With the first pick in their first draft as the Twins’ bosses, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine probably will not take the best player available.
They might try and fail to take the best player, which is how the draft usually plays out, or they might choose to not take the best player, which might cause panic in the streets for those who view the amateur draft as some kind of one-stop-shopping-quick-fix-online store.
The baseball draft process is always highly risky and inscrutable, and Falvey and Levine have as many factors to weigh as did Terry Ryan’s crew when choosing between Joe Mauer, Mark Prior and Mark Teixeira in 2001.
That year, the Twins made the right choice, landing an All-Star-caliber catcher who would win an MVP and who wanted to play in Minnesota instead of Prior, who didn’t want to sign with the Twins and quickly burned out with the Cubs, or Teixeira, who ended up getting drafted fifth by Texas and played for four teams in 14 seasons.
This year, the Twins likely will choose between two-way high school phenom Hunter Greene, Louisville two-way player Brendan McKay and Vanderbilt pitcher Kyle Wright.
Greene is the flashiest pick. He throws a 98-mile-per-hour fastball and has been compared as a shortstop to Alex Rodriguez.
McKay is a pitcher and hitter. While the Twins’ most obvious need is starting pitching, McKay might be a safer pick as a lefthanded bat who could become Mauer’s replacement at first base.
Wright might be the best combination of what scouts call ceiling and floor, as a mature college pitcher with good stuff.
Falvey said last week that his decision will reflect pricetag, which might push the Twins toward Wright. Greene and McKay are likely to push for massive signing bonuses, which would reduce the Twins’ pool of cash for signing other draftees.
Looking past each of the top players’ skill sets and prices, the Twins have to ask a more basic question: What kind of player do they favor?
When Theo Epstein took over the Cubs, he emphasized drafting mature position players, feeling they had the best chance of staying healthy and adapting to the big leagues. His drafts helped produce the powerhouse lineup that won the World Series last year.
But the Twins are different from the Cubs in that they can’t be assured of signing top free-agent pitchers. So the Twins need to draft and develop their own pitchers even while knowing the difficulties of that approach.
According to Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci, “of the 92 high school pitchers drafted and signed out of the first round between 2001 and 2010,” 35 percent never pitched in the big leagues, and another 16 produced a career Wins Above Replacement player rating of below 1.0, meaning they were busts. That’s 48 out of 92 picks who did not help their teams.
Then again, Clayton Kershaw was drafted out of high school. So to play the odds, the Twins might find themselves passing on a future superstar, if Greene really is that good.
The odds tell the Twins to draft a college position player. Their financial model and draft strategy, which calls for them to emphasize the entire draft more than just the first pick, encourages them to take a reasonably priced college player.
Greene and McKay will draw interest because of their versatility, but Falvey downplayed the possibility of a player succeeding in the majors as a pitcher and hitter because of the sheer amount of time any big-leaguer invests in developing one skill.
Wright might be the most logical choice for the Twins under these parameters.
McKay is the most intriguing choice, because he could move to the majors quickly as a pitcher or hitter.
Greene is for dreamers, gamblers and lottery players. He could be the next A-Rod or Kershaw, or he could be the next Brien Taylor, the high school pitcher drafted first overall by the Yankees in 1991. Taylor never pitched above Class AA. Greene would be the first high school righthanded pitcher to be drafted first overall.
Falvey is running the Twins because Ryan didn’t draft and develop enough quality pitching. Wright isn’t the most exciting pick available, but he could make the most sense for a franchise desperate for arms.