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San Diego State righthander Michael Cederoth, one of many hard-throwing relief pitchers drafted by the Twins this year, figures to start off his minor league career as a starter.

File photo by Bret Hartman • Associated Press,

MLB Insider: No harm starting out draft picks as starters

  • Article by: La Velle E. Neal III
  • Star Tribune
  • June 14, 2014 - 10:53 PM

The MLB draft has been over for a week, but it was rather interesting for several reasons, especially for the Twins.

Eight of their first 10 picks were pitchers, and it seems as if the Twins drafted their bullpen of the future. Or did they?

The Twins plan to try a couple of relievers out as starters first, to see if they can handle the task. Michael Cederoth, their third-round pick from San Diego State who touched 100 miles per hour with his fastball this season, is one of them. Cederoth has a slider that hits 87, a curveball and a changeup.

Fifth-round pick Jake Reed, a righthander from Oregon who hits 97 on the gun, started in 2012 and ’13 with the Ducks but was their closer this year. So the Twins might give him a shot to start, too.

The Twins don’t see a downside to trying a reliever as a starter. The pitchers get to face more batters that way, and they can work on other facets of the position.

“In the major leagues, you have to kind of be athletic,” scouting director Deron Johnson said. “Field the position, cover bases, hold runners.”

They can always go back to relieving. That’s what’s happening now to Matt Summers, selected in the fourth round out of California-Irvine in 2011. The Twins have tried him as a starter, but recently he was moved to the bullpen at Class AA New Britain. The numbers haven’t been sparkling, as he gave up eight runs on 13 hits over 11 innings in his first nine relief outings, but he is now hitting 97-98 on the gun, and improved control could make him a factor soon.

New rankings

It’s time for a post-draft update of the Twins’ top 10 prospects.

I asked one draft expert where he would place Nick Gordon among the top 10 Twins prospects. He said fourth, behind Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano and Alex Meyer.

That sounds about right. I probably would put righthanders Kohl Stewart, Jose Berrios and Trevor May behind Gordon. Then second baseman Eddie Rosario eighth, shortstop Jorge Polanco ninth and lefthander Lewis Thorpe 10th.

Watch for an official (unofficial) ranking soon.

Signing goals

Johnson said the Twins would like to sign 25 of their 40 picks from this year’s draft, maybe a couple more.

The Twins selected several players they will monitor during the summer league season before deciding to make an offer. That includes infielder McCarthy Tatum (20th round), lefthander Sam Hilliard (31st) and two state high school players, Mahtomedi righthander Mike Baumann (34th) and Rochester Mayo catcher Brad Mathiowetz (35th).

The Twins plan to save some bonus money for some players taken later in the draft. Hilliard, for instance, has a scholarship to Wichita State, and the Twins know it will take more than 31st-round money to sign him. Teams must sign their draft picks by July 18.

Etc.

T.J. White, an infielder from UNLV drafted in the 18th round by the Twins, recently had hamate bone surgery and won’t be able to play until mid-July.

Central Intelligence

The American League Central has bunched up because of the Tigers’ struggles, so every team is thinking it has a shot. The White Sox took two of three games from Detroit last week and believe they can contend for the title.

“We have a lot of mediocre teams this year,” White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf said. “I would expect some separation in the second half, but wouldn’t it be great if everybody is .500 going into the last week of the season?”

Um, no.

• • •

The Royals have had a hard time offensively. But they moved over .500 on Wednesday with a 4-1 victory over Cleveland, with all four runs scoring on sacrifice flies.

“I’d be lying to tell you it doesn’t mean anything to get over .500, because it does,” manager Ned Yost said. “It’s a big thing.”

• • •

The Indians’ Lonnie Chisenhall lost his third base job to Carlos Santana before the season but has sort of won it back. Batting .384 will do that.

Chisenhall, a lefthanded hitter, entered Saturday 14-for-29 against lefthanders. He was batting .429 in June, .413 on the road and .400 with runners in scoring position.

• • •

Former Twins star Joe Nathan is struggling big time with the Tigers. He entered Saturday having given up 10 earned runs over his past six appearances, and he gave up an unearned run Friday in a rough ninth inning against the Twins.

“Like I said, we need Joe Nathan to be our closer,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “He’ll work through this. I’m not concerned about him. He’s a professional. He and [pitching coach Jeff Jones] are looking at video and talking to find any little mechanical flaw that could be the root cause of this. He will get it ironed out. We need him to get it ironed out.’’

Three observations …

• Cleveland is on a nice roll for now, but the Indians are not sound defensively and that will cost them in the end.

• George Springer is legit.

He has tremendous bat speed and will hit for big power in a few years.

• Too bad Michael Cuddyer is back on the disabled list. Boy, the Rockies just can’t stay healthy.

... and two predictions

•  Nick Burdi, the Twins’ second-round pick, will be in the majors next season. The righthanded reliever is motivated to prove he deserved to be a first-rounder.

• Boston will swing a big deal for an outfielder before the trade deadline. The Red Sox won’t just watch Toronto run away with the East.

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