The history of Minnesota natives being taken in the first round of the Major League Baseball draft isn’t very long. Only three players from Minnesota high schools have ever been selected that early in the June amateur draft.
As the Star Tribune pointed out Wednesday, there’s a good chance Burnsville pitcher Sam Carlson will be selected in the first round. Carlson, at 6-4 and 210 pounds, is 5-1 with one save, a 0.69 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 52 innings this season.
Of course, the highest pick in Minnesota history is Twins first baseman Joe Mauer, selected first overall in 2001, and he is easily the greatest Minnesota prep athlete to ever play in the majors.
The other two high school players drafted in the first round were Edina’s Tom Nevers, selected 21st overall by the Houston Astros in 1990; and Cretin-Derham Hall’s Chris Schwab, selected 18th overall by the Montreal Expos in 1993. Neither player ever reached the majors.
The greater success for Minnesota draftees has come from the Gophers. The two top Minnesotans of all-time are St. Paul’s Paul Molitor and Dave Winfield, both Hall of Famers. Winfield, a St. Paul Central product, was selected fourth overall by the San Diego Padres in 1973, and Cretin’s Molitor was selected third overall by the Milwaukee Brewers in 1977.
Those two players have the highest collective Wins Above Replacement of any Minnesota first-round pick, according to Baseball Reference, with Molitor at 75.4 and Winfield at 63.8. Mauer is currently at 50.5.
Another Gophers player from a Minnesota high school that has gone on to big-league success is Twins lefthander Glen Perkins, who was drafted No. 22 overall by the Twins in 2004. The Stillwater High School product has yet to return from an injury that cost him almost all of the 2016 season, but he remains a three-time All-Star over 11 seasons, splitting his time here as a starter, reliever and a standout closer, recording 120 saves.
There’s other Minnesota natives that were high draft picks that didn’t go to high school here. For example, Bill Gullickson, who pitched 14 seasons with six major league teams from 1979 to 1994, was born in Marshall, but he we was the No. 2 overall selection in the 1977 draft — one pick behind Harold Baines and one ahead of Molitor — out of Joliet Catholic Academy in Illinois. More recently, first baseman Ike Davis — born in Edina and the son of former Twins closer Ron Davis — was drafted 18th overall in 2008 out of Arizona State. He went to high school in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Yes the wisdom holds true, the being a first-round pick in Major League Baseball isn’t a guarantee of anything. And many stars can be found in later rounds. One of the greatest Minnesotans ever selected out of high school was Kent Hrbek, a 16th-rounder by the Twins in 1978 out of Bloomington Kennedy. The first baseman reached the Twins in 1981 and starting a tremendous career that featured two World Series championships, an All-Star Game and 293 career home runs.
There are no certainties when it comes to the draft, but one can only hope that whenever and wherever Carlson is picked, he goes on to find success.
U.S. Bank usage up
Kathleen Blatz, who is serving as the interim chair of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, said U.S. Bank Stadium is getting used at a very high rate, and that since the stadium opened in October, it has been booked for 600 events spanning 10 months.
And they won’t find a better person for the job if Kathleen, a close personal friend, wants it.
“We’ve had about 600 events, and I’m not talking about meetings,” she said. “Some are small, some are big, some are so big that in June we have a monthly meeting — the authority does — and we have to go get space outside of the stadium, because some big corporation has literally paid the money and rented out the entire stadium for the day that our meeting is supposed to be on.
“So we have huge events like that going on, which of course raises money for the people’s stadium and for the people. It keeps it in great shape.”
Of course, the biggest events coming to the stadium are the 2018 Super Bowl and the 2019 Final Four. Blatz said the NFL and NCAA have been in town recently to survey the seating situation.
“The buildup is for the Super Bowl, and this week the NFL is coming in with a company called Irwin Seating. They’re going to try to — we have to add 4,000 seats to the stadium, so they’re bringing in 1,500 to see how it will work and move them around. We’ll see how that goes.
“We just had the Final Four people here, and they installed all of their seating over our seats, right down to where the basketball court will be in another year. That went without a hitch. It’s just all this activity going on.”
With the Final Four, there have long been discussions of the Gophers playing a preliminary game of some kind at U.S. Bank Stadium so that they could test out how basketball works. Blatz believes there might be an announcement on that soon.
“I know it’s not ready to be announced yet, but I think they’ve pretty much culled down that list,” she said. “I think there will be an announcement in short time about it. That will be a fun event for people to go to, especially with the Gophers in it.”
• It’s interesting that the Vikings have signed former Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong, who they believe could be a starting safety. Asked about that move, coach Mike Zimmer said, “I think he is a really good athlete, and you can see some of the traits we look for in defensive players: the bursts, the acceleration, the size. Obviously, he is still trying to learn some of the basic techniques of things and that will take a while, but he is a good, quality kid, and has a lot of upsides.”
• In his first 20 games, Twins closer Brandon Kintzler posted a 1.71 ERA with 13 strikeouts and six walks in 21 innings, giving up four runs over that stretch. But with Wednesday’s blown save at Seattle, the righthander had posted a 10.38 ERA over five outings with three strikeouts, one walk, and five runs over 4⅓ innings.
• Through Twins second baseman Brian Dozier’s first 51 games in 2016 he was hitting .206 with six home runs and 10 doubles, and his on-base percentage was only .299. This season through 51 games, he was at .235 with a .335 on-base percentage to go with nine home runs and 10 doubles.