Starting with the 2012 draft, Major League Baseball teams could not select a player following the 40th round. That means someone like righthander A.J. Achter would have had to audition for a job at one of those post-draft workouts that, once in a while, yields a player worthy of a contract.
Thanks goodness Achter was wasn’t coming out of Michigan State then.
“When they axed the rounds after 40, I thought it would be pretty cool that I could possibly be a guy who made it up after a round that doesn’t exist anymore,” Achter said.
It’s no longer just possible. Achter is that guy.
He was selected by the Twins in the 46th round in 2010, two years before the changed format. The Twins didn’t sign him right away, opting to watch him pitch in the Cape Cod League that summer. When he pitched well, the Twins moved in for a deal.
“I’m glad we made something work,” Achter said. “It was about an hour before the deadline.”
The rest was up to the 6-5, 210-pound Achter, who reached Class AAA Rochester in his fourth professional season.
“It’s a combination of the scout doing a good job and a kid who had good makeup and didn’t worry he was a low-round draft pick,” said Rob Antony, the Twins’ assistant general manager. “I also like to believe that our player development people and our organization, once a player is drafted, forgets about where he was taken.”
Achter, who was born in Toledo, Ohio, made his major league debut Wednesday night, pitching a scoreless ninth inning in the Twins’ 11-4 victory over the White Sox at Target Field. In the stands sat his mother and father, Rod, a former wide receiver out of the University of Toledo who was drafted by the Vikings in 1983 — the same year they selected Joey Browner, Walker Lee Ashley and Carl Lee.
‘’He got cut before the final roster cuts,” A.J. Achter said. ‘’He never played a regular season game with the Vikings, but he spent a little time here in Minneapolis back in the day, so that connection is pretty cool to have.”
When he enters a game, A. J. Achter will become the second-lowest Twins draft pick to debut with the team, second only to former utility player Denny Hocking, who was selected in the 52nd round in 1989.
After throwing 6 ⅔ innings at Class AA New Britain, Achter was promoted to Rochester, where he was 4-4 with a 2.38 ERA. In 72 innings, he gave up 44 hits and walked 24 batters while striking out 69. His fastball settles in the low 90s, and he has improved his slider thanks to a grip taught to him by righthander Mike Pelfrey when he was at Rochester during a rehabilitation assignment in May.
“It’s funny,” said Achter, who also throws a cutter and changeup. “He said that grip doesn’t work for him, but it has clicked for me.”
Achter impressed enough by the end of the season that the Twins made room on their 40-man roster to add him and some other players. Rochester manager Gene Glynn used him in various situations.
“Just a steady strike thrower — boom.” Glynn said. “He mixes his pitches. A little deception in his delivery only because of how quick it gets in on guys.
“He was just lights out. Sometimes he pitched three innings. He’d come in pitch two. He’d pitch the seventh, eighth or ninth inning, it didn’t matter to him.
‘‘When he was fresh and he was loose you didn’t know how long he could go.”