The Twins placed J.T. Chargois on waivers last week and he was taken by the Los Angeles Dodgers, the second-to-last team on the current list for waiver claims. This led to a conversation on the Twins’ lack of success in turning high draft choices into major league pitchers.
There was a recollection of Terry Ryan, the Twins’ former general manager, saying earlier in this decade that the team had a “flock of hard-throwing righthanded relievers’’ that was on the way to rebuild the bullpen.
Doug Mientkiewicz was set to manage Class AA Chattanooga in 2015 and was excited about the possibility of having four of those righthanders – Chargois, Nick Burdi, Jake Reed and Zack Jones – in his bullpen at a point during the season.
“Chargois and Burdi throw 100, and Reed and Jones are close,’’ Mientkiewicz said that spring.
Chargois had missed two seasons after Tommy John surgery. He was not alone in going through ailments. Through those issues, the Lookouts’ hard-throwing righthanders combined for 124 relief appearances, with 25 saves.
Burdi ran into control issues, went back to Class A Fort Myers, and then returned to be a major weapon in three rounds of the playoffs as the Lookouts won a Southern League championship.
Three years later, this is what has occurred with those 2015 Lookouts:
Chargois was placed and lost on waivers. Burdi underwent Tommy John surgery and with the Pirates as a Rule 5 draftee. Jones went to Milwaukee in the Rule 5 draft for 2017, had shoulder surgery, and is back in the Twins’ organization following surgery. And Reed is in the Twins’ major league camp as a non-rostered invitee.
Chargois, Burdi, Reed and Jones were all college pitchers. Derek Wetmore from 1500ESPN.com showed me an e-mail that he received from a baseball fan on the Twins’ track record with college pitchers drafted in the early rounds.
Thus inspired, I started going backwards looking at drafts. It was 2007 – Mike Radcliff’s last draft as scouting director – when the Twins last didn’t take a pitcher within the first four rounds.
It wasn’t much of a draft: outfielder Ben Revere late in the first round, followed by catcher Danny (Bam Bam) Rams, outfielder Angel Morales and shortstop Reggie Williams in Rounds 2 through 4. Nick Striz was the Twins’ first pitcher taken in the fifth round.
Deron Johnson took over as director of scouting in 2008. The Twins had three picks among the first 31 players, due to losses in free agency. Johnson’s first-ever pick was outfielder Aaron Hicks. And then came the pitchers.
My arbitrary look at the Twins and drafted pitchers covers the first four rounds from the eight drafts from 2008 through 2015. Deron Johnson was replaced as scouting director by Sean Johnson for the 2017 draft.
2008: Carlos Gutierrez (27 overall), Shooter Hunt (31) and Bobby Lanigan (92) were all college pitchers and none made it to the big leagues.
2009: Kyle Gibson (22 overall) overcame Tommy John surgery in September 2011, has made 127 starts for the Twins and remains in the rotation. Matt Bashore (46), Billy Bullock (70) and Ben Tootle (3rd round) followed and none made it to the big leagues. All four pitchers taken early were from college.
2010: Alex Wimmers (25) and Pat Dean (102) were college pitchers. Wmmers had 22 relief appearances and Dean pitched in 19 games – 1-6 with a 6.28 ERA – during the disaster of 2016.
2011: Hudson Boyd (55), Madison Boer (87), Corey Williams (117) and Matt Summers (148). Boyd was signed out of a Fort Myers high school and was an epic bust. The others were college pitchers and didn’t make it to the big leagues.
2012: Jose Berrios (32), Luke Bard (42), Mason Melotakis (63), Chargois (72) and Zack Jones (130). Berrios was high school age from Puerto Rico and is in the rotation. Chargois pitched in 25 games in 2016. Bard was oft-injured and went to the Angels in the Rule 5 draft; Melotakis and Jones are in the Twins organization. Those three have not yet pitched in the majors.
2013: Kohl Stewart was a high school pitcher taken No. 4 overall. Dramatic tipoff on lack of progress is that five years later he’s not in big-league camp. Ryan Eades (43), a college pitcher, is on Class AAA Rochester roster. Stephen Gonsalves (110), a high school pitcher, should make his first big-league start at some point this season.
2014: Nick Burdi (46), Michael Cederoth (79) and Sam Clay (fourth round) were college pitchers. Cederoth was released and Clay is on the Class A Fort Myers roster.
2015: Tyler Jay (6) and Kyle Cody (73) were college pitchers. Jay was a weird pick – a college reliever at sixth overall – and Cody did not sign. Jay is a lefthander and has a chance to make it eventually, but he’s not in big-league camp.
The Twins also have taken five pitchers in the first four rounds in the past two drafts: Griffin Jax, Tim Hackimer, Landon Leach, Blayne Enlow and Charlie Barnes. Too early to judge on any of ‘em.
The Twins selected and signed 21 college pitchers in the first four rounds from 2008 through 2015. Four have pitched for the Twins: Gibson as a long-term starter; Wimmers, Dean and Chargois briefly.
Overall, the Twins selected 25 pitchers in the first four rounds, and Berrios brings to five the number that have made it to the Twins – and as the one who might become an ace.