In their first draft as Twins bosses, Derek Falvey and co. had a daunting but exciting task: they had to make a choice between every draft-eligible player on the planet as holders of the No. 1 overall pick. The pick was bound to leave them open to second-guessing no matter what happened. That’s just the nature of the job.
The truth is that nobody knows what will happen with any of the players chosen. The MLB Draft, in relation to how long it takes players to develop and (perhaps) eventually reach the majors, is akin to holding the NFL Draft when eligible players are seniors in high school. That doesn’t stop the criticism, of course, even from those of us who are nowhere near experts in evaluation.
That said, Falvey and those around him left themselves vulnerable to some immediate negative feedback with their choice of high school shortstop/outfielder Royce Lewis. He could turn out to be great, but he wasn’t among the three players talked about the most — high school phenon Hunter Greene and two college stars — when it came to the No. 1 pick. When I did a Facebook video previewing the draft Monday morning and discussing which player the Twins should take, I didn’t even mention Lewis.
The Twins clearly like Lewis, but they also had a clear strategy. In picking Lewis over Greene and others, they can avoid paying a larger bonus — giving them more money to sign other picks under baseball’s system. So people could criticize the Twins for being cheap and for making the wrong pick. Let’s take a spin through some national and social media reaction to reveal some of that thinking:
*Retired MLB scout Dave Perkin did draft analysis for SI.com, called Lewis “perhaps the most polarizing top prospect” in this year’s draft and pointed out some flaws in his swing while also praising his athleticism. Perkin also wrote this about the Twins’ No. 1 pick: “The Twins are taking the same strategy the Phillies used last year in picking Mickey Moniak. Lewis is nowhere near the top prospect in this draft, but Minnesota wants to get Lewis for a reduced price and use the leftover money to get other players later on. I think the strategy is misguided, but we’ll see how it pans out.”
Dave Sheinin of the Washington Post didn’t quite criticize the pick but did note that it had an old-school feel: “Despite the availability of two of the best two-way prospects in the history of the Major League Baseball amateur draft, the Minnesota Twins used the first overall pick Monday night on the specimen of ballplayer that has captivated talent evaluators forever: the big, rangy, toolsy high school shortstop.
*Wrote Keith Law of ESPN: Royce Lewis was a slight surprise as the first overall pick, especially because, like the Upton brothers were in their own draft years, he’s a shortstop who is almost universally assumed to be moving off the position, with most people — myself included — assuming he’s headed for center field. He also said Landon Leach, the player the Twins took 37th overall, was the first player picked in the draft whom Law had graded outside his top 100.
A sampling of comments on Startribune.com’s main draft story (there were more than 500, by the way, as of 8 a.m. Tuesday), echoed a lot of what we saw in the immediate aftermath on social media.
I am disappointed. Royce Lewis may be the next Jeter and if he is, I will admit I was wrong. But this smells again of being a financial decision by the Twins. They had a chance to be bold, take Greene, do something different. And yet, this is another Terry Ryan pick. The Twins once again showed no courage.
Ouch. And there’s more.
Seems fitting that on a night when they give up 14 runs, after giving up 13 the day before, they would draft a SS. This team is so dire in need of pitching, they didn’t want to pay the price to draft one of the top 3 pitchers. Are the Twins trying to sell us that this kid is the next Jeter? Lewis was even shocked! The Smiley Brothers haven’t shown us much.
There were some less fired up voices saying they are willing to be patient and trust the process, using expressions like the Lewis pick was a “sound move” and “let’s give the brain trust a chance here.” The bottom line, though, is that the Twins made neither the exciting pick (Greene) nor the presumed safe pick (one of the college players, either Brendan McKay or Kyle Wright).
Time will tell if it was the right pick.
Fair or not, that opens the Twins up for criticism now and throughout the course of the years-long development of all the players in this draft.