Warne: Twins trying to continue recent draft run with lone 1st-rounder
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MINNEAPOLIS -- With just the No. 4 pick in Thursday's first round of baseball's amateur draft, the Minnesota Twins will have only one selection in the opening round for the second time since 2007.
A drastic re-working of the rules, as well as the Twins not really letting compensation-level talent walk in free agency, has severely limited the amount of compensation picks that will be divvied out in years to come.
Major League Baseball has added a competitive balance lottery to combat this a bit, as teams that receive revenue sharing money are allocated additional picks. The Twins were not eligible to receive additional picks when the 2013 lottery took place last July.
For the second straight season, the Twins will pick in the top-five after not making a pick in the single digits dating back to Joe Mauer's first-overall selection back in 2001. In that time frame, the Twins current starting centerfielder Aaron Hicks was the Twins' highest pick (No. 14 in 2008).
That run of 10 straight years picking in double-digits was predated by a period in which the Twins picked in the top 10 in seven of eight years, so these things have a sort of ebb and flow.
Of course, the Twins hope they aren't amidst another eight-year slide like that one. Those years were marred by the Twins missing on almost every pick between Torii Hunter (1993) and Joe Mauer (2001), with the exception of Michael Cuddyer (1997).
Some of the names from that time frame? B.J. Garbe, Adam Johnson, and Ryan Mills. Even the relative "hits" had low ceilings (Mark Redman, Todd Walker, Matthew LeCroy) and one can't forget about those who went unsigned, such as Aaron Heilman, Jason Varitek and Travis Lee.
But that's a million years and miles ago. Focusing on recent past, here's what the last five first rounds have looked like.
No. 2 - Byron Buxton, OF, Appling County H.S. (Baxley, Ga.)
The crown jewel among Twins drafted prospects, Buxton will routinely draw comparisons to Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen and at times even Angels outfielder Mike Trout. He is still at Low-A ball and is only 19 years old. But his command of the strike zone, speed and defense all are tremendous, and the jury is still out on whether he'll have good or great power. In a recent re-ranking of prospects, ESPN.com's Keith Law had Buxton at No. 2 -- among all prospects, that is. In a draft where the Twins needed to hit a home run, they knocked it clear out of the park. Buxton was the Twins No. 1 prospect prior to 2013, according to Baseball Prospectus.
No. 32 - Jose Berrios, P, Papa Juan H.S. (Bayamon, P.R.) - Michael Cuddyer compensation
Berrios has only been 19 for about a week, but he's already more than holding his own as Buxton's teammate at Low-A Cedar Rapids. In 69 2/3 pro innings, Berrios has fanned 93 and walked just 12 and has a 1.94 ERA. He has an advanced feel for pitching for someone his age and could be a relatively quick mover in the Twins system. Buxton, Berrios and Miguel Sano could all provide good litmus tests for whether the Twins truly are as conservative as their reputation has suggested. Baseball Prospectus pegged Berrios as the Twins No. 7 prospect entering this season.
No. 42 - Luke Bard, P, Georgia Tech - Jason Kubel compensation
Bard has yet to appear in any action in 2013, but did briefly pitch for both Elizabethton and the Gulf Coast Twins after signing last July. The younger brother of Boston's Daniel Bard, Luke Bard didn't pitch enough to provide a great statistical feel for his skillset, but he did throw seven innings while walking and whiffing the same amount. Bard made just five college starts, but the Twins will likely ride him out to see if his pitch mix ("plus" fastball and power slider) can hang in the rotation long-term, just as they're doing with Mason Melotakis.
No. 30 - Levi Michael, IF, North Carolina - Chapel Hill, N.C.
It's been a star-crossed couple of seasons on the farm for Michael, who didn't play a single game in the Twins organization after signing in 2011. Michael has hit just .243/.332/.326 between two seasons at Fort Myers and pretty much the only benefit to his game has been his control of the strike zone (105/69 K-BB ratio). Some prospect writers have hung a utility future on him, and what that may mean is the Twins might have the next Jamey Carroll or Nick Punto on their hands. It's by no means a death knell -- and this is a writer who abhors big league comps for prospects -- but the hopes are certainly higher for most first-round picks.
No. 50 - Travis Harrison, IF, Tustin H.S. (Tustin, Calif.) - Orlando Hudson compensation
Harrison has shown very good power -- 14 home runs and a .286/.367/.475 line in 466 minor league plate appearances. He seems to be improving over at the hot corner, at least as much as a 90-point improvement can indicate in fielding percentage this year from last. Many prospect types don't see him sticking at third, but if Harrison does stick at first and climb the ladder, he should have the power potential to stick. Like Adam Walker, Harrison has the potential to mash his way up the ladder or flame out in Double-A like a lot of all power, limited contact bats do. To date, however, Harrison looks like he's been a solid pick.
No. 55 - Hudson Boyd, P, Bishop Verot H.S. (Fort Myers, Fla.) - Jesse Crain compensation
Boyd has scuffled on the mound the past couple seasons, making 23 starts between Elizabethton and Cedar Rapids to the tune of a 4.28 ERA and just 6.0 strikeouts per nine innings. For someone with such solid raw stuff -- mid-90s fastball and a solid curveball -- it's disappointing to see the numbers lag behind. On a positive note, Boyd lost a ton of weight in the offseason, and Terry Ryan spoke of how it showed to him that the right-hander took his vocation very seriously. As a high schooler, the Twins will take it slow with Boyd. But he'll soon have to show a bit more in terms of projection.
No. 21 - Alex Wimmers, P, Ohio State
Pretty much Wimmers' entire pro career after high-A has been disastrous, as control woes and injuries have tapped severely into his upside. The 2013 season marks the fourth season of pro ball for Wimmers, and he's thrown just 4 1/3 innings above high-A. Wimmers had Tommy John surgery last August and would be hard-pressed to do much at all this season.
No. 22 - Kyle Gibson, P, Missouri
Gibson hasn't exactly cruised through the Twins system as some might have projected for a polished college right-hander. But a 3.65 minor league ERA and 8.1 strikeouts per nine certainly aren't too shabby either. Gibson appears on the cusp of his big league call-up, as he's pitched pretty well at Triple-A Rochester and is just awaiting some sort of opening in the Twins rotation. Gibson also had Tommy John surgery about nine months before Wimmers, both of which came at a time in which Twins medical staff came under much scrutiny, fair or not. Nevertheless, the Twins are hoping Gibson -- who will be 26 at season's end -- will be at least a middle-of-the-rotation mainstay for years to come once he's promoted.
No. 46 - Matt Bashore, P, Indiana - Dennys Reyes compensation
It's sort of odd that Reyes' departure in any way mandated compensation, but the Twins did basically what they'd been doing during that entire time frame: drafted a college pitcher. Bashore barely pitched in 2009, missed all of 2010 with Tommy John surgery and was released by the Twins in the spring of 2012. Bashore turned up in the Yankees system last year, toiling in A-ball, but didn't make much of an impression and at this point doesn't appear to be affiliated with any major league organization.
No. 14 - Aaron Hicks, OF, Woodrow Wilson H.S. (Long Beach, Calif.)
Like Torii Hunter and Denard Span before him, the Twins slow-played Hicks through the minor leagues. When he debuted with the big-league club, Hicks had more than 2,100 minor league plate appearances, spanning nearly 500 games down on the farm. To his credit, Hicks hit .271/.379/.421, walked a ton and developed into a sensational defensive outfielder with tremendous range and a very good arm. His offense has been slow to develop in the big leagues, but he's needed extended adjustment periods at pretty much every level he's ever played at. And that's before considering he jumped a level to come to the big leagues. The Twins look like they'll stand by him, and if some of his single game performances are a sign of things to come, it should be a beautiful thing.
No. 27 - Carlos Gutierrez, P, Miami - Torii Hunter compensation
Gutierrez was billed as a groundball-inducing wizard with a blazing, heavy fastball. He worked as both a starter and a reliever until predominantly becoming a reliever at Triple-A Rochester in 2011. He then was designated for assignment and claimed by the Chicago Cubs after an odd 2012 season in which he posted a subpar 5.06 ERA, but solid 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings and 1.00 WHIP. Gutierrez had shoulder surgery in July, and odds are that played a bit part in the Twins decision to jettison him. Gutierrez is still a member of the Cubs organization, though he was outrighted off the 40-man roster after last season.
No. 31 - Shooter Hunt, P, Tulane - Torii Hunter compensation
Hunt was absolutely dazzling at Elizabethton (0.47 ERA, 34 strikeouts and six walks in 19 innings pitched) in 2008 before the wheels came completely off. From that point on, Hunt walked 230 batters in 174 innings and never pitched again professionally after high-A Fort Myers with the Twins organization in 2011. Hunt finished his pro career with a 6.85 minor league ERA, 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings, 11.0 walks per nine innings and a 2.00 WHIP. Hunt spent the 2013 season as a volunteer assistant -- first base coach with a focus on outfielders and baserunners -- at his alma mater Tulane under head coach Rick Jones.