By now you are probably tired of that image leading to an article. Fear not, dear reader, this is the last draft related post we will have for the 2019 season, as today we recap the Twins 2019 draft.
In the age of the internet we all know that everyone is angry about everything, so it is no surprise to see Twins fans up in arms about the players chosen in this year’s draft despite the fact that no one knows anything about the draft. I’ve spent the last two months reading everything I possibly can and I barely know how to react. Here is MLB Pipeline’s Draft Tracker, which can help start any research you need to do to get caught up.
So lets do a little digging into what we saw out of the Twins in the draft, and do a legitimate, logical analysis.
That First Pick
Keith Law’s prospect and draft analysis is locked away behind ESPN+, but if you care at all about prospects or the draft, spending $6 to binge-read everything he puts out is good value. Hate him or love him, Law is blatantly honest about his opinions of prospects and it offers a great comparison to many other evaluators opinions, who tend to focus as much on potential as reality.
Keith Law thought Keoni Cavaco was a bit of a reach for the Twins with the 13th pick. So did much of Twitter—what with Bryson Stott and power pitchers like Jackson Rutledge and Zach Thompson still available. So why draft the pop-up prospect with a questionable hit tool, who was announced as a SS even though we drafted Royce Lewis just two years ago?
It’s actually pretty simple: upside. Few prospects available to the Twins with the 13th pick have the sheer upside as Cavaco. We are talking 30+ HR potential while playing adequate defense at short, or potentially Gold Glove defense at third base. If Cavaco ends up as the next Nolan Arenado, would you be upset? Of course not, but the chance of Cavaco becoming that player is slim—so, again, why draft him?
With players like Jorge Polanco and Kepler signed long term, a commanding lead of a division that could be weak for years to come, and a deep farm system that includes some of the best prospects in baseball, the Twins are in a unique position to draft that risky player. Because even if Cavaco washes out in Double-A, we have few organizational holes and will still be able to field a competitive team.
And even if Cavaco doesn’t reach his absolute ceiling, he still has all the tools you could ever ask for and can turn into a solid player. A plus arm, plus speed, and raw power that fits in perfectly with our current Bomba squad, and our entire system in general, which brings up a good point...
Power tools and developing hitters
Ever since Derek Falvey, Thad Levine, and scouting director Sean Johnson took over as the three-headed giant leading the Twins, power has been at a premium in the draft. They drafted Redshirt Junior Brent Rooker in the Competitive Balance A round in 2017. In 2018 they tripled up on hitters with raw power, adding Trevor Lanarch in the first round, Ryan Jeffers—a reach according to just about everyone—in the second round, and powerful prepster Charles Mack on an overslot deal in the sixth round.
This year they continued that trend. Cavaco (1st round), Minnesota’s own Matt Walner (CBA), Seth Gray (4th), Will Holland (5th), Edouard Julien (18th), and Blake Robertson (26th) are all known for their power and could be hitting long dongs for the Twins for years to come. Even guys like Seth Steer (3rd), who hit for little power in college, is known to be a strong player for his relatively diminutive size.
The Twins very clearly have a draft model that they follow. They like to balance toolsy prep hitters like Royce Lewis and Keoni Cavaco with powerful college hitters like Brent Rooker, Trevor Larnach, Ryan Jeffers, and Matt Wallner. It has helped produce one of the deepest farm systems in baseball, and we should know just how much trade capital that system can produce by August 1st of this year.
Where’s the pitching?
The Twins have lacked above average pitching for almost a decade. Even now, with a commanding lead of our division, we feature holes in our bullpen and unsustainable success from our starters.
So why did they only draft one pitcher with their first six picks?
There are two answers here: one situational and one philosophical.
First and foremost, this draft was known by any respectable evaluator to be historically bad on pitching. It was the first MLB Draft, EVER, to have 6 hitters chosen before the first pitcher. Keith Law said it had the worst pitching depth in his 18 years of covering the draft either as a writer or as an employee in a scouting/analytics department. Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of MLB Pipeline heard from scouts that it was the worst pitching depth in the draft for over 30 years! So it seems to follow that we simply didn’t take the best of a bad bunch. Instead, we waited to draft pitchers that we liked without reaching for them.
Matt Canterino, drafted in the second round, can hit 96, has 3 above-average pitches, and has been a work horse his whole college career. Sawyer Gipson-Long, drafted in the 6th, has a perfect pitcher frame at 6’4” 225 lbs, can hit 95, and has a good changeup. Casey Legumina, drafted in the 8th, could have been a top 100 draft prospect this year had he been healthy all season.
After the 5th round, 15 out of 17 picks were college pitchers. All of them have some positive trait, whether it be size, velocity, spin rate, etc. If the Twins can make even just one of those guys into a #4 starter or solid reliever, they had a great draft considering the talented hitters they took in the earlier rounds
The philosophical reason why we didn’t take pitchers? Much like the Cubs in the early-to-mid 2010’s, the Twins believe that there is no such thing as a pitching prospect. Career-altering injuries are far too common, just look at our top pitching prospect Brusdar Graterol, who lost more than a year to Tommy John and is now out “indefintely” with a shoulder impingement. What has better odds: hoping that one top pitcher doesn’t need arm surgery and actually reaches one of his more positive possible outcomes, or hoping that 1 out of 14 pitchers you took can contribute in the major leagues? I’d bet on the larger field for that one, any day of the week, especially when there is no Casey Mize or Mackenzie Gore available in this draft.
We drafted pitching, plenty of it. You just might not know their names for a few years
Remember how Keith Law though that Keoni Cavaco was a reach? Well he also praised the Twins for taking Will Holland out of Auburn in the 5th round. Law had Holland as a top 30 prospect before the season began (subscription required), believing that if he had simply repeated his sophomore season as a junior, he would have been a surefire first round pick.
Baseball America (subscription required) thought that the Twins selecting Holland was the best pick of the entire 5th round. And whoever scouted Auburn clearly liked the team despite their mediocre stats, as Auburn 2B Edouard Julien was considered to have the most upside of our day 3 picks.
If the Twins can legitimately fix Will Holland’s swing—and Keith Law thinks they can—we have an above-average defensive SS capable of 20-20 seasons on our hands. That would be a for-sure first round pick that we got all of the way in the 5th round.
And someone like Spencer Steer, who produced in college but with little power, even though he is a strong guy? He hit as many home runs in 3 years of college baseball as Brian Dozier did in his first three seasons at Southern Miss. We gave Dozier $30,000 to sign as a college senior with our 8th round pick. That turned out okay.
This post may make me sound like a homer. But to be honest, I am merely playing devil’s advocate for myself. While I believe in the philosophy of drafting hitters and then trading the excess for pitchers (#DRAFTBATSBUYARMS) I personally favor hit tool over raw power. In a day and age where Jose Altuve can hit 20 homers a year, and Max Kepler has 15 home runs in early June, I think that any one who can make consistent contact can hit a homer. Heck, even Luis Arraez hit a home run this year for the Twins, and he has only hit 6 homers in 1389 minor league at bats.
If I had control of the Twins draft, I would have drafted Bryson Stott or even, more preferably, Corbin Carroll—who is the person we will need to compare Keoni Cavaco to in the future. I would have taken Matthew Lugo or Kyren Paris in the second round. I would have taken Ethan Hearn in the 3rd round.
I also would have liked to see a prep pitcher taken in the first ten rounds, even if they needed a few years of development. Jordan Balazovic is proof enough that drafting a high school pitcher who still needs a lot of development can still work out perfectly. I love the pick of Antoine Jean out of Quebec in the 17th round, so lets hope we can sign the young lefty.
I’m not a huge fan of this draft, to be frank. But that doesn’t mean that you should agree, or that I should think this way. We cannot think in terms of what we want, the rabid fan base who wants to win at all costs. Because as we know, deep down, we don’t know shit about these high school and college players who we didn’t know about until Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday. But you can bet your bottom dollar that our front office knew a little bit more than we did. The Falvey-Levine-Johnson trio came into power after a 100-loss season, have us 21 games above .500 in early June just three season later, and have built one of the best farm systems in the game to help us for the rest of this year and the future. I may not agree with every one of their choices in this draft, but I trust them for now. Let’s check back in 2025 and see who was right.