The Twins’ farm system is still considered to be one of the better ones in baseball, even with outfielders Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton and Max Kepler in the majors and righthander Jose Berrios debuting earlier this season.
Now the club has the opportunity to add to its prospect list thanks to extra picks in the early rounds of this year’s first-year player draft, which begins Thursday. The Twins have five of the top 100 picks — the 15th, 56th, 73rd, 74th and 93rd. Team scouts have been meeting at Target Field over the last week, assembling their big board and checking in with the advisers of the top players to get a feel for how easy, or difficult, it will be to sign them.
“We’ve got quite a few picks in the top 100, that’s for sure,” Twins General Manager Terry Ryan said. “So we’re very anxious to start that process. We’re putting our priority list together, tying up medicals, looking at signability and all that stuff.”
The Twins, based on their 83-79 record a year ago, will draft 15th in the first round and will have the 56th pick in the second round. They have been awarded two picks in the competitive balance round, which follows the second round. Their 73rd pick is a result of the competitive balance lottery, in which the bottom 10 teams in market size and the bottom 10 teams in terms of revenue get the opportunity to receive extra picks.
Pick No. 74 pick is compensation for them failing to sign University of Kentucky righthander Kyle Cody last year. Indications are that the Twins will stay away from Cody this year, but whomever they select with this pick has to be signed because they can’t be compensated two straight years. The Twins have about $8.15 million in signing bonus money available without being subject to a luxury tax penalty.
“We won’t take a lesser player there [at No. 74],” Twins scouting director Deron Johnson said. “But we will make sure the player will sign for the dollars we have there.”
There’s a good chance the Twins will take a pitcher in the first round. Some of the pitchers linked to them include righthander Dakota Hudson from Mississippi State, who throws around 94-95 miles per hour and has a good cut fastball; righthander Justin Dunn from Boston College, who moved from the bullpen to the rotation and has shown he can throw in the mid 90s; and righthander Cody Sedlock from Illinois, the same school that produced Tyler Jay, last year’s first-round pick by the Twins. Johnson has seen Sedlock in person this year.
There is at least one position player they could consider with the 15th pick: outfielder Alex Kirilloff of Plum High in Pittsburgh. Kirilloff is a good-looking hitting prospect who likely will settle into a corner outfield spot, with first base another possibility. But keep in mind that the Twins tend to grab pitchers early. In their past five drafts, at least three of their first five picks were pitchers.
The Twins also would like to draft a catcher — a glaring farm system need — in the early rounds.
This draft class has generated little hype, certainly not like the years Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg entered the daft, or even 2012, when the debate was between Carlos Correa or Buxton for the No. 1 pick.
There are some good high school arms and a few good college position players, but the consensus is no one stands out from the pack. Philadelphia has the first overall pick and was still looking at a handful of prospects as the draft neared.
Since they are picking 15th, the Twins have to look at several prospects because of all the potential scenarios.
“We have a much larger list,” Johnson said. “I would say in reality, just the way the draft works and the way ours has worked over time, picking 15th, we should get a guy from our top 10 list. That’s just the nature of the draft, not everybody is on the same guys.”