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Minnesota Twins 2020 MLB Draft Preview: Hitting Prospects

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Will the Twins follow the trend with their first overall pick?

MLB First Year Player Draft Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The MLB Draft begins Wednesday, June 10th at 6pm Central Time. The Minnesota Twins will select 27th overall, their only pick on day 1 of the draft. Day 2 of the draft begins on Thursday at 4pm Central and the Twins will have 3 selections that day. Remember that this is still somehow the same year we signed Josh Donaldson, which cost us our third round pick. We also traded our Compensatory Round B pick to the Dodgers as part of the Kenta Maeda trade.

With our first pick late in the first round and missing two picks (and the bonus pool money that comes with them), the Twins might follow a similar strategy as they did in 2018 when we also lacked a Compensatory pick (Phil Hughes trade) and third round pick (Lance Lynn signing). That year we selected Trevor Larnach in the first and Ryan Jeffers in the second round.

That years draft was indicative of Falvine’s overall draft strategy in their time with the Twins. Here are there first round picks since taking control of the Front Office:

2017 1 (1) : SS Royce Lewis
2017 1 (35): 1B/OF Brent Rooker
2018 1 (20): OF Trevor Larnach
2019 1 (13): SS Keoni Kavaco
2019 1 (39): OF Matt Wallner

In this grouping we have two separate sets of players and preferences that have shown in an admittedly small sample size. With their early first round picks, the Twins have selected athletic prep shortstops who both have natural raw power. In their later first round picks which Competitive Balance Round A technically counts as) the Twins have selected powerful college outfielders.

With these “trends” in mind, here are some players the Twins could be high on for Thursday:

MLB Pipeline no. 15: Ed Howard SS, Mount Carmel (Ill)

There is a chance that Howard had his stock more negatively influenced that anyone in the draft. A slick-fielding SS from Illinois, he didn’t get to showcase his skills this spring due to COVID-19. He stands out for his defense at short, and is said to be guaranteed to stay there in the pros (55 grade arm and 60 grade fielding according to MLB Pipeline). He has some natural and game power but his hit tool is a work in progress. A good spring might have made him a top 10 pick but with a commitment to Oklahoma and no tape from his senior season he might slide a bit if teams focus on college players this year with the shorter draft and smaller bonus pools. Howard’s athleticism and overall talent would be a solid fit in the Twins system as yet another up-the-middle player.

MLB Pipeline no. 33: Jordan Walker 3B, Decatur (GA)

Jordan Walker is a tall (6’5”), muscular (220lbs), and powerful (60 grade power) third base prospect who would undoubtedly end up being compared to Miguel Sano if the Twins were to draft him this year. Walker’s size leads to a bit of a longer swing that makes him prone to strikeouts, and a team’s faith in that tool is what will get him selected this year, as he is committed to Duke. If the Twins want to draft an upside-youngster and Howard has already been selected, Walker’s raw power and promise fits well with the Twins approach and system.

MLB Pipeline no. 27: Austin Wells C, Arizona

Wells is a big, bat-forward catching prospect who reminds me of a more well-regarded Ryan Jeffers, who the Twins current front office selected in the second round of the 2018 draft. No one guessed Jeffers would have been taken so high, but Wells has more well-regarded hit tools (55 for hit and power) than Jeffers did. Wells’ is believed to lack the arm and defensive the skills necessary to stick behind the plate long term, but the same was said of Jeffers and the Twins have turned him into a solid defensive catcher with great framing skills (60 fielding grade). If the Twins see the same potential in Wells, his power and college production (1.116 OPS in 15 games as a sophomore in PAC-12 this year) make him a solid addition as a powerful college bat.

MLB Pipeline no. 38: Daniel Cabrera OF, LSU

The problem with the “Twins taking powerful college OF late in the first round” trope in 2020 is that there aren’t very many of them slotted at this range in the draft this year. In fact there are only 3 college outfielders in Pipeline’s top 50 draft prospects and the first two should be top-10 picks. So if the Twins stick true to form Cabrera would be the guy. Pipeline grades all of his tools as at least a 50, with his hit tool (55) and arm (55) being his best tools overall. He profiles as a strong-fielding corner outfielder who should hit for average and about 20 homers a year. While that isn’t the most exciting profile, he would add depth the the Twins’ list of outfield prospects that could make a trade for an ace a reality.

MLB Pipeline no. 30: Casey Martin SS, Arkansas

Casey Martin is a super athletic (75 grade speed) college shortstop with power (55 grade) and an arm (55 grade). He strikes out far too much and isn’t a pure fielder at short, so there is a chance he has to move off the diamond and that his bat never lets his power play. Martin is a more-athletic version of Will Holland, who the Twins selected in the 5th round last year after a poor junior season dropped him from first round consideration. With a shorter draft (and better numbers in 2020 than Holland had in 2019) Martin might stay in the first round and give the Twins more up-the-middle talent with power.

MLB Pipeline no. 32: Justin Foscue 2B, Mississippi State

The Twins selected a power hitter out of Mississippi State in 2017 in Brent Rooker, and Foscue is the first of two options for the Twins to make a similar selection in 2020. Foscue lacks high-end tools (Pipeline gives him no grades higher than 50) but his overall profile is that of a solid offensive-minded second baseman with enough defense to not be a liability. He posted a .959 OPS as a sophomore in the SEC last season with 22 doubles and 14 homers, and to start this year he had a .973 OPS with 15 walks to just 3 strikeouts through 15 games. He played third as a freshman and could probably play there in the pros too. He would be a solid addition as a quick-rising prospect at positions that lack high-end prospect depth for the Twins.

MLB Pipeline no. 37: Jordan Westburg SS, Mississippi State

The other half of the Mississippi State double play tandem, Westburg is also a powerful infield prospect who has flashier tools (55 speed and 55 arm) but more holes in his swing (45 hit tool). He should have the athleticism to stick at short but is a tall SS (6’3”) with a strong arm who could slide to third so long as his bat gives him the chances to connect with his raw power. Westburg was having his best college season to date (OPS about 90 points higher than 2019) but still had 15 strikeouts to 6 walks. A team that believes in his bat and his defense should get a solid player in Westburg.

MLB Pipeline no. 36: Nick Loftin SS, Baylor

I have never been so scared of the ghost of Levi Michael (Twins 1st round pick, 30th overall, in 2011) than I am when I look at scouting reports for Nick Loftin. Like Michael, Loftin is a glove-first shortstop with fringe athleticism and little power. Michael, as we now know, became a utility infield organizational player who never played with the Twins in Minnesota. Loftin should hopefully pan out better but carries a lot of the same risk since he lacks legitimate shortstop athleticism (50 run). Loftin’s MLB Pipeline profile points to his positional versatility and ability to be a utility player if his bat doesn’t work out, which is the same profile Levi Michael had almost a decade ago. Loftin did start his season with the best SLG of his college career, which might show more power than Pipeline saw previously (40 grade), but it came at the cost of his lowest AVG and OBP of his career as well as his worst K/BB rate. Selecting the versatile infielder late in the first round would hurt my soul as a Twins fan but if Falvine makes the pick then they see upside in the early-season power he showed this spring.

Thoughts

Of course this is not an exhaustive lost of potential selections if the Twins went with a position player in the first round. With a shorter draft and less money to spend, you never know who is going to fall and what players are really looking for to sign with a team. It would make a ton of sense for the Twins to go with a power-hitting college bat unless someone like Ed Howard fell to them, considering their draft history and organizational focus on power.

Daniel Cabrera helps provide more of a surplus of outfield prospects behind Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, Brent Rooker, Matt Wallner, and even Royce Lewis. That sort of depth, combined with Max Kepler’s long-term contract, give the team the ability to flip an outfield prospect or two for starting pitching.

On the other hand, the Twins have also started to stockpile some depth at shortstop with Lewis, Keoni Cavaco (drafted as a SS even though most think he is a 3B) and Will Holland. Drafting an Ed Howard (if he falls), Casey Martin, or Jordan Westburg helps build even more depth there, giving the Twins more attempts to develop a strong enough defender to move Jorge Polanco to 2B where he probably belongs.

Guys like Austin Wells and Justin Foscue might be the “best guy available” with the 27th pick and would be good additions to the Twins’ farm system as well. If Wells’ defensive picks up like Ryan Jeffers’ did, he would become a fantastic catching prospect. Foscue’s bat could help him move up the ranks until his future position became more clear.

Of course, the Twins could upend this line of thinking all together and select a pitcher in the first round. We will look at some of those possibilities tomorrow!