If you have followed any of my draft and prospect coverage since I started writing for Twinkie Town in 2017, you will know two things. One is that I finally got a brand new stock draft photo to use for these posts. Two is that the current Twins front office have put an emphasis on drafting and developing position players, a strategy loosely dubbed #Draftbatsbuyarms.
We do draft pitchers, including last year’s 2nd round pick Matt Canterino, but we haven’t drafted a single pitcher with our 5 picks in the first round or in Competitive Balance Round A since Falvine took over. It is why I covered hitting prospects first yesterday, and why today’s article will have a slightly different format.
Drafting pitchers is inherently risky because of the physical risk of being a pitcher and throwing a ball a million times a year. Tommy John recovery is better than it used to be but it can still be a career-ender. Added to injury risk is just the bizarre nature in which pitchers develop. Even in an era of Rapsado machines, no two pitchers develop the same. Prep pitchers are rarely filled out and you never know if the added weight will increase velocity thanks to added muscles or decrease it because of losing flexibility. For every Jose Berrios there are so many more Kohl Stewarts.
High School Pitchers:
Since the Falvey/Levine front office took over in 2017 they have drafted exactly three high school pitchers in the first 10 rounds of the draft: Landon Leach in the second round of 2017, Blayne Enlow in the third round of 2017, and Regi Grace in the 10th round of 2018. That’s it.
For that reason, I’m not going to write up the handful of high school pitchers that might be available at the Twins pick at 27 because I just don’t think it’ll happen. Drafting prep pitchers in this range is always tough because they typically have a certain deal they are looking to sign and if they don’t get it they will go play college ball. Guys like Mick Abel, Nick Bitsko, Carson Montgomery, Dax Fulton, and Justin Lange have incredibly similar profiles: Two above average pitches, a work-in-progress changeup, so-so control, and a commitment to a school in a major conference.
The problem with drafting guys from this crop, aside from signability issues, is that they take a long time to develop and you can typically get a college player with a similar profile who is already closer to the majors via experience alone, which is our next crop of players to talk about:
High Floor college starters:
These players have a very similar profile to the high schoolers mentioned above: usually one plus pitch (probably their fastball) an above average second pitch (probably a breaking ball) and then a serviceable third pitch (probably a changeup) that needs work. They usually have average or just below average control and a solid enough delivery to make everyone think they can start in the pros and into the majors.
Carmen Mlodzinski, Tanner Burns, Chris McMahon, Slade Cecconi, CJ Van Eyk, and Cole Henry all fit into this category as guys who could easily be #3 or #4 starters in the big leagues if things work out. They have a high floor as guys who will probably be relievers at worst but can still flame out.
The Twins have experience with this crop when they took Kyle Gibson with the 22nd pick in 2009 and Alex Wimmers with the 21st pick in 2010. Even though they were both part of this “high floor” crop, they both had their MLB debuts delayed by Tommy John surgery while in the organization. Gibson, we know, became a solid #3 or #4 pitcher, although frustrating at times, while Wimmers never was able to harness his floor as a legitimate MLB reliever.
The problem with this crop, in my opinion, is that the reward (#3 pitcher at best, except in rare circumstances) still comes with the same risk that any other pitching prospect comes with. Why use a first round pick on this sort of ceiling when you can get players with similar ceilings but slightly worse floors in rounds two through ten (in a normal draft). Twins prospects such as Matt Canterino (2nd round), Cole Sands (5th), and Josh Winder (7th) have fairly similar repertoires as the guys mentioned in this years class but were drafted later for cheaper.
Reliever Risk college starters
The second batch of college starters available in this range are guys with slightly better stuff and slightly higher ceilings but moderately to highly more risk. These guys often have two plus pitches and another good pitch or two but some combination of size, injury, or delivery concerns that scare some evaluators to thinking they will end up as high leverage relievers or wash outs. So while this group is more of a gamble, they have more pure talent could eventually be number 2 starters if things work out.
Garret Crochet (Tennessee) is a big lefty who can sit in the mid-90s with a power slider and potentially plus changeup. The problem is that he only pitched 3.1 innings this season due to injury before things shut down.
Cade Cavalli (Oklahoma) has a plus fastball and a plus curveball along with useful control, but he didn’t pitch full time until his sophomore year of college and hasn’t been fully healthy since.
Cole Wilcox (Georgia) has a 65-grade fastball and two above average secondary pitches but has a delivery that limits control and brings the patented “reliever” risk.
Bryce Jarvis (Duke) is a guy who seems to have it all, a plus fastball and changeup and above average breaking pitches along with above average control. But Jarvis is already 22 (most of the guys we have talked about so far are or will turn 21 this “season”) and only started hitting mid-90s velocity this season.
Bobby Miller (Louisville) has one of the better fastballs in the draft (65 grade) along with a 55 grade slider/cutter but has some effort in his delivery that limits control.
J.T. Ginn (Mississippi State) might have been a top-15 pick if he didn’t need Tommy John early this spring. We have seen pitchers with college-season TJ surgeries slip into the first round recently as a way for teams to get a cheap deal with their first round pick, and Ginn has plenty of upside still.
A name I have seen linked to the Twins by the Athletic’s Keith Law is Clayton Beeter out of Texas Tech. Law thinks Beeter’s fastball is one of the best in the draft with crazy spin rates, and MLB Pipeline gives him three plus pitches between his curve, fastball, and slider. The problem is that Beeter has had two elbow surgeries already which has limited his ability to stay on the mound.
IF the Twins were to go with a pitcher, the upside this group provides is more exciting than the higher floor prospects by far, as the Twins are desperate to develop their own ace.
I once had a friend who made a bet in fantasy football and wagered “eating a hat.” He lost, and you better believe we made him find a way to eat a hat. So I won’t make a bet, but I would be surprised if the Twins drafted a pitcher with their first overall pick.
At the same time, maybe this is the year to do so. With a shortened college season and no minor league season, it gives the pitchers a season to rest their arm while developing with the assistance of the organization.