow gives the Twins a third pick that is first round quality, but they got him in the third round. Legitimate front line starter potential with this kid.

Andrew Bechtold, 3B: Round 5, Pick 1

Andrew Bechtold is a similar comparison to Travis Blankenhorn, the Twins’ seventh best prospect according to MLB.com. He has the ability to hit for both average and power, and probably has a better chance to stay at third base than Blankenhorn does.

Bechtold is another reason to save money—he will either sign above slot or honor his commitment to LSU, but he is worth the money. If Bechtold had continued playing D1 baseball (he started his collegiate career at Maryland before transferring) he could have easily been a second or third round pick this year.

Ricardo De La Torres, SS: Round 6, Pick 1

Each year MLB.com posts the 30 best draft prospects in March or April, updates that to the top 100 draft prospects in May, and then updates it again to the top 200 in early June before the Draft.

Ricardo De La Torres was among the top 30 prospects early this spring. A lackluster spring offensively crushed his draft stock, dropping him to the 180th best prospect and ultimately the sixth round.

Whereas there are questions about Royce Lewis’s ability to stay at short, there are far far fewer about De La Torres. Combining a strong arm with good hands and great range, De La Torres probably has the best chance to stick at short of anyone in the draft beside defensive wizard Nick Allen, who went in the third round to Oakland.

If De La Torres had hit well this spring, he would have been gone by the the Twins’ fourth pick. He is another reason why the Twins needed to save money, as he may sign over slot to lure him away from Auburn. If the Twins can help him hit, he has crazy upside.

Charlie Barnes, LHP, Round 4 and Ryley Widell, LHP, Round 7

Charlie Barnes and Ryley Widell have a lot in common. They both have some of the best changeups in the draft, and they both have fastballs that sit in the upper 80s or lower 90s. After years of the Twins’ pitch-to-contact philosophy, Twins fans have learned to hate pitchers who don’t throw gas, but they should still be excited about Barnes and Widell for numerous reasons.

First, every big league team still employs quality pitchers that don’t throw much more than 90 mph. Barnes can hit 91 mph and Widell can hit 92 mph, so it’s not like they are Jared Weaver tossing 84 mph heaters out there.

Second, they are not fully developed. Barnes has about 10-15 lbs to add to his 6-1 170 lbs frame, and Widell could similarly add 10-15 lbs to his 6-4 205 lbs frame. That weight could easily up their fastballs one or two miles per hour, which helps.

Third, they know how to pitch despite not having plus fastballs. Barnes succeeded throwing 88-90 mph in the same conference as Brendan McKay (who sits 88-95 mph) and J.B. Bukauskas (who sits 92-96 mph). Barnes and Widell both have plus (60 grade) changeups that allow them to attack hitters, as well as good control which helps their slower heaters be effective.

Fourth, if they fail as starters because of their velocity, they can still succeed as bullpen arms. Taylor Rogers was a soft throwing lefty in college, added some velocity and worked himself to Triple-A Rochester as a starter. He added even more velocity in the bullpen since he wasn’t throwing 6 or 7 innings, and is now one of the few trusted arms in the Twins pen while only hitting 92 or 93 mph.

Jordan Spicer, RHP, Round 26 and Griffin Roberts, RHP, Round 29

After rounds and rounds of drafting unranked prospects, the Twins got Spicer in the 26th round and Roberts in the 29th round. I figured I would touch on these guys since their selections are a bit odd.

Spicer is eligible because all JUCO players are draft eligible, and Roberts is eligible because he is already 21 years old, despite being a college sophomore. This gives them the leverage of returning to school, improving their performance, and getting drafted higher next year.

The Twins saved money early, but most of that money will go to Enlow, Bechtold, and De La Torres, so I doubt they will have the money to sign Spicer and Roberts.

So why draft them?

First, they work as a safety net. If Blayne Enlow were to back out of his deal (he won’t, stop worrying), the Twins still have good prospects in Spicer and Roberts to offer the extra money they saved. Second, this gives the Twins an opportunity to get the know the players and build a relationship in hopes of drafting them earlier next year. And of course, they may sign anyway, although it would be a surprise

Red Shirt Juniors and Seniors

Most good college players will be drafted during their age 21 season, which allows them to play with similarly aged players at Single-A once they sign and at Double-A the next year. Outside of Brent Rooker, most RS juniors and natural seniors do not have the skills to become true prospects, otherwise they would have been drafted high the year before.

So why draft these players? First and foremost, they provide organizational depth. Organizations need bodies in the GCL Rookie League, Appalachian Rookie League, and even in Single-A ball. 22 year old college players provide that depth, and some provide upside.

Every RS junior and natural senior drafted by the Twins likely has one above average skill (55 grade): T.J. Dixon of Samford, drafted in the 24th round, has some legitimate speed, while Jared Akins came in the 13th round and has some legitimate power. Maybe one of these players makes it work and comes to the big leagues as a 24 or 25 year old. Its always worth the shot.

Finally, senior signs are CHEAP. If they don’t sign, they end up out of baseball or as undrafted free agents who get no signing bonus. So they might as well sign for $5,000-$25,000 (or maybe slightly more) and get the extra pay day. This saves money for the high quality picks from the first two days, as well as any prep player or younger college player from the later rounds.

Thoughts

Even thought the Twins didn’t take a pitcher first overall, they added significant pitching depth and some high quality arms in Enlow and Leach. They also added some exciting position players who will help shape the team for years to come.

Royce Lewis will likely become the team’s second best prospect, behind fellow shortstop Nick Gordon, and you can expect Enlow in the team’s top ten. Rooker may very well be in the top 15 or higher, and the other day two prospects (Bechtold, Barnes, De La Torres, and Widell) could easily find themselves in our top 30.

All in all, it was a great day for the team and even greater for the players selected. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine get the thumbs up.