The consensus is that a Big Three of prospects is available on Thursday when Major League Baseball’s first-year player draft takes place.
That’s too bad for the Twins, who have the fourth overall pick.
Then again, things could change as teams take a few more looks at their draft board and make adjustments before the draft begins a 6 p.m.
The top three prospects are considered to be Oklahoma pitcher Jonathan Gray, Stanford pitcher Mark Appel and University of San Diego third baseman Kris Bryant. The Twins would be pleased if either Gray or Bryant fell to them. It’s not clear if they feel the same way about Appel, who is represented by mega agent Scott Boras.
“It racks your brain a little bit trying to figure it out,’’ Twins scouting director Deron Johnson said. “Picking No. 2 [their pick last year] is a lot easier than picking four. There’s a lot of different scenarios with that fourth pick. We’ll play it by ear.”
Could one of the top three prospects drop? The Houston Astros surprised everyone last year when they selected prep shortstop Carlos Correa first overall and signed him for less than the league’s recommended bonus. That left Byron Buxton for the Twins. Buxton now is considered one of the elite prospects in the game.
Houston has been looking at about seven candidates for the first overall pick this year.
“It’s a lot of pressure because one-one [first round, first pick] is supposed to have a big impact,’’ Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow told Houston reporters earlier this week, “and we will find someone that will have a big impact.’’
The Chicago Cubs might shake up the draft, too, with the second pick. Theo Epstein, the Cubs’ president of baseball operations, spoke earlier this week about the need to add polished hitters with plate discipline. Then it was learned that, in addition to the Big Three, the Cubs were looking at a fourth prospect: University of North Carolina third baseman Colin Moran.
If the Cubs take Moran, then one of the Big Three will be there for the Twins at No. 4.
It was reported Tuesday that Gray, whose fastball touches 100 miles per hour, tested positive for the drug Adderall during MLB’s pre-draft testing. The drug is banned from the league unless a player is granted an exemption for therapeutic use. But the positive test is not expected to affect Gray’s stock, and the Twins remain interested in him.
If Gray, Appel and Bryant are gone, the Twins have been looking at Moran and three other players: Kohl Stewart, a righthander from St. Pius X High School in Houston; Austin Meadows, an outfielder from Grayson (Ga.) High School; and Reese McGuire, a catcher from Kentwood (Wash.) High School.
There were reports in recent weeks that the Twins could sign McGuire for less than the league’s recommended bonus of a little more than $4.5 million. Johnson nixed that, saying that it’s dangerous to play money games with high picks.
“We can’t miss with that pick,’’ Johnson said.
Signability could be a factor, too. While teams have bonus constraints, advisers can ask for anything.
“We have to be prepared to make that guy selectable,’’ Johnson said. “We are not in the business of selecting a guy and not sign him. When you are picking that high in the draft, you don’t want to mess around with that.’’
Johnson, along with Mike Radcliff, vice president in charge of player personnel, welcomed scouts to Target Field last weekend as they began draft preparations by ranking their top 75 players. That sets them up for their first two picks, No. 4 and No. 43. The 43rd pick comes from compensatory and competitive balance picks awarded to teams between the first and second rounds.
After that, the Twins ranked the best players by position. They will spend the first handful of rounds drafting the best player available. But when the smoke clears, they will draft several pitchers.
“You still got guys with ability on the board, high upside players,’’ Johnson said of the first five rounds. “We’re still going to try to get that, whether that be a pitcher or position player. We are still going to try to get starters, that philosophy hasn’t changed.’’
This week, discussions with agents who are advising prospects have been ongoing. Twins General Manager Terry Ryan and assistant GM Rob Antony have remained in the Twin Cities so they can speak with agents.
Teams will try to get an idea of what other clubs are doing. Some teams will share information, based on relationships. Some frequently send out mixed signals.
“There is a lot of poker being played right now,’’ Radcliff said.