The first day of the 2019 MLB Draft is in the books, and the Twins made three selections in the first two rounds. The Draft is always a balance of adding players with great tools as well as other players who have high floors, and this year was no exception for the Twins.
With the first overall pick in 2017 MLB Draft, the Twins selected a toolsy prepster from California who had just turned 18. That player was Royce Lewis who is a consensus top 10 prospect today. This year, the Twins went a similar route, drafting Keoni Cavaco out of East Lake HS in California, who turned 18 the day before the draft. Cavaco is a super-toolsy infielder who has announced as a SS and will likely see some time there, even though the industry and even the Twins admit that 3B is likely his future home.
With the 39th pick in the Competitive Balance Round A—awarded to the Twins because of our small market and mediocre attendance—the Twins selected Forest Lake native OF Matt Wallner, of Southern Mississippi. Wallner has big time power, setting the USM record for career home runs with 57 after hitting 22 out of the park this year. Wallner is a former pitcher who hit 97mph on the mound and can gun runners down from RF.
For the 54th pick in the draft, in the second round, the Twins selected RHP Matt Cantarino out of Rice University. With a unique and funky delivery, Canterino has been a starter for the Owls for all three years of his college career, showing consistant improvement thanks to three pitches that are at least above average, and improved control that some consider to be at least above average as well.
According to MLB Pipeline the Twins got the 28th (Cavaco), 60th (Wallner), and 46th (Canterino) best prospects in the draft. Fangraphs had those players listed at 22nd, 44th, and 109th, respectively. Baseball America likes Cavaco less than most, at 31, but likes Wallner at 49, and were very high on Cantarino as the 34th best prospect in the draft. That is a pretty solid haul with much more yet to come.
Here are some of the stories to consider for the Twins day 1 picks, as well as the rest of the draft moving forward.
Pick of the Litter?
Leading up to the draft, the Twins had been connected to three college hitters: Baylor C Shea Langeliers, UNLV SS Bryson Stott, and Texas Tech 3B Josh Jung; as well as prep infielders like Keoni Cavaco, Kyren Paris, and Matthew Lugo.
Josh Jung was taken by the Rangers with the 8th overall pick, a selection that had been rumored by draft evaluators for a few days. With the 9th overall pick, the Braves selected catcher Shea Langeliers to help guide their impressive pitching depth. When the Twins finally got on the clock, Bryson Stott was still available, as were the three prep infielders they had showed so much interest in. While Paris and Lugo were considered options for their 39th overall pick, the decision for the 13th pick came down to Stott vs. Cavaco. In choosing Cavaco, the Twins went with the high upside pick, betting on their ability to develop his hit tool to match his potentially plus power and athleticism in the field.
With no inside knowledge to the Twins decision, I think that Cavaco was probably their guy all along.
Johnson on Cavaco: "He didn't try out for these Area Code teams and didn't make it or anything. He just found another level this spring."— Brandon Warne (@Brandon_Warne) June 4, 2019
They had someone at each of his games this spring, Johnson said.
The only thing that might have made a difference would have been if Shea Langeliers were available. The reason I think this is because the Twins had been linked pretty heavily to those other prep shortstops, Matthew Lugo and Kyren Paris, who were available for both the Twins picks at 39 and 54. While you can never have too many shortstops, I think drafting either of those two players along with Cavaco wouldn’t have made the most sense as all three are guys who will need a good bit of time to develop. But drafting a college catcher like Langeliers, who could potentially move quickly through the system, as well as one of those prep infielders would been a solid strategy.
Instead the Twins get their guy in Cavaco, a high upside toolsy player if I ever saw one, and then shifted their focus to higher floor college guys to give their draft some balance.
More power than Xcel Energy
There was a pretty clear theme with the Twins first two picks: POWER!!!!!!
Keoni Cavaco has at least above average raw power, and since he literally just turned 18 it is safe to say that his body will mature a bit and that he will be able to add even more power. According to Fangraphs’ Future grades, Cavaco could grow into plus “raw” power (ie: how many dingers can you hit in batting practice). Matt Wallner, on the other hand, is considered to have plus-plus raw power, a 70 grade on the 20-80 scale, and the potential to have 60 in-game power.
And both of these players have power arms to boot. Keoni Cavaco hit 93 mph on the mound at the age of 17, and Scouting Director Sean Johnson said he might have a 70 grade arm in the infield.
Johnson said they had four-flat times on him from the right side. "Great hands. At least a 7 arm. He can really throw from different angles."— Brandon Warne (@Brandon_Warne) June 4, 2019
Said he's nearly Buxton fast time-wise.
Matt Wallner was actually selected by the Twins—as a pitcher—in the 2016 draft and he was a two way player for Southern Miss for his first two seasons, hitting 97 mph as a sophomore. That sort of arm will scare runners while he is in right field.
Even Matt Cantarino has a bit of power as a pitcher. While he usually sits 90-93, he has the ability to hit 96 mph, and we can assume that a little help from Twins pitching coach Wes Johnson will be able to improve his velocity even more. Cantarino also has a solid “power” slider in the mid-80s that grades out as a plus pitch and a spike/knuckle curve in the upper 70s that is above average.
After drafting the toolsy high upside-low floor Keoni Cavaco, the Twins made what seem to be safer, high floor picks in Wallner and Cantarino. And while that college duo do have high floors, they each have plus tools that give them upside of their own.
Those left behind
As mentioned above, the Twins had been linked to UNLV SS Bryson Stott for some time. With Stott ultimately going one pick after the Twins, 14th overall to the Phillies, there will always be some comparison between Cavaco and Stott by Twins fans. And I think that is fair, but not the right comparison to make.
With a talented, and winning Major League roster and a deep farm system, the Twins are in a spot where drafting a high upside-low floor prep player makes perfect sense. The other name that fit that profile was OF Corbin Carroll, who went 16th overall to the Diamondbacks and is considered another 5-tool potential guy with plus-plus speed and one of the best hit tools in the draft. With 4 first round picks, the Diamondbacks have loads of money to spread around, which potentially means that Carroll will sign well above slot and for more than the Twins would be willing to give a single player in this draft. Once the players sign and the bonuses are public knowledge it will be interesting to see if that is the case.
So as I watch this draft class progress the question will not be Stott vs. Cavaco, but rather Cavaco and the deal we got him for vs. Carroll and the deal the Diamondbacks give him.
What is left to come
Speaking of the Draft Bonus Slot system, there is a whole lot of strategy yet to come into play for the Twins front office today and tomorrow.
While Cavaco is committed to San Deigo State, he seems more than ready and willing to sign.
Keoni Cavaco has committed to San Diego State, but it sounds like is looking forward to signing.— Betsy Helfand (@betsyhelfand) June 4, 2019
Cavaco: "I had my heart set on playing pro ball from the beginning. I’m young, so as soon as I can get into the system, as soon as possible, the faster I can get up."
Pretty much every team between the Twins at 13 and the Diamondbacks at 16 were in on Cavaco, so I doubt that he will present a major savings, but there could still be a deal there. I figure the potential savings, if there are any, would probably be in the $200,000 to $400,000 range—the Angels were in on the California native and had the 15th pick, worth about $310,000 less than the Twins pick at 13. Saving that amount of money isn’t the best deal out there, but it is enough extra money to entice a good player or two to sign an over-slot deal between the 3rd and 15th rounds.
The Twins 39th pick carries a bonus slot of $1.9 million. Matt Wallner expected to be taken between the 40-55th picks, which range from $1.86 million to $1.3 million, so there may be some room for a deal there. If the Twins had taken Wallner in the second round with their 54th overall pick, the bonus slot would have been $1.338 million, so there is that and the hometown discount to consider as well. Still, the Twins signed Brent Rooker to basically a slot deal in the Competetive Balance Round A back in 2017, so there is no guarantee they get Wallner on the cheap.
With that $1.338 bonus slot in the second round they ended up taking pitcher Matt Cantarino. I think Cantarino will sign for around slot, maybe a little less. He could choose to go back to school, but he would be entering the draft as a 22 year old from a mediocre conference with a lot of college innings on his arm—so he has little leverage, if any.
Rounds 3 to 10 of the MLB Draft take place today, and we will be covering them here at TwinkieTown. There are still some big names on the draft board, notably prep pitchers Matthew Allan, Hunter Barco (both Florida commits), and Jack Leiter (strong Vanderbilt commit). Allan and Leiter are said to be asking for $4 million or more and my bet is that they will remain unsigned.
Of the 6 best prep players left undrafted—all top 40 prospects according to MLB Pipeline—all of them have commitments to SEC schools (the best conference in baseball, as well) and that includes Maurice Hampton who is set to play football and baseball at LSU.
So some of those big name guys will likely remain undrafted entirely, or perhaps be drafted in the mid 30 rounds as a chance for teams to build relationships with the players, like the Twins did with Matt Wallner in 2016.
One name still on the board that the Twins have been linked to is prep catcher Ethan Hearn, Pipeline’s 67th best draft prospect, who was mocked to be the Twins second round pick by Fangraphs . Hearn also as a commitment to an SEC school—Mississippi State— but perhaps the Twins could add enough to their third round pick, which has a slot bonus of $657,600, to entice him to sign. There are also a number of quality players in Pipeline’s 70-100 range still available who will have more manageable signability.
Make sure to check in with TwinkieTown throughout the day as we cover Day 2 of the MLB Draft!