La Velle E. Neal III has covered baseball for the Star Tribune since 1998 (the post-Knoblauch era). Born and raised in Chicago, he grew up following the White Sox and hating the Cubs. He attended both the University of Illinois and Illinois-Chicago and began his baseball writing career at the Kansas City Star. He can be heard occasionally on KFAN radio, lending his great baseball mind to Paul Allen and other hosts. Mark Rosen borrows him occasionally for WCCO-TV.

Posts about Vikings draft

Kohl Stewart in town to wrap up deal

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: June 18, 2013 - 1:05 PM

Twins first-round pick Kohl Stewart is in town today to undergo a physical, one of the final steps before the club will announce his signing.

Stewart, the fourth overall pick in the June 6 draft, arrived in the Twin Cities on Monday, based on his twitter post:

Since then, Stewart has tweeted a picture of Target Field and has received dining tips from fans.

 

I'm hearing that the Twins will sign Stewart for either right at or close to $4,544,400 - the assigned pick value the league has recommended for the fourth overall selection. From there, Stewart will begin his pro career with the Twins' rookie team in the Gulf Coast League.

The Twins have signed many of their picks from the draft and will officially announce all of them either later today or, most likely, tomorrow.

MLB Draft: Twins go for four pitchers, THREE catchers and a third baseman on Day Two

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: June 7, 2013 - 5:34 PM

TENTH ROUND, C.K. IRBY, RHP

Indications are that he will be a reliever, where his fastball has touched 95 miles an hour to go with a nice curve. Has been a two-way player in college and used as a starter or reliever.

Baseball America has him ranked 233rd. Here's what was written about him:

Irby helped Samford reach regionals in 2012 as a closer (10 saves, 2.06 ERA) and has contributed as a two-way player throughout his career, hitting at a .384 clip with eight home runs entering the season’s last regular-season weekend while spending most of his time at first or third base. Scouts like him on the mound and prefer him in a bullpen role, which made it difficult to evaluate the 6-foot-2, 190-pounder this season. The loss of three senior starters from 2012 forced Irby into the weekend rotation this spring, and his velocity has settled into the 87-90 mph range. In the past he hit 95 and sat 89-93 as a reliever, throwing enough strikes with his fastball to set up his plus curve. He has averaged nearly a strikeout per inning over more than 150 career innings and has a good feel for his breaking ball. Irby has a max-effort approach to the game, and hitting and pitching has taken a lot out of him this spring. A fresh Irby could move quickly as a future middle reliever.

Here's a recent story on Irby

That's it for today! Will be back tomorrow for more, but information might be touch to come by as we near the 40th round!

NINTH ROUND, MITCHELL GARVER, C

Yes, the Twins go for another catcher in Garver, who played well in the Cape Cod Leaguwas undrafted as a junior but came and carried it into his senior year, during which he batted .390 with 6 homers and 68 RBI. He improved his defense, but scouts wonder if his offense was a result of playing in a hitter-friendly enviroment.

Baseball America ranked him 230th, here's their write-up:

                                                        Garver is one of the top senior talents in the draft, and could get pushed even further up draft boards because it’s a thin year for college catching. Scouts liked him behind the plate in the Cape Cod League last summer, and he has good defensive statistics this spring. He is a good athlete at 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds, runs well for a catcher and has above-average arm strength. Still, some scouts doubt his ability to catch long-term in pro ball. He’ll need to do that to have value because while he’s a solid hitter who drives the ball to all fields, it’s to the gaps and he doesn’t really profile as a corner-quality bat. Scouts also wonder how much of Garver’s production is park-related. Heading in the final weekend of the season, he ranked fifth in the country with 84 hits, but he was batting .496 in the thin air in Albuquerque, and .281 on the road. After hitting 10 home runs as a junior–when he went undrafted–he had four this season. Still, as a senior at a premium position, Garver could get pushed up as high as the fifth round.

Like Stuart Turner, Garver is a Johnny Bench Award finalist. The Twins have drafted two of the three finalists for that award.

Here's a little bit from MLB.com.

Garver has improved defensively in the last year, quieting most of the concerns about his ability to remain behind the plate as a professional. He is an average receiver with a solid arm. Garver has also played left field, but his bat profiles much better if he can catch.

I want to blend Turner's defense, Navarreto's power and Garver's hitting for average. I would have one heck of a prospect!

EIGHTH ROUND, DUSTIN DEMUTH, 3B

The Twins add their second University of Indiana player when they selected third baseman Dustin DeMuth. DeMuth led the Hoosiers with a .396 batting average - 12th in Division I - but hit just five home runs to go with 40 RBI. It's the low power numbers that have the draftniks concerned. But he's listed at 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, and the frame is probably what attracted the Twins. He's also swiped 11 bases.

Baseball America has DeMuth ranked as the 278th best prospect in the draft. He's also played some second base and shortstop.

Here's his campus bio.

SEVENTH ROUND, BRIAN GILBERT, RHP

Early indications are that Gilbnert is a reliever, but he has started some in his college career and the Twins aren't afraid to give him a chance to start if he has a good third pitch. The worst case is that he returns to relieving.

Baseball America has him ranked 495th,

Gilbert went 4-4 with a .240 ERA in 27 games (one start) while collecting six saves.  

SIXTH ROUND, BRIAN NAVARRETO, C

High school catchers can be tough to project because they might grow out of the position and they don't have extensive experience calling games and dealing with pitchers. But then some tools can't be ignored. The Twins drafted catcher Brian Navarreto in the sixth round out of Arlington Country Day school (Jacksonville, Fla.). Here's MLB.com's write-up on him:

In a Draft class fairly deep in high school catching, it would be smart not to forget about this Florida prep standout. Big and strong, Navarreto has the chance to hit for both average and power, with bat speed and loft. He has a good plan at the plate and makes adjustments well. He has a strong arm that he's not afraid to show off from behind the plate and is fairly athletic. He's the kind of strong competitor teams like to see at the position as well, giving him the chance to maximize his solid all-around tools.There are other high school backstops who will go ahead of Navarreto, but he shouldn't have to wait too long to hear his name called.

Ranked 185th by Baseball America

Navarreto played a role in this incident, not sure when it happened.

Here's BA's write-up: 

                            Navaretto attends the same school as 2011 Cubs first-rounder Javier Baez and and was playing in a tournament against a team from Oklahoma in March when he was involved in a game-ending brawl. It just added to the makeup questions scouts have about Navaretto, who otherwise has the physicality and arm strength to get scouts excited about him as a future catcher. He has his "man strength" at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, yet shows good agility behind the plate as well as an above-average arm with consistent 1.85-second pop times. He'll tap into his plus raw power if he can shorten up his swing, which is on the long side. In a deep year for prep catchers, Navaretto matches up with just about anyone physically and had some third-round helium.

 

FIFTH ROUND: AARON SLEGERS, RHP

The Twins selected Indiana U Aaron Slegers, a 6-foot-10 inch righthander. Slegers, the 2013 Big Ten pitcher of the year, has battled injuries in the past but was healthy this year.  He went 9-1 with a 1.94 ERA for the Hoosiers this season. In 92 innings, he struck out 53 and walked 13. He gave up one home run all season.

Ranked 226th by Baseball America

From MLB.com:

Injuries limited Slegers to just 10 innings from 2010, his senior year in high school, to 2012. He is finally healthy this season and, as a redshirt sophomore, has taken over as Indiana's ace, helping lead the Hoosiers to a Big Ten championship. Slegers typically throws his fastball about 90 mph and has touched 95 mph. He has a good approach on the mound and is able to add and subtract from his fastball as needed. Slegers also throws a solid changeup and is working to improve his slider. He is listed at 6-foot-10, 250 pounds, but repeats his delivery well for a pitcher of his size.

Here's a story on Slegers as Indiana prepares for Super Regional action this weekend.

FOURTH ROUND, STEPHEN GONSALVES, LHP

The Twins select lefthander Stephen Gonsalves, a lefthander out of Cathedral Catholic High School in San Diego, Calif. From what I can tell, he posted a 1.91 ERA in 14 games. Not sure how many wins because some of his outings were three innings.

He's got good size with a fastball that been clocked at 92-93 miles an hour. Sounds like he's a little raw and needs to improve his other pitches, but the crew on mlb.com's webcast said he entered the season expected to go higher in the draft so the Twins might have landed a pitcher with upside.

Ranked 107th by Baseball America

Here's what MLB.com wrote about him:

A high school lefty, Gonsalves had a very good summer, pitching well at the Area Code Games and the Perfect Game All-American Classic, though an inconsistent spring had some wondering just how high he'd go on Draft day.This is a pretty decent class for prep southpaws, and with his size and projectability, Gonsalves has the upside to be the best of the lot. He uses a full overhand delivery to fire 88-91 mph fastballs, though he was up to 93 mph at the Perfect Game Classic. He'll throw a plus changeup at times to go along with a slurve, which is a bit of a concern to scouts. So was the fact he struggled with his command for parts of the spring after a fairly successful summer on the showcase/USA Baseball tour. Still, many teams will have trouble looking past the ceiling and Gonsalves still has the chance to hear his name called fairly early in the Draft

THIRD ROUND, STUART TURNER, C

The Twins have selected University of Mississippi catcher Stuart Turner with their pick (No. 78 overall) of the MLB draft.

Twins scouting director Deron Johnson said before the draft that there was good catching depth in this year's draft, and follows that up by taking Turner, who played two years at a junior coilege before spending a year with Mississippi.Turner was considered one of the best catchers in the SEC, one of the strongest conferences in the country. Not too shabby for someone playing one year in that conference.

Ranked 110th by Baseball America.

Defense is his strength, with some concerns about his ability to make consistent contact.

Turner batted .374 for Ole Miss with 5 homers and 51 RBI in 62 games. He posted a .444 on base percentage. He threw out 21 of 41 basestealers. He's a finalist for the Johnny Bench Award, given to the top college catcher.

One site had Turner ranked as the 13th best catcher in the draft, calling him a, `solid defender with smart offensive approach.'

Here's what Basebeall America wrote about him:

Turner hails from Eunice, La., and went to Louisiana State-Eunice JC for two seasons, hitting .400 and earning tournament MVP honors last year as LSU-Eunice won the Division II NJCAA World Series. Nevertheless, he wasn't drafted and landed at Ole Miss, where he has been the Southeastern Conference's best catcher this season. Turner had been pitched around a bit in league play but remained the Rebels' best hitter and earned plaudits from scouts as the nation's best draft-eligible defensive catcher. He combines strength at 6-foot-2, 220 pounds with flexibility, agile feet and excellent arm strength. He had thrown out 20 of 39 basestealers, with consistent 1.9-second pop times. While Turner has performed at the plate this spring, scouts don't like his swing and question his ability to sting the ball consistently. He has controlled the strike zone and ranked third in the SEC in batting at .389.

 

 

Twins select pitchers Stewart and Eades on Day One of MLB draft

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: June 6, 2013 - 10:35 PM

UPDATE: The Twins took two pitchers on the first day of the 2013 MLB draft.

The Twins also went for pitching with their second-round pick, selecting LSU righthander Ryan Eades.

Eades was 8-1 with a 2.81 ERA this season for the Tigers. His fastball ranges from 90-95 miles an hour and also has a hard breaking ball.

He's been healthy throughout his college career, but needed labrum surgery while he was in high school. Baseball American has him listed as the 37th best prospect in the draft.

The draft resumes with rounds 3-10 at noon tomorrow.

Here's BA's take on Edes:

Eades doesn't pitch Fridays like most potential college first-round picks, but that's more a testament to sophomore righthander Aaron Nola, a potential top 10 pick in 2014. Scouts are watching to see if Eades loses steam down the stretch as he did last season, and they've been watching Eades for a while. He was hitting 94 mph as a 16-year-old, then injured his shoulder when he was a prep junior. He had labrum surgery and missed his senior season but has been healthy all three years at Louisiana State. He has an athletic 6-foot-3, 198-pound frame and looks the part of a frontline starter, running his four-seamer up to 90-95 mph and adding a two-seamer this year to get more early-count contact. He's honed his breaking ball into a power curveball that scrapes the low 80s, and has improved his changeup under the tutelage of pitching coach Alan Dunn, a longtime pro pitching coach. Eades grades out better than he's performed, though he has improved his strikeout rate from 6.0 strikeouts per nine innings to 8 K/9 IP as a junior. Eades tends to miss armside and high when he leaks out on his front side or gets fatigued, but his strong work ethic has reduced that in 2013. He slots into the 20-40 range on most teams' draft boards but could go higher with a strong finish. 

Here's a story about Edes

MLB.com had Eades ranked 29th:

Scouting Grades* (present/future): Fastball: 6/7 | Curve: 4/5 | Changeup: 4/5 | Control: 5/6 | Overall: 5/6

 

Eades is everything you want from a pitcher: size, stuff and feel for pitching.

A Cape Cod League All-Star back in 2011, Eades pitched in LSU's rotation last year and helped anchor it as the Saturday starter in 2013. He'll hit 94 mph with his fastball, and he has a good curve and changeup to go along with it to give him a good three-pitch mix that he knows how to use effectively.

There is some question about his arm action, but the real concern might be about his medical record. Eades had labrum surgery as a senior in high school and any team interested in him in June will have to be convinced of his durability.

The Cape Cod Pitcher of the Year in 2011 didn't go back there in 2012, resting up to try and improve on his sophomore season that saw him go 5-3 with a 3.83 ERA in 17 starts for LSU.


 

Kohl Stewart, RHP

The Twins have selected righthander Kohl Stewart, a two-sport star out of the St. Pius XX high school in Houston, Texas.

Stewart had been linked to the Twins for several weeks, and his selection seemed a formality as the first three picks were righthander Mark Appel (Astros), third baseman Kris Bryant (Cubs) and righthander Jonathan Gray (Rockies).

The Twins have been in discussions with Stewart's advisers over a bonus and are confident that they are in range of a deal. There had been reports that negations weren't going smoothly on Thursday.

Stewart, on his twitter account, wrote: ``WHAT'S UP TWIN NATION!''

He made eight starts for St. Pius X high school in Houston, going 5-1 with a 0.18 ERA. In 40 innings he struck out 59 and walked 16.  He was named Texas All-Region First-Team in 2013.  In 2012, as a junior, the right-hander went 8-0 with 72 strikeouts in 54.0 innings pitched, helping guide St. Pius to the TAPPS 5A Title.

The righthander said about 75-100 people filled his house for the draft announcement - but a storm knocked out the television feed. They had to call up the draft on smartphones to pick up the draft, and the house erupted when his named was called.

``It was unbelieveable,'' Stewart said. ``It was one of the crazier feelings I've ever had. A real exciting time in my house.''

Twins scouting director Deron Johnson said Stewart was their man all along. The Twins expected Appel, Bryant and Gray to go somewhere among the top three spots, and had Stewart in their crosshairs.

``He was the best player on the board left for us,'' Johnson said.

Stewart has a fastball in the 92-94 range and a slider that tops out at 88-89 miles an hour. Johnson said Stewart started throwing a curveball last year and it comes out of his hand naturally.

``He has the ability to be just as good as the guy drafted in front of him,'' Johnson said.

Stewart said he has to work to do. He wants to throw his slider in on righthanded hitters better and he's working on a sinker. But leaving football-crazed Texas to focus on baseball will allow him to perfect his pitches.

``I look forward to being able to sit down and focus on baseball for once,'' he said. ``I'm looking forward to focusing on one thing.''

Here's what Baseball America wrote up about Stewart:

A premium football recruit as a quarterback, Stewart passed for 8,803 yards and 87 touchdowns in three high school seasons before committing to play two sports at Texas A&M. It's unlikely he'll ever play for the Aggies because he's the top high school pitcher in the draft. He may not get the No. 1 overall pick buzz of righthanders Jonathan Gray (Oklahoma) and Mark Appel (Stanford), but one scouting director said, "Stewart's pure stuff is as good as theirs, and he's more athletic than they are." Scouts love the 6-foot-3, 190-pounder's arsenal, athleticism and competitiveness. They say that he has better present stuff than Jameson Taillon did when the Pirates took the suburban Houston righthander No. 2 overall in 2010. Stewart has boosted his fastball from 88-93 mph last summer to 91-96 for much of the spring, though his velocity tails off at times in the later innings. His life and command with his heater make it even more dominating, but his best offering is a power mid-80s slider with tilt. He has improved his curveball and shows feel for his changeup, and he'll display four above-average big league pitches at times. He has a clean delivery and should get even better once he concentrates solely on baseball. Stewart has been limited at times this spring because of minor shoulder (a carryover from football), hamstring and thumb ailments, but none is a major concern. Neither is his signability, because he'll get picked early enough to be paid handsomely and teams don't believe he'll go to Texas A&M to sit behind reigning Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. Some clubs could shy away from Stewart because he's a Type 1 diabetic, though Brandon Morrow went fifth overall in 2006 with the same condition. Stewart should go in the same range this June.

Now go wash some clothes or run some errands. The Twins's next pick comes in the second round, No. 43 overall.

 

2013 MLB Draft: Deal with Stewart, or not?

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: June 6, 2013 - 4:26 PM

 

Draft day is here! The Twins have the fourth overall pick and they are in line, once again, to land a one of the top prospects of 2013.

I just checked with a Twins official, and they still have righthander Kohl Stewart in their crosshairs. What the Twins are trying to figure out now is if they feel comfortable making the pick with the sides in the same ballpark on a bonus number -  or do they need to settle on an exact number?

Stewart has a scholarship to play football Texas A & M, and the Twins might look elsewhere if they can't settle on a number. Third baseman Colin Moran, catcher Reese McGuire and outfielder Austin Meadows were on their radar as draft day neared. I would imagine they would go for one of those three, but might have something else up their sleeves.

I can't believe Stewart would turn down a few million dollars to be Johnny Manziel's backup. I also wonder if the Twins are offering all of the $4.5 million bonus that's recommended for that slot. There some gamesmanship going on right now, and we'll see how it plays out.

The more I read about him, the more I like Stewart, too. His fastball is around 93 but has touched 97. His slider tops out at 88 -- which is a couple miles away from some recent Twins pitchers fastballs! He didn't start throwing a curveball regularly until his junior year - I have some fathers ask me about their kids throwing curveballs at 12, which is unnecessary.

I'm also interested what the teams picking above the Twins are doing. Are the Cubs really zeroing in on Mark Appel, or will they draft Moran after Theo Epstein's cry for OBP?

We will post any news before the draft right here. And there will be short profiles on each draft pick as it comes, followed by as many updates as possible.

Joe Christensen will track local players selected today. Chris Anderson, a righthander out of Jacksonville U and a local product, is being projected as a first-round pick.

Tomorrow will be hot and heavy, as I will post Twins picks here as soon as they are made and then follow up with scouting reports and any links to stories I can find.

So keep coming back here for draft coverage!

Twins take pitcher (big surprise) in the Rule 5 draft

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: December 6, 2012 - 9:24 AM

The Twins have selected righthander Ryan Pressly with the fourth overall pick in the Rule 5 draft.

Pressly, from the Red Sox organization, went 7-5 with a 5.38 ERA between Class A and Class AA last season. He's supposed to have a big arm, with a mid-90's fastball and power curve. He started and relieved last season.

Here's Pressly's bio.

Here's more stuff on him.

He must remain on the Twins' 25-man roster all season. The Rule 5 draft fee is $50,000. If the Twins don't keep him, he has to be offered back to the Red Sox for half the drafting fee.

In the Triple-A phase of the draft, the Twins selected third baseman Mark Sobolewski from the Blue Jays organization. Check him out here.

Still no Mauer in tonight's lineup

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: June 20, 2012 - 4:43 PM

Joe Mauer still isn't ready to play after injuring his right quad on Sunday.

But Justin Morneau will get a chance to end his struggles against lefthanders.

UPDATE: I'm watching Mauer take batting practice right now. After spraying line drives at PNC Park, he's taking hsi time while running the bases. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said Mauer is still available to pinch hit, but I'm starting to wonder if we won't see him in the lineup until the team gets to Cincinnati.

Mauer just blasted one into the bushes in center and another into the seats in right. And he's not limping when he's jogging around the bases.

CAPPS UPDATE

Matt Capps threw in the bullpen today and is very close to being ready. Gardy said they would prefer to hold him out of a game one more day but game situations could dictate otherwise.

MORNEAU VS. LEFTIES

Gardy also expressed concern about Justin Morneau batting against left-handed pitchers. "I think he's defintely pressing a little bit," Gardenhire said "When he gets up there there's been a lot of talk about his numbers against lefthanders -  outside this office. That always makes guys think about it a little more and try harder."

Gardy wants Morneau to relax, let the ball travel a little farther in and focus on making contact. Morneau has hit over ,250 in hsi career against lefties but has batting .094 against them this season.

DRAFT SIGNING

The Twins have signed third round pick Luke Bard, brother of Boston's Josh Bard. Bard will head to Fort Myers to work out, but he has a slight shoulder issue from college that the Twins want him to work on before he joins a team. They knew about it before the draft and still wanted him,


Twins (26-40)

1. Denard Span, CF
2. Ben Revere, RF
3. Josh Willingham, LF
4. Justin Morneau, 1B
5. Trevor Plouffe, 3B
6. Brian Dozier, SS
7. Jamey Carroll, 2B
8. Drew Butera, C
9. Francisco Liriano, LHP
 

Pirates (35-31)

1. Jose Tabata, LF
2. Josh Harrison, RF
3. Andrew McCutchen, CF
4. Casey McGehee, 1B
5. Neil Walker, 2B
6. Pedro Alvarez, 3B
7. Clint Barmes, SS
8. Michael McKenry, C
9. Erik Bedard, LHP
 

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