In the eight days since he was drafted, Keoni Cavaco has attended his high school graduation ceremonies, toured a major league ballpark, met several big leaguers, signed a $4 million contract and come to an encouraging conclusion: Hey, I can do this.
“I know my talent is good enough to compete with these guys,” Cavaco said shortly after signing his contract. “It’s a dream come true to me, knowing that I could be a part of it very soon.”
“I give myself three years” to reach Minnesota, the 18-year-old infielder from Chula Vista, Calif., said confidently. “It seems long, but it’s all going to come quick.”
Well, why not? That’s about the speed with which Cavaco climbed the Twins’ draft board, too. Most draftees are known to scouts for years before becoming eligible to be picked; the Twins didn’t watch Cavaco play a game until January. But then they watched game after game, more than 50 in all, and became convinced the Eastlake High third baseman was more than worthy of the 13th pick in the draft.
“I’d call the [scouts], I’m like, ‘Where are you? … You went back to see him again?’ ” said Sean Johnson, the Twins’ scouting director. “You fall in love with certain players, and Keoni is certainly one of our staff’s favorite players they’ve ever scouted. He’s just fun to watch.”
The feeling was reciprocated, so signing Cavaco was easy. The Twins wound up agreeing to pay $4,050,000, which is just $147,300 less than the slot figure assigned by MLB. It’s the third consecutive year the Twins have freed up money by going below slot on their first pick, but this time, the savings was only 3.5% of the first-pick budget. And that’s after Cavaco seemingly gave away some negotiating leverage on draft night by admitting he intended to turn pro rather than attend San Diego State, with whom he had signed a national letter of intent.
The reason? “His talent is the leverage,” said Cavaco’s agent, Larry Robinson, who also represented Torii Hunter during his career. At least three other teams had indicated to Robinson that they intended to choose Cavaco if he dropped past the Twins.
Cavaco said he enjoyed his first trip to Minnesota, even though afternoon rain prevented him from taking batting practice at Target Field.
“I like it here,” said the southern Californian. “I like the cold weather.”
He’ll head to Fort Myers, Fla., on Wednesday, and initially play for the Twins’ rookie-level Gulf Coast League team, with hopes of moving up to Elizabethton if he adapts quickly to playing five or six games a week. And he’ll do it as a newly minted millionaire.
“It’s still unreal to me to see where I’m at,” Cavaco said. “Having $4 million as a teenager, that’s crazy. But I don’t really need to worry about that. Just go out and play ball.”
Sure, but he’s got spending money, too. His first priority?
“Probably a good meal,” he said.
Avoiding the valleys
The Twins own one of baseball’s best records, and their consistency has been remarkable. They have yet to post a losing record on any homestand or any road trip. And not only have they not lost three consecutive games, they have no worse than a 3-3 record in any six-game stretch this season.
“The consistency has been there from Day 1,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “We have not ridden many waves. [When they lose] you wouldn’t know it by interacting with the guys and seeing what they’re talking about and how much they’re smiling. They’re the same every day. That actually adds to the likelihood that a team can avoid riding those crests and valleys.”