Going into 2017 the Twins had the first overall selection in the upcoming MLB Draft. Having the first pick meant that the team and its many bloggers had to do their due diligence on a large quantity of the best prospects eligible for the draft. With all of the excitement, draft coverage here at Twinkie Town started quite early.
This year things are quite different. After the team’s first playoff birth in over half a decade, the Twins find themselves drafting 20th overall in the first round. While there is still plenty of excitement for the Twins’ newest prospects, blogging about potential selections is far more difficult. Instead of setting the tone like we did last year, the Twins are at the mercy of the selections of the nineteen other teams before getting to pick their guy... if he is even available.
With this strategically difficulty in mind, there are a number of factors that go into this year’s draft, and we will look at some of these to kick off our draft coverage this year.
Draft Picks, Position, and Bonus Pool
Last year the Twins had the first overall pick, meaning they also had the first pick in each round after the first. They also had a pick in the Competitive Balance Round A, effectively giving the team two second-round picks. Because of the team’s draft location and the pick in the competitive balance round, the team had the highest Draft Bonus Pool — the amount of money we could potentially spend on prospect signing bonuses.
With the 20th pick in the first round this year, the Twins also have the 20th pick in every round after, except for the third round. Because the Twins signed Lance Lynn — who was offered and rejected a qualifying offer from the Cardinals last offseason — they forfeited their third round pick. The team will still have a draft presence around the third round, however.
Luckily (at least in draft terms), the Twins are still one of the smallest baseball markets with one of the smallest revenues, meaning they still get a Competitive Balance Round selection in 2018. Since they received a Competitive Balance Round A selection last year, they have a Round B selection this year, effectively giving them an earlier third round pick. With this pick replacing the pick we lost to sign Lynn, the Twins still maintain the 20th largest Draft Bonus Pool, which still leaves room for potential bonus pool-based draft strategies.
Of course, picking 20th in each round (and not truly picking in the third round) means the Twins are at the mercy of the teams picking before them. Last year the Twins were able to draft Blane Enlow, the teams’ nineth best prospect according to MLB.com, in part because they had the first pick of the third round and the most bonus pool money. It will be harder for the Twins to get a first round talent in the third round this year with a later pick and less money to spend.
For the 20th pick, the Twins have a bonus pool allotment of $3,120,000. Now the Twins have the ability to sign their 20th pick for more or less than that amount if they choose. If they do sign their pick for more or less, the team will need to have a good strategy for where they are getting that extra money if they spend more or where they are spending their savings if they spend less. Each team weighs these factors, but it comes into play more heavily at the end of the first round than at the beginning.
Take into account high school right handed pitcher Ethan Hankins. Hankins came into the spring as perhaps the highest rated high school pitcher due to a 97-100 mph fastball, an advanced changeup, and advanced control and command. Unfortunately for Hankins he was injured early this spring and his stuff quite hasn’t been the same. He currently finds himself ranked 19th overall by MLB.com, landing him as a potential pick for the Twins. However, Hankins is also committed to Vanderbilt, one of the most prestigious baseball schools in the country — especially for pitchers. If Hankins thinks he could spend three years at Vanderbilt and become a top five pick, he may pass on a few $3,200,000 offers by teams in the teens or early twenties and honor his college commitment.
In fact, there is a bevy of talented but raw players that may feel like focusing on baseball in college will help their draft stock immensely. Owen White is one of my favorite prospects in the draft, ranked 55th overall by MLB.com. White was a three-sport star early in high school and started his baseball season late this year because of basketball. Having never focused solely on baseball, he still boasts a 60-grade fastball, 60-grade slider, 55-grade curveball, and 55-grade changeup, along with the ability to add 20-40 pounds to his frame for added durability. If teams don’t offer White enough money, he could easily honor his commitment to South Carolina and become an early first round pick in 2021.
Hence, the potential signability of players is an important consideration when the Twins choose who to draft. If a high school prospect opts for college instead, the team would lose out.
Draft Class Depth and Strategy
There are two kinds of depth to take into account around draft time.
The first is the depth of the draft class. In 2018, there are a lot of strong pitching prospects, especially from the high school ranks. There is also a general lack of athletes who will likely be able to play at shortstop. So if a team feels like it needs to add a shortstop in the draft along with pitching, it may reach to select a shortstop in the first round. The same goes for pure athletes, catchers, and high-upside left handed pitching, which round out the four most difficult-to-find resources in the MLB Draft.
Considering the depth of right-handed pitching available in the draft, the Twins may forego a pitcher in the first round, since they could find one or more in the second round and Competitive balance round. However, the opposite could also happen — if the shortstops/catchers/athletes the Twins like are taken before their first pick, they could easily take the pitcher they like most to create the next wave of pitching depth behind their high level (Fernando Romero, Stephen Gonsalves, Zach Littel) and low level (Brusdar Graterol, Blayne Enlow) pitching prospects.
Draft Class Depth can also affect signability both ways. If Ethan Hankins falls because teams drafting in the teens and early twenties want athletes, he may wish to go to school to get drafted higher in 2021. Likewise, he may be willing to sign with any team that gets him, knowing a run on non-pitchers may come at any time.
Organizational Depth, Philosophy, and Strategy
Some teams have very ingrained draft strategies that affect the entire draft.
The Chicago Cubs, for example, always prioritize college players. Kris Bryant (2013), Kyle Schwarber (2014), Ian Happ (2015), Brendon Little (2017), and Alex Lange (2017) are their most recent first round picks — and they all came from the college ranks. As a result the Cubs have gotten their highest drafted players quickly through the minors, helping their team stay in playoff contention after their World Series victories.
Other teams prioritize position over maturity. The Atlanta Braves have spent every first round pick since 2011 on pitchers, regardless of amateur level. As a result, the Braves’ farm system is loaded with incredible pitching depth.
For the Twins, this will be just the second draft since Derek Falvey and Thad Levine took over. They took a high-level athlete at a prime position first overall last year in Royce Lewis, followed by an advanced college bat in Brent Rooker in the Competetitive Balance A round, and then two high-upside pitching prospects with Landon Leach in the second round and Blane Enlow the third round. The next wave of draftees were college lefties (Charlie Barnes in round four and Ryley Widell in round seven) and athletic infielders (Andrew Bechtold in round five and Ricardo De la Torres in round six).
There isn’t much of a pattern in one year’s worth of data. Thad Levine (who likely has more input in the draft than Derek Falvey) became the Assistant General Manager of the Rangers in 2005 and in that role helped draft eleven high schoolers and four college players in the first rounds. With the Twins last year, he drafted another high schooler and college player (Rooker is technically a first round pick). Even with a slight pattern to draft high schoolers, if the right college player falls to the Twins at the 20th pick, they might take him. There is no true pattern to go by this year. Heck, the Twins even drafted a Scott Boras client first overall last year.
Injuries and the etc., etc.
Players get hurt every year before the draft. Sometimes they fall off the planet, other times they land on their feet somewhere. Clarke Schmidt had Tommy John surgery prior to last year’s draft, but was still drafted 16th by the Yankees, who saved money by drafting an injured player. They used that extra money to sign their second round pick Matt Sauer away from his commitment to Arizona.
Sometimes crazy circumstances get in the way or lead to a draft pick. Last year, Seth Romero’s off-the-field antics dropped him from a top 10 pick to the Nationals at pick 25 — a pick that was called by almost every baseball media company in the world.
When there is no Stephen Strasbourg or Bryce Harper in the draft, it can be almost impossible to predict who gets picked where, and it gets more difficult as you get later into the first round. Heck, we didn’t have any idea the Twins were seriously in on Royce Lewis last year until we woke up the morning of the draft.
We have less than three weeks until the MLB draft. In that time, we here at Twinkie Town will do everything we can to try to figure out what is going to happen with the 20th pick, and the rest of the Twins’ draft. It will be a wild ride and we will most likely be very, VERY, wrong. But in the end we will highlight the talented prospects we draft on June 4th and in the days after, and will welcome another crop of prospects to our beloved Twins.