Patrick Reusse: Twins need more Mauers, fewer Garbes in draft

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 1, 2012 - 7:16 AM

Joe Mauer in 2007

Photo: David Joles, Star Tribune

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The Twins took four pitchers in the first three rounds of the 2009 draft of first-year players. Only first-rounder Kyle Gibson remains in the organization. He underwent Tommy John surgery last September and is in the recovery process.

Second-rounder Billy Bullock was traded to Atlanta last spring so the Twins could retain Rule 5 draftee Scott Diamond. Matthew Bashore (No. 46 overall) and Ben Tootle (No. 101) both had arm surgery and were released from minor league camp last week.

It's a tough business, projecting, drafting and signing amateur ballplayers, and the Twins have had difficulty finding future stars in the earliest rounds of the draft.

Justin Morneau, a catcher from New Westminster, British Columbia, was a third-rounder and the 89th overall choice in 1999. Joe Mauer, a catcher from St. Paul, was the first overall selection in 2001.

Morneau switched to first base and became the American League's MVP in 2006. Mauer took that award in 2009.

Mauer joined the lineup as a 21-year-old in 2004 but suffered a knee injury, underwent surgery and was limited to 35 games. Morneau was 23 when he became the regular at first base after the All-Star Game and finished with 19 home runs and 58 RBI.

Morneau and Mauer remain the last difference-makers to be selected, signed and developed by the Twins from the June draft. There have been helpful players, but a difference-maker ... a player who is a reason that a team wins?

Eight seasons after Morneau and Mauer entered the lineup, the Twins remain starved for one of those.

I took a look at the first three rounds from 1999 through 2008: from the year Morneau was drafted, through a year when high-level prospects should now be big-league-ready (or very close to that).

1999: High school outfielder B.J. Garbe was the fifth overall choice and received a then-Twins-record bonus of $2.4 million. Couldn't hit. Second-rounder Rob Bowen caught some in the big leagues but was a nonfactor.

2000: College pitcher Adam Johnson was the second overall pick. He pitched nine games in the big leagues with an ERA over 10.00. The Twins had four other picks through the third round and none was a contributor.

2001: Mauer was the first pick. Pitcher Scott Tyler was a second-round bust. Jose Morales, drafted as a shortstop, served as a backup catcher for a time.

2002: First-rounder Denard Span is the starting center fielder. Second-rounder Jesse Crain was a helpful reliever before leaving as a free agent in 2011. Third-rounder Mark Sauls didn't sign and pitched only briefly in the majors.

2003: First-rounder Matt Moses, an infielder, was a bust. Second-rounder Scott Baker has won 63 games for the Twins. Third-rounder Johnny Woodard, a first baseman, didn't make it out of Class A.

2004: The Twins had seven picks in the first three rounds. Trevor Plouffe, Glen Perkins and Anthony Swarzak have reached the big leagues. Pitcher Kyle Waldrop should make it this year. There's help here, but not stardom.

2005: Again, the Twins had seven picks in the first three rounds. First-rounder Matt Garza has been a solid starter -- mostly after he was traded by the Twins in the Delmon Young deal in November 2007. Second-rounder Henry Sanchez, alleged to be a slugger, was a monumental flop. Kevin Slowey and Brian Duensing also came out of that draft.

2006: First-rounder Chris Parmelee has been impressive this spring and should be in the lineup at first base. Second-round outfielder Joe Benson has difference-making talent but must learn you can't reach those sliders a foot off the plate. Third-round lefthander Tyler Robertson is a long shot to make it.

2007: First-rounder Ben Revere now rates as the Twins' fourth outfielder. Catcher Danny Rams remains a project. Outfielder Angel Morales hasn't gotten above Class A.

2008: It has been slow going for two first-rounders: outfielder Aaron Hicks, headed to Class AA New Britain, and reliever Carlos Gutierrez, sent back to Class AAA Rochester in mid-March. Third-round pitcher Bobby Lanigan still is in the organization.

That's a decade of drafts, and it's still up to Morneau and Mauer to make the difference.

It's a situation where the M&M Boys would have the right to seize baseball's old playground battle cry, "How about a little help?"

Patrick Reusse can be heard noon-4 weekdays on 1500-AM.

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