Draft Preview: Return to pitching
2009's strength is arms despite Twins' propensity to take OFs
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins have used their top picks in recent Drafts to add speed and athleticism to their system in the form of outfielders. But as an organization that has produced its share of quality arms in recent years, there is no question that the Twins are always looking at pitching when it comes Draft time.The strength of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft appears to be talented young pitching. And considering their history, the Twins would not surprise anyone if they select one of those pitchers with the 22nd pick in this year's Draft.
MLB.com will offer live coverage and analysis of the entire First-Year Player Draft on June 9-11. MLB Network will broadcast the first round at 6 p.m. ET on June 9 from its Studio 42 in Secaucus, N.J., and those 32 selections also will be simulcast live on MLB.com.
Beginning with the 33rd pick, up-to-the-minute on-air coverage from the remaining rounds will shift exclusively to MLB.com/Live, where host Vinny Micucci will be joined by MLB.com Draft expert Jonathan Mayo and Major League Scouting Bureau director Frank Marcos.
Once the first night is done, the Draft will continue with rounds 4-30, via conference call from MLB headquarters in New York, at noon on June 10. Rounds 31-50 will be on June 11, starting at 11:30 a.m.Here's a glance at what the Twins have in store as the First-Year Player Draft approaches: In about 50 words
In addition to having the 22nd overall pick, the Twins also have a sandwich pick (No. 46 overall) thanks to Type B free agent Dennys Reyes. This year's Draft isn't considered to have as much guaranteed talent near the top of the first round as there has been in years past. But the talent pool is likely deeper overall toward the bottom of the round -- which is good news for the Twins based on where they are choosing.
"It goes from Steven Strasburg (the projected No. 1 overall pick) to wide open. I don't think there is a consensus like there was last year with the college position players that went high last year. We don't have those type of players this year. It's going to be an odd year. It might be one of those years where you say, 'I won't laugh at your pick if you don't laugh at mine' kind of a deal." -- Deron Johnson, Twins director of scouting
Johnson said that while there are always more pitchers in the Draft, this year there are a few more power arms available -- both out of high school and college. With so many pitchers available in the first round, the expectation so far has been that the Twins will draft a young arm. The organization has not been afraid to go that route in previous years. Among the names mentioned as possible picks for the Twins are Matt Hobgood, a right-hander high school pitcher from California and Garrett Gould, a right-handed high school pitcher from Kansas. Shopping list
In addition to always trying to add quality arms, the Twins have tried to address other needs within the organization, such as middle infield help and power bats. The strength of the organization currently is its speed, in part thanks to recent first-round picks Ben Revere and Aaron Hicks. Johnson said that the club is entering the Draft just looking to add depth overall in the system -- not just one particular area.
The Twins have drafted high school outfielders with their first round pick in each of the last three Drafts, but prior to that their focus was on pitching. Considering that the strength of this Draft appears to be young pitching, it would not be a surprise if the Twins take advantage and go with some of those arms. The Twins have not shied away from taking high school arms in addition to the more proven ones out of college.
Recent top picks
2008: Outfielder Aaron Hicks, selected 14th overall out of Wilson H.S. in Long Beach, Calif., is currently ranked as the club's top prospect in the organization by Baseball America. His strong arm led some organizations to consider drafting him as a pitcher but the Twins like the athleticism that Hicks brings to the outfield. In 45 games for Rookie League Elizabethton last season, Hicks batted .318 with four homers, 27 RBIs and 12 stolen bases. Hicks is currently in extended spring training.
The Twins used the second of two first-round picks in last year's Draft to select right-handed pitcher Carlos Gutierrez out of the University of Miami. A closer for the Hurricanes, Gutierrez was shifted into a starting role this season for a better opportunity to work on his pitches. In 11 appearances (10 starts) for Class A Fort Myers this season, Gutierrez is 2-3 with a 1.32 ERA and 33 Ks in 54 2/3 innings.
Shortstop Chris Cates was the Twins' 38th-round pick in the '07 Draft, and at 5-foot-3 is the shortest player in professional baseball. But don't think that Cates is a sideshow based on his size. A talented infielder with the capability to play three infield positions, Cates earned a chance to be called over for a couple of the Twins' Spring Training games this year. Cates is currently playing for Class A Fort Myers and is batting .269 with 18 runs scored in 43 games.
In The Show
None of the Twins' picks from the past three Drafts have yet made it to Minnesota.
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.