Friday, June 08, 2007

Draft Analysis, Notes and More

The Twins haven't had much success using first-round picks to draft position players out of high school in recent years. The selection of Joe Mauer in 2001 has obviously worked out, but in the three following drafts the Twins used first-rounders on Denard Span (2002), Matt Moses (2003) and Trevor Plouffe (2004). All three of those guys have been slow to develop and none rate as great prospects right now. I like the chances of their 2006 first-round pick, Chris Parmelee, to buck that trend (see below), but even he is struggling a bit right now in Low-A ball.

The Twins went with yet another high-school position player as their first-round pick in yesterday's draft, selecting center-fielder Ben Revere out of Kentucky's Lexington Catholic HS with the 28th overall pick. At 5'9" and 155 lbs, Revere is a diminutive left-handed batter known for his running ability. The MiLB.com scouting report states that Revere is "a below-average hitter with a very pull-conscious swing" who has "no power to speak of." He reportedly has a ton of speed and projects as an above-average defender in center field. In other words, Revere looks like nearly an exact clone of the Twins' first-round pick from five years ago, Denard Span.

Baseball America says the following about Revere:
A few months after Revere starred as a defensive back, receiver and kick returner on Lexington Catholic's 3-A state championship football team as a junior, he won a state championship with the baseball team. His father John played football and baseball at Eastern Kentucky, and his brother J.R. played both sports at Georgia Southern, winning a I-AA national title as the Eagles' quarterback in 2000. A four-year starter in baseball, Revere has a career .487 batting average and a state-record 27 triples. He has struck out 19 times in 433 high school at-bats. The 5-foot-9, 175-pounder opened eyes at last year's East Coast Showcase when he turned in the best 60-yard-dash of the event (6.28 seconds) and showed some pop at the plate. While his speed is his best tool, Revere has a sound approach at the plate and a knack for turning on fastballs and pulling them with authority. He gets good extension in his swing and projects for average power as a pro. He needs to refine his bunting and use the whole field more effectively. Revere's speed could allow him to become a plus defender in center field, but presently he makes mistakes that he can usually outrun. He needs to improve his reads and could take better routes to the ball. He has a below-average arm. Revere is considered signable in the top five rounds, and should easily find a suitor by then.
Revere seems like an athletic kid with a good shot at eventually reaching the majors, but the last thing the Twins need is another piranha-type player to stock their system with. He was also a major reach in the first round. This was a disappointing pick in my mind.

After selecting Revere at 28, the Twins didn't have another pick until the 92nd slot, when they used their second-round pick to draft Danny Rams, another high-school bat who projects as a catcher or first baseman. His power potential is significantly better than Revere's. According to BA, Rams' raw power grades out as a 70 on a 20-80 scale, which is extremely good. He also reportedly has a strong arm which, helps his potential to play catcher as a pro. You can read a bit more about Rams here.

In the third round, the Twins selected Angel Morales, an outfielder from a Puerto Rican high school. At 6'1" and 175 lbs, Morales is skinny and quick, possessing some great defensive skills. There are some questions about his plate approach and his ability to develop into a quality hitter, but he's still only 17 and has plenty of room to improve. I've actually seen him compared to Carlos Beltran.

In the fourth round, the Twins went with Reggie Williams of a California high school. Williams played a lot of outfield and shortstop in high school, but apparently projects as a third baseman in the pros. He bats and throws lefty.

With their fifth and final pick in yesterday's portion of the draft, the Twins drafted their first pitcher, Nathan Striz out of Santa Fe Catholic HS in Florida. A 6'2" righthander, Striz throws in the low 90s with a sinker/slider combo.

To recap, it was an interesting first five rounds for the Twins. They went with five high school kids who all have a lot of development ahead of them before they'll be ready to make a real impact. The Twins claimed that their strategy would be to take the best player on the board, but I have a hard time believing they couldn't have done better than Revere with that No. 28 pick. I do like the selection of Rams in the second round though; I think he has some very solid power potential, which this organization is sorely in need of. Since all of the players taken in these first five rounds are in the neighborhood of 18 years of age, don't look for any of them to be donning a Minnesota Twins uniform for at least four or five years.

Today, the final 45 rounds of the draft take place. Let's hope the Twins can nab a few sleepers like they did last year.

* While we're on the subject, let's take a look back at last year's draft and see how the Twins' first five picks have come along in their first year of professional baseball (followed by some of those aforementioned sleeper picks).

FIRST FIVE PICKS:
1st Round (20): Chris Parmelee - OF
Parmelee put up some solid numbers in the pitcher-friendly Gulf Coast League last year, but this season he has struggled this season in Beloit, batting just .233 with 50 strikeouts and 18 walks in 172 at-bats. The good news is that he's only 19, and he's been showing steady improvement in his plate discipline and power over the course of the season.

2nd Round (64): Joe Benson - OF
The Twins took another high school position player in the second round. Benson is an extremely athletic kid who broke in with a decent half-season in rookie-ball after being drafted last year, and I felt he had a good chance to have a breakout year this season. Unfortunately, Benson has struggled mightily in Beloit, looking much worse than Parmelee. In 48 games, Benson is hitting just .193/.286/.298 and has fanned 42 times in 161 at-bats. His numbers improved a bit from April to May, but he entered yesterday's game in an 0-for-11 slump.

3rd Round (96): Tyler Robertson - LHP
At 6'5" and 220 lbs, Robertson is a big young lefthander with some serious upside. He pitched fairly well in rookie-ball last year, and after missing most of the first two months of this season with an injury, he's made a couple appearances for Beloit within the past 10 days. In his most recent outing, he tossed three innings out of the bullpen, allowing no hits and just one walk while stirking out five. This kid has a good arm.

4th Round (119): Whit Robbins - 1B
Robbins, a Georgia Tech product, was the first college player the Twins took in the '06 draft. He jumped straight to Beloit after signing last season and posted an impressive .304/.421/.482 line, showing some great patience with a 22/17 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Robbins has maintained some decent patience in Ft. Myers this year, drawing 28 walks in 53 games, but he's batted just .228 with no home runs in 171 at-bats.

4th Round (126): Garrett Olson - 3B
The Twins added Olson, another college player, with their second pick in the fourth round to add some depth to their shaky third base situation. As it would turn out, the selection of Danny Valencia later in the draft would better suit this task (see below), but Olson had a decent debut in Elizabethton last year and his posted a .261/.320/.360 line in Beloit this season.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:
8th Round (246): Brian Dinkelman - 2B
The Twins nabbed Dinkelman in the eighth round out of a small Illinois college, and he's proved to be a solid addition over his first full season. In 46 games of rookie-ball last year, Dinkelman batted .298/.338/.420 with four homers and 32 RBI. This year, in Beloit, he's earned a Midwest League All-Star appearance by batting .274/.364/.432 while going 7/7 on stolen base attempts.

14th Round (426): Jeff Manship - RHP
Manship was my favorite pick in the '06 draft. He was a great college pitcher at Notre Dame but dropped in the draft due to injury concerns. Manship probably should have started this season at Ft. Myers, but instead he started one level lower in Beloit and he has dominated the competition.

19th Round (576): Danny Valencia - 3B
Like Manship, Valencia was a good college player in a major program (Miami) who the Twins were lucky to get as late as they did in the draft. Valencia has done nothing but impress since becoming a pro, posting an .870 OPS in rookie-ball last year and currently batting .304/.381/.515 with 10 HR and 31 RBI in 194 AB. Valencia will represent Beloit as an All-Star, along with Dinkelman and Manship (and three others).

* Moving away from the draft theme, the Twins are set to activate Joe Mauer from the disabled list and he is expected to start and bat second tonight. Traveling back to Rochester to make room for Mauer is lefty reliever Jason Miller, who put together a couple good outings and one unbelievably awful one in his short time with the Twins.

Miller's departure leaves Carmen Cali as the sole lefthander out of the Twins' bullpen. Cali has done a fine job in six appearances so far, but his history suggests that it may not last long. I have to wonder how long it is going to take the Twins to call up Ricky Barrett from Rochester. I wrote an article for the April issue of GameDay Magazine in which I profiled four prospects who I deemed as likely candidates to come up and play a significant role for the Twins over the course of the 2007 season. Those four players were Glen Perkins, Kevin Slowey, Alexi Casilla and Barrett. All four of those guys have seen action with the Twins except Barrett, who certainly seems deserving. Barrett has posted a 1.45 ERA over 18 2/3 innings in Rochester, posting a 20/6 strikeout-to-walk ratio while holding opponents to a .167 batting average.

* Speaking of players who are doing well in Rochester, how about that Matt Tolbert? The Red Wings' second baseman got off to a smoking hot start this season, hitting .340/.407/.553 in April. I was skeptical of how long he'd be able to keep that up because he had not been a big-time prospect in the past and had never been a great hitter in his prior minor league seasons. Yet, Tolbert kept it going in May, posting a .370/.444/.537 line before going down with an injury mid-way through the month. He returned a few days into June and picked up right where he left off. Since returning to Rochester's lineup from his injury, Tolbert has batted .526/.571/.842 in five games. On Wednesday night he went 5-for-5 with two doubles, and last night he went 2-for-4 with another double and a stolen base. This kid is just cruising.

On the season, Tolbert is batting .383/.449/.592. with three homers, eight doubles and four triples. He's posted a solid 17/13 K/BB ratio. A switch-hitter, he's had success from both sides of the plate, hitting .370 as a lefty and .387 as a righty. Before this season, Tolbert wasn't really on the Twins' prospect map, but he's put himself there in a hurry with his torrid first couple months. The 25-year-old may be next in line for a call-up should Luis Castillo or Jason Bartlett get injured.

*
And now, to look ahead. The date is June 8, and the Twins' record sits at 29-29. Last year at this time, their record was 26-33. They're closer in the standings to a playoff position than they were last year at this point, but they still aren't too close. The bad news is that this year there is no Francisco Liriano to step into the rotation, and no Juan Castro or Tony Batista to replace. The good news is that the Twins' current rotation is filled with five guys capable of putting together a good performance each time out, and the offense is only going to get better.

7 comments:

Nick N. said...

ESPN draft expert Keith Law on the Twins' first-round pick:

"Revere is my choice for the worst pick of the first round. The Twins had multiple opportunities to get him later. He has a low ceiling. They've taken players like this before -- Denard Span and Matt Moses come to mind -- and they've been unable to develop them. He's like 5-foot-9 outfielder who can run."

the Dragon said...

Interesting about Revere. Obviously, I don't know anything about him.

The MILB report of "below-average" bat is damning. On what is that analysis based? Hits for .400+, K/BB 19/66, K/HR 19/28, over 50% of his hits Extra base.

Wonder what an "average" bat looks like? over .600? K/BB 1/10? Is an "above average" bat over .800?

Not commenting on pick, we'll find out in a year or 2 or more.

Regards,

Nick N. said...

Dragon, the scouting report that suggests that Revere's bat is below-average is based more on a projection of what he'll be able to do in the pros than what he did in HS. Denard Span put up similar numbers in high school, but his bat has been very weak since he's started playing professional baseball. I think this is a similar situation.

ubelmann said...

Matt Moses? I don't see how Revere has anything to do with Matt Moses. Moses was three inches taller, had at least 20-30 pounds on Span, and he was clearly going to be a corner infielder or DH.

And it's a dubious supposition that the Twins would have had "multiple opportunities" to select Revere later. I think it's reasonable to presume that there was a realistic chance that someone would pick the fastest kid in the draft before the 90's.

I'm still not a huge fan of the pick, but Law's analysis here isn't very convincing.

Anonymous said...

You mention that the 4th round pick Williams "apparently projects as a third baseman in the pros. He bats and throws lefty".
He throws right bats left. Don't think the Twins would be looking to place a left handed thrower at 3rd.

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