Twins' guessing game continues right up to draft day

With the No. 5 pick, the Twins are trying to predict what the four teams above them will do.

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LSU’s Aaron Nola pitches against Arkansas during the Southeastern Conference NCAA college baseball tournament on Thursday, May 22, 2014, in Hoover, Ala. Nola is expected to be a high draft pick in Thursday's MLB draft.

Photo: File photo by Hal Yeager • Associated Press,

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Every class is unique in Major League Baseball’s first-year player draft because of its groupings of talent. Sometimes there’s a top tier of players before the talent level drops off. Other times, there’s a Stephen Strasburg, where there is one clear-cut prospect above all the others.

Teams will try to identify how deep the top group is, then the next group, and so on. The goal is to figure out what players might be available in a group when it’s your turn to pick.

The Twins believe there are three pitchers who should be in the top group of this year’s draft. As the first two rounds of the draft take place Thursday, they are trying to figure out who will be available when their turn comes with the No. 5 overall pick.

“Every round has natural breaks,” said Mike Radcliff, Twins vice president of player personnel. “This year has a break of about three pitchers, then four to five guys who are pretty good. Then it drops down after that. It’s not a great draft, depthwise. It’s not a great draft from the top.”

The top three pitchers are considered to be, in no particular order: lefthander Carlos Rodon from North Carolina State, lefthander Brady Aiken from Cathedral Catholic High School in San Diego and righthander Tyler Kolek from Shepherd (Texas) High. Kolek, whose fastball has been clocked at 100 miles per hour, could be the first righthanded prep pitcher ever taken with the No. 1 overall pick.

Multiple baseball publications have predicted the Twins will take shortstop Nick Gordon from Olympia High in Orlando with their No. 5 pick. He is in a group that includes catcher-outfielder Alex Jackson from Rancho Bernardo High in Escondido, Calif; lefthander Sean Newcomb from the University of Hartford; lefthander Kyle Freeland from the University of Evansville and righthander Aaron Nola from LSU.

Gordon is the son of former major league pitcher Tom Gordon and brother of Dodgers second baseman Dee Gordon.

Tom Gordon, when reached Wednesday night, said that he’s spoken with every other team in the top 10 but has been unable to get a feel for where he son might be selected. But, understandably, he feels his son is special.

‘‘He can throw people out from left field,’’ said Gordon, who is with his son and other family members near Secaucus, N.J., where they will attend the draft. ‘‘He’s started to understand his abilities. He’s started to understand his power. What he has done in the last year, he has been phenomenal to watch.’’

The Twins reportedly have done extensive research on Gordon and like his makeup, believing he will become a good pro hitter.

But it’s not that simple. Sometimes teams contact each other to see which way they are leaning, but the Twins aren’t sure what the four teams in front of them — the Astros, Marlins, White Sox and Cubs — will do.

“There’s always late information on players and how they are doing,” Twins scouting director Deron Johnson said. “You have to take every game into consideration. The list is always moving. Things are being rearranged.”

The Astros have the first pick, and most of Houston’s front-office members have been out to see Kolek pitch. But in 2012, the Astros selected shortstop Carlos Correa with the first pick and signed him to a financially-friendly deal, leaving Byron Buxton for the Twins at No. 2. Could the Astros have something up their sleeve again?

So the Twins are spending the final moments before the draft preparing for different scenarios. They could take one of the big three pitchers if they fall to them.

They also have done a lot of work on Nola, who doesn’t have powerful stuff but could move quickly through the minors.

The Twins are looking at a group of seven to eight players they could take with the No. 5 pick.

On Thursday, they will wait and see who falls to them at No. 5, then act accordingly.

“You have to play out every potential scenario from [the Astros’ No. 1 pick],” Radcliff said.

“They could take anybody. We don’t have a clue. Nobody does.”

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    Twins have the fifth pick

    Who could be there at No. 5? SS Nick Gordon, Olympia High, Orlando; RHP Aaron Nola, LSU; OF-C Alex Jackson, Rancho Bernardo High, Escondido, Calif; LHP Sean Newcomb, University of Hartford; LHP Kyle Freeland, University of Evansville.

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