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Updated: June 2nd, 2013 10:33pm
Mackey’s Twins Notes: MLB draft is ‘most important time of the year’

Mackey’s Twins Notes: MLB draft is ‘most important time of the year’

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by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- While the Minnesota Twins hit the road this week, team officials and scouts will gather for hours at a time to sort out a draft board in preparation for Thursday's MLB draft.

The draft lasts 40 rounds, spanning three days, and the Twins own the No. 4 overall pick. Baseball America currently projects the Twins taking Texas high school right-hander Kohl Stewart. If not him, perhaps Washington high school catcher Reese McGuire.

General manager Terry Ryan called the draft "probably the most important time of the year for any organization," which especially applies to a Twins club trying to get back to winning division titles.

"It could make or break a franchise," Ryan said. "If you make the right selections, your history changes. If you make the wrong selections, your history changes."

Last year's No. 2 overall pick Byron Buxton could be one of those history-changing-type players. If he is, Ryan will get credit for drafting a franchise-altering player. If Buxton flops, Ryan will be criticized for whiffing.

But that's not necessarily how it should be. Most GMs -- Ryan included -- aren't heavily involved in the scouting process for high school and college players. Scouting director Deron Johnson oversees that aspect for the Twins. Of course, Ryan oversees Johnson, and Ryan ultimately has final say.

"My role would be to take the blame when we don't do well, but I also get the praise when we do well. That's not fair," Ryan said. "I shouldn't get the praise when we get a good selection. Joe Mauer (in 2001) -- well that ought to go to (VP of player personnel) Mike Radcliffe. When we take a guy that doesn't pan out, all the GMs take the fall -- which it should be. We get all of the praise, and we should get all the criticism. That's my role. ...

"That year that we took (Ben) Revere, they were scrambling for that video (on the TV draft coverage). ... That's a pick that I got praise for I think at the time. I didn't have anything to do with Ben Revere. (Our scouts) did. They all had seen him a lot. I get the praise. 'Good pick, there you go Terry.' Hell, I never even saw (Revere). But that's the way it works. ...

"Some of our picks that haven't panned out -- which there's plenty -- 'How could Ryan pick that guy?' Well, I did. That's the way it is."

It typically takes top draft picks at least three years to make their major league debut, and many times longer if the player was drafted directly out of high school. Aaron Hicks -- (14th overall in 2008) was the Twins' last first round pick to make it to the big leagues. Kyle Gibson (22nd overall in 2009) is close.

Prior to Hicks, the Twins have a solid track record in the first round, grabbing guys like Revere, Chris Parmelee, Matt Garza, Trevor Plouffe, Glen Perkins, Denard Span and Mauer.

Other news, notes, tidbits and thoughts

• Johnson said he has spent more time in recent years focusing on the Twins' top few picks, as opposed to the later rounds. "I think it's smart to make sure you get those top three or four guys right. And in particular, picking where we've been at the last two years, we have to make sure we get the first one right."

• On scouting philosophy, Johnson said he sees the benefit of high school baseball players being multi-sport athletes.

"If he's a dual-sport guy I think you can get a better read on makeup when you watch them in another sport," Johnson said. "You see a guy play basketball or football and you can see how he reacts in different situations. ... So I've always kind of believed in that, right or wrong. I remember as an area scout watching CC Sabathia play football and basketball, and we got a pretty good makeup read on him back then. ...

"You get a lot more looks and time with the high school kids. Certainly the better Division 1 programs we don't get a chance to spend much time with those kids just because of their academic situation, and a lot of coaches don't give us that amount of time, which I can understand... We get a chance to spend a little bit more time with the college kids in the summer programs.

Glen Perkins is one of the only Twins pitchers to have faced Carlos Gomez this year -- when he has been perhaps one of the best hitters in baseball -- and also in previous years, before everything started clicking for him. What's the biggest difference for Gomez? Perkins believes he has actually "toned down" his approach slightly -- controlling his swing more and also swinging at better pitches.

• Alex Meyer tossed a gem on Saturday for Double-A New Britain. He held the Bowie Baysox to one run on two hits and two walks while striking out 10 in 6 1/3 innings. Meyer now owns a 3.69 ERA with 73 strikeouts, 27 walks and only three home runs allowed in 61 innings.

• Twins players were amused by Brewers hitters shooting glances toward the mound after getting hit or nearly hit by Samuel Deduno pitches last week. Deduno clearly wasn't throwing at anyone on purpose -- he just oftentimes has no idea where the ball will wind up.

• ESPN.com's baseball prospect analyst Keith Law updated his top 25 prospects list last week. St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras topped the list, but right behind him is Byron Buxton. At No. 6 is Miguel Sano. On Buxton, Law wrote, "Buxton was the top prospect on my board in last year's amateur draft, and his huge April (.392 BA/.510 OBP/.584 SLG) seemed to justify that ranking in striking fashion. His May hasn't been as torrid, but the raw ability that made him such a commodity out of high school -- 80-grade speed on the 20-80 scouting scale, a very quick bat, a plus arm, the potential for plus-plus defense in center -- is accompanied by more present baseball skill than I realized last spring. He's already 19, so a late-season promotion to high-A wouldn't be too aggressive if he continues to rake."

• Since being waived by the Twins, Joe Benson is hitting .389 with four home runs and a triple in six games for Double-A Frisco in the Texas Rangers organization. Despite having other candidates (Drew Butera, for instance) who could have been bumped from the 40-man roster, the Twins decided they'd seen enough of Benson, who was hitting just .192 with one home run and 50 strikeouts in 42 games for Triple-A Rochester.

One baseball person with trained eyes had this to say about Benson: "He always had loud tools and is a big, strong, athletic kid... but his feel for hitting is lacking. Just a lot of swing and miss here and he had a lot of trouble making the adjustments to advanced pitching. I still like the guy's game some and I think he can be a useful big leaguer in a limited role, but he has some holes in his game that prevent him from profiling as an everyday starter. It will be interesting to see if he gets a chance to contribute in Texas."

Mike Pelfrey's 40% groundball rate is the lowest, by far, of his career -- well below his 48% career average and the 44% league average. Pelfrey has never been a strikeout pitcher, and that theme holds true again this season (4.6 K's per 9), but he has been successful in the National League by inducing a lot of groundballs. This year, due mostly to poor command -- which is likely related to his recovery from Tommy John surgery -- Pelfrey is essentially a fly ball pitcher. A lack of strikeouts combined with a large number of fly balls is probably the worst combination a pitcher can have, and Pelfrey's 6.66 ERA is evidence.

Joe Mauer currently leads the Twins in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) at 2.4. His career best is 7.7 during the 2009 MVP season. Mauer leading the Twins in WAR is no surprise. The man who ranks second, on the other hand, is a surprise -- Pedro Florimon, who is holding his own offensively (.256/.331/.360) while playing mostly solid defense at shortstop.

• Mauer is on pace to blow past his career high in strikeouts, but he is making up for hit by hitting the ball really, really hard when he does make contact -- a 28% line drive rate, which ranks fourth in MLB.

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
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