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  • Looking Back: 2008 Minnesota Twins Draft

    Aaron Hicks is the most talked about Twins prospect these days as he is making the strong case that he should be the Minnesota Twins Opening Day leadoff hitter and centerfielder. Hicks was the Twins first 1st round draft pick that year. Some of the other the other top picks didn’t pan out, but there are still ten in the organization.

    Let’s take a look:

    THE FIRST-ROUNDERS


    Aaron Hicks was taken with the 14th overall pick. He slowly worked through the lower levels of the Twins minor league system, but after filling out the stat line thoroughly at AA New Britain in 2012, he looks to be the favorite for the Twins centerfield job. When he was drafted, many believed that he would be better as a starting pitcher due to a mid-90s fastball. However, Hicks said he wanted to hit, and the Twins believed he could become a five-tool talent. In 2013, the team will find out how many of those tools are going to show in the big leagues. On defense, Hicks has very good range and a strong arm. On offense, he has the ability to get on base at a good clip with his patient approach. He may never hit 30 home runs, but the switch-hitter could hit as many as 20 homers. His strikeout totals may keep him from ever hitting for a real high average, but with the way he progressed in 2013, it is very possible he will continue to improve upon that. He also stole a career-high 31 bases last year for the Rock Cats. No question, Hicks is in a good position to be the Twins centerfielder for many years.

    Carlos Gutierrez (27th overall) and Shooter Hunt (31st overall) were two college pitchers, expected to move fast, that the Twins acquired as compensation for having lost Torii Hunter via free agency. The Twins decided to give Gutierrez an opportunity to start. The thinking was that he would be more valuable as a starter, and if it didn’t work out, he could always move to the bullpen. In the end, he was a one-pitch pitcher who couldn’t throw strikes. The other part of starting was that he would have more innings to work on the secondary pitches, but it just didn’t help. He was taken off of the 40 man roster after the 2012 season and claimed by the Cubs. The Cubs took him off of their 40 man roster and he went unclaimed.

    Shooter Hunt was the type of pitching prospect that screamed top of the rotation. He threw hard and had a tremendous, sharp breaking pitch. In his junior year at Tulane, he walked more than he had previously, but not enough to become alarming. However, in 2009, he completely lost any semblance of control. He could not throw strikes. The Twins tried everything from moving him to the bullpen, to putting him on the DL. Nothing worked. He was claimed by the Cardinals in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft, but he never pitched in a regular game in the organization.

    Often people like to look back and see which players were drafted after picks that didn’t work out. To the point, there has been little major league success for the players taken between Gutierrez at 27 and Jordan Lyles at 38:


    • 27 – Carlos Gutierrez – Twins
    • 28 – Gerrit Cole – Yankees (Did Not Sign)
    • 29 – Lonnie Chisenhall – Indians
    • 30 – Casey Kelly – Red Sox
    • 31 – Shooter Hunt – Twins
    • 32 – Jake Odorizzi – Brewers
    • 33 – Bradley Holt – Mets
    • 34 – Zach Collier – Phillies
    • 35 – Evan Frederickson – Brewers
    • 36 – Mike Montgomery – Royals
    • 37 – Conor Gillaspie – Giants
    • 38 – Jordan Lyles – Astros


    ALSO ON THE 40 MAN ROSTER


    High school players selected in the 2008 draft (and college players taken in 2007 had to be protected for the Rule 5 draft or potentially be lost. Along with Hicks, these two players were added:

    BJ Hermsen was taken in the 6th round from West Delaware High School in Manchester, Iowa. He had accepted a scholarship to pitch at Oregon State, but then the Twins went well over slot, he signed. He has pitched well ever since then. In 2011, between Beloit and Ft. Myers, he went 13-8 with a 3.33 ERA. In 2012, he was the Twins minor league pitcher of the year. He made four starts in Ft. Myers before moving up to New Britain for 22 starts. Combined, he went 12-6 with a 2.88 ERA. Hermsen doesn’t throw hard and relies on impeccable control and good movement.

    Michael Tonkin was drafted out of his California high school in the 30th round. He received a $230,000 bonus to convince him to sign. He pitched in Beloit in 2010, 2011 and that’s where he started in 2012. It proved to be a great decision as he finally figured things out. He also developed from being an average fastball, slow curve type of pitcher into a guy with a mid-90s fastball and a devastating slider. After a slow rise to this point, he is ready to move quickly. It may not be long before people refer to Jason Kubel as his brother-in-law.

    STILL AROUND


    Bobby Lanigan (3-92) was drafted out of Adelphi University in New York. He moved fairly quickly early in his career as a starting pitcher, reaching AA for the second half of the 2010 season. He remained with the Rock Cats until the second half of the 2012 season when he was promoted to Rochester. When drafted, many believed that he had a great slider that could be an asset out of the bullpen. In 2012, he was finally moved to the bullpen where he experienced some success in the new role. He will likely pitch with the Red Wings in 2013.

    Daniel Ortiz (4-126) is a native of Puerto Rico. This winter, he played on the same team as Eddie Rosario and Kennys Vargas, and it was Ortiz that hit in the third spot. The outfielder can play all three positions well. Not blessed with great size, he can still pack a punch. He missed the entire 2009 season due to a knee injury. He played well in the 2nd half of the 2010 season in Elizabethton. He got off to a great start in Beloit in 2011, but he really struggled in the season’s final four months. He returned to the Snappers to start the 2012 season, but he moved up to Ft. Myers after just a month and played much better. With the Miracle, he hit .269/.313/.424 with 24 doubles, five triples and eight home runs, re-establishing himself as a prospect.

    Michael Gonzales (9-276) is a big (6-6, 250), powerful first baseman who was drafted out of Diablo Valley College. He moved up one level a year until 2011 when he repeated at Beloit. But he did use that year to make some big improvements in his game, speeding up his swing and losing weight to become a much better first baseman. He struggled in Ft. Myers in 2012 thanks in part to a condition with dehydration. He was unable to play nine innings or often in back-to-back games. He could head to New Britain in 2013.

    Evan Bigley (10-306) was drafted from Lew Ford’s alma mater, Dallas Baptist. He moved quickly up to AA New Britain late in the 2010 season. He then stayed with the Rock Cats through the first half of the 2012 season when he moved up to Rochester. He played in the Arizona Fall League following the 2012 season and will likely return to Rochester in 2013.
    Blake Martin (17-516) was drafted out of LSU. He is a good example of a left-hander who is breathing continuing to get opportunities. He has certainly shown signs of being good at times. He split 2012 between the bullpen and the starting rotation and struckout 73 in 77 innings. He could return to New Britain, where he has pitched in at least parts of the past three seasons.

    Bruce Pugh (19-576) was drafted after one year of junior college. In 2010, 2011 and 2012, Pugh pitched in both Ft. Myers and in New Britain. However, something clicked for him in 2012. He posted a 2.60 ERA in 27.2 innings in Ft. Myers. Then, he posted a 1.50 ERA in 42 innings in New Britain. He struckout 48. If he can throw strikes, he can have dominant stuff, including a mid-90s fastball.

    Nate Hanson (28-846) went to high school in Eden Prairie and then played at the University of Minnesota. When the hometown Twins drafted him, he signed quickly and has gradually moved up the farm system since. He spent all of 2012 in New Britain where he started the season in a utility role, but he really took off when he moved to second base full time. If he were to make the big league roster, it would likely be in utility role.

    THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY


    With their 16th round pick, the Twins took a high school second baseman named Kolten Wong out of his high school in Hawaii. Wong chose to play for the University of Hawaii, and it proved to be a good decision. In 2011, he was the 22nd overall pick, by the St. Louis Cardinals. Baseball America ranked him as the #84 prospect in baseball.

    THE ONE THEY TRADED AWAY


    In the 2nd round, the Twins took a very athletic shortstop named Tyler Ladendorf out of Howard College. He was playing well in 2009 at Elizabethton and promoted to Beloit where he played in just 15 games. You see, at the July trade deadline, he was sent to the Oakland A’s in exchange for shortstop Orlando Cabrera. Cabrera helped lead the Twins to an unlikely and thrilling run to the playoffs. Ladendorf has slowly progressed through the A’s system. He played in High-A ball in 2010 (and four games in AAA). In 2011, he hit .225/.308/.319 in AA (And had four more games in AAA). Last year at AA, he hit .240/.324/.358 with 20 doubles, a triple and nine home runs.

    SUMMARY


    The success of the Twins 2008 draft is largely dependent upon how Aaron Hicks adapts to the big leagues and how good he becomes. That is generally the expectation for a pick from the first half of the first round. It doesn’t always come to fruition. The other high-impact pick in this group could be Michael Tonkin. He will likely start the season in New Britain and could rise quickly. He could be a strong, dominant late-game bullpen arm for many years. And if he continues to pitch well, Hermsen has a chance to be a back-of-the-rotation type of starter.

    Others may find themselves getting an opportunity and that’s always a good thing. For there to still be ten players drafted in 2008 in the organization is unusual. Here is a quick look at how many players drafted by the Twins are still in the organization since the 2004 draft:


    • 2004 – 3
    • 2005 – 2
    • 2006 – 5
    • 2007 – 5
    • 2008 – 10
    • 2009 – 6
    • 2010 – 17
    • 2011 – 26


    I think this is a good illustration of how difficult the draft can be. However, if any draft gives you one key starter and a possible starting pitcher and a potentially dominant reliever, the draft is a tremendous success. We still won’t know the success of the Twins 2008 draft for a few years, but right now, it looks pretty successful.
    This article was originally published in blog: Looking Back: 2008 Minnesota Twins Draft started by Seth Stohs
    Comments 68 Comments
    1. Jeremy Nygaard's Avatar
      Jeremy Nygaard -
      That's crazy that only six guys from the 2009 draft are still in the organization. Wow!
    1. spycake's Avatar
      spycake -
      Not sure what you mean by "there has been little minor league success" for a few of those guys taken after/around Gutierrez and Hunt:

      - Jake Odorizzi has put up solid numbers in the minors and is still a top 100 BA prospect.
      - Casey Kelly was a top-50 prospect this year, but looks to be having arm trouble now.
      - L
      onnie Chisenhall reached #25 on BA's list and while he doesn't project to be a star, he should be Cleveland's starting third baseman this year.

      And those are just three of the guys I recognize.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by spycake View Post
      Not sure what you mean by "there has been little minor league success" for a few of those guys taken after/around Gutierrez and Hunt:

      - Jake Odorizzi has put up solid numbers in the minors and is still a top 100 BA prospect.
      - Casey Kelly was a top-50 prospect this year, but looks to be having arm trouble now.
      - L
      onnie Chisenhall reached #25 on BA's list and while he doesn't project to be a star, he should be Cleveland's starting third baseman this year.

      And those are just three of the guys I recognize.
      I believe I meant little major league success... I'll change that. Those three could all play in the big leagues more than they already have.
    1. spycake's Avatar
      spycake -
      Ah, that makes more sense.

      Although those three guys were all 19 and under when drafted, so it's not really surprising they haven't appeared much in the majors yet. Would it be equally accurate to dismiss Aaron Hicks right now because he hasn't had much major league success yet? These high school guys -- particularly high school pitchers -- are on a different track than older college guys like Gutierrez and Hunt.

      I'm willing to give the Twins a pass on Hunt because he was a top talent who fell late -- a decent gamble to take. But Gutierrez was about as big a bust as you can find -- a college closer should be about the "safest" draft pick there, and Gutierrez provided zero value in the pros. Heck, even "riskier" high school picks Odorizzi and Kelly have both been used as valuable trade chits in their short careers already (A-Gon, Greinke, Shields).
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      If you won't sign free agents that are big time, you need to be BETTER than the other teams at drafting and developing players, not as good as them. You can't get nothing out of those two college pitchers. Just a killer. Even when Hicks turns out to be good, it was a failed draft if you get nothing much out of the rest of the entire draft, imo. I know people won't agree with that. That said, Hunt was a decent risk to take, imo. Never liked the Gutteriez pick, much the same way I'm not a fan of them taking relievers last year.

      It is funny, when I complain about them not getting starters later in the draft, people say "you can't expect that'. When I complain they pass on elite pitchers, people say "you can always find them later in the draft". One of those is not true.....
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      I don't think I ever said anything about dismissing Hicks, Odorizzi, Kelly, etc. I'm just saying that there is no way to know in the draft, especially once you get past the first half of the first round.

      And, I would agree that Gutierrez and Hunt were busts. I don't think anyone would disagree. It's just not surprising or unusual or anything.
    1. Rick Niedermann's Avatar
      Rick Niedermann -
      I really enjoy this type of writing. It's alot of fun to look back at the hits and misses. I have to agree with mike wants wins that in this area the Twins need to do better. I remember not many were impressed with the pick of Gutierrez, including me. It looked like a bust from the start. Alot of Twins fans were patient and waiting for him to breakout. Plus he had already had arm trouble. Seemed like to big a gamble for that slot in the draft. We have do better then that when we get a draft pick that high up. It's the only way we continue to be competitive. Hopefully we go for the best player again this year with the Number 4. Sure hoping Apel is available and Boros doesn't scare off the Twins management.
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      "I think this is a good illustration of how difficult the draft can be."

      Drafts are difficult, but for most of this century the Twins made it more difficult by seemingly passing on high school pitchers early on. Obviously they are more boom or bust, but the reward can be so much better. Perhaps I'm off base but the perception has always been the Twins will take a safe college arm over HS kids with upside. Looking at the HS prospects the Twins passed on to take Wimmers in 2010 makes my stomach churn.

      Water under the bridge though. I'm going to assume they learned their lesson considering where they took Berrios last year and Boyd the year previous.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Listen, I understand that point about the Twins not signing big free agent pitchers, and because of that they need to be better at the draft. It's a fair line of thinking. I just struggle with how realistic it can be. In a system where #1 (and 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, ...) overall picks don't make it all the time, I don't know that it's always realistic. They could make the absolutely perfect pick at the time, and two years later, some will be wondering how they could have taken the player. These are all people, not machines, and that element makes it what it is. Maybe it would be better to say that the Twins need to be more LUCKY than other teams when it comes to the draft if they're not going to sign the free agent pitchers?
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Except they passed on HS arms like crazy to take college relievers last year......very risky play, imo.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      If you pick a strategy, and they clearly have picked the strategy not to sign free agents, then you need to better, not just more lucky. You need to spend more on better coaching. You need to spend more on better nutrition and conditioning. You need to spend more on scouting. If all that doesn't work, you need to fire people until it does. It is a business. The Cardinals and Rays seem to draft and develop guys every year, that they either use or trade. It seems unlikely is it just luck.

      And, if the only way your strategy will work is by being lucky, then you probably need to pick a different strategy, because relying on luck is not sustainable. That is, if it is not realistic to expect your strategy to work, you really, really need a new strategy.
    1. spycake's Avatar
      spycake -
      Seth -- I just read your statement:
      Often people like to look back and see which players were drafted after picks that didn’t work out. To the point, there has been little major league success for the players taken between Gutierrez at 27 and Jordan Lyles at 38

      as somewhat of an excuse for the Twins draft, in that the players taken immediately after Gutierrez and Hunt haven't done much in the majors either. Otherwise, I'm not sure what you meant? Most of the other guys drafted in that range were much younger than Gutierrez and Hunt, several likely will stick in the majors in 2013 and beyond, and several have already provided good value to their drafting teams in trades even before reaching the majors.

      My recollection is that Gutierrez was a suspect pick at the time -- definitely lower upside on him as a college closer, compared to most other picks in that range. The Twins were drafting conservatively, as they often do, and were maybe a little too complacent with their run of major league success at the time. Conservative drafts like Gutierrez certainly didn't help as their system starting emptying around this time and the big league club subsequently fell off the table in 2011.

      I remember the consensus thought Hunt was a reasonable gamble in that draft range, still conservative enough for the Twins as an older college pitcher, but with some upside.
    1. birdwatcher's Avatar
      birdwatcher -
      It's still too early to judge, but if Hicks becomes an outstanding player and Tomkin becomes a solid setup man, I'd call it a good draft I guess. I understand the argument that the Twins need to be good at drafting. My response is that they are, and their track record demonstrates this IF one bothers to make a COMPARATIVE judgment.

      I have a different recollection of the scouting reports on Guttierrez. I seem to remember hearing that his sharp sinking fastball, clocked at 92-94, was already MLB ready, and that he needed to refine a secondary offering. And that illustrates the difficulty of being better than everyone else at this drafting business. I bet the scouting reports on him were practically interchangeable from team to team. Something tells me that, to be better than the next organization, you have to out-work them, not out-think them or tip the laptop upside down to get some new statistics.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      BW, we just won't agree on that. No MIF for how long? No 3B for how long? Their starting OF last year and DH were at least 2 medium free agents. Their entire starting pitching staff this year, not one was drafted by the Twins, right? Diamond, Worley, Correia, Pelfry, ?....ok, maybe ? was drafted by them. I just don't see how someone can say they have been good at drafting, given the quality of the guys that have come up the last few years. But, I'm guessing we are going to disagree on this point, no matter what either of us types......
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      Quote Originally Posted by birdwatcher View Post
      Something tells me that, to be better than the next organization, you have to out-work them, not out-think them or tip the laptop upside down to get some new statistics.
      The Twins don't use statistics anyway.
    1. gil4's Avatar
      gil4 -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      ...ok, maybe ? was drafted by them.
      Nice. Where is the "like" button (preferably wothout the cute little hearts) when you need it.
    1. clutterheart's Avatar
      clutterheart -
      Kolten Wong - I read that he was ready to sign withthe Twins. But the Twins did't even give him an offer until the deadlIne.
      Too bad.
    1. birdwatcher's Avatar
      birdwatcher -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      BW, we just won't agree on that. No MIF for how long? No 3B for how long? Their starting OF last year and DH were at least 2 medium free agents. Their entire starting pitching staff this year, not one was drafted by the Twins, right? Diamond, Worley, Correia, Pelfry, ?....ok, maybe ? was drafted by them. I just don't see how someone can say they have been good at drafting, given the quality of the guys that have come up the last few years. But, I'm guessing we are going to disagree on this point, no matter what either of us types......
      You're right, mike, we're going to reach different conclusions from different facts. The MI has been a hole for sure, but please don't ignore that Worley and Diamond were exchanged for draft choices, and Hendriks is theirs. Don't ignore that 2/3rds of last year's OF were draft choices. The 2013 startng lineup will include Hicks, Dozier, Mauer, Morneau, Parmelee,and Plouffe, all draft choices. So, I think this points to what I consider at worst a pretty average-looking performance from our draft and development people over the time period required to assemble these players. Does that work for you? Average over that time period?

      Now, more recently, and in part because of the post-Target Field revenues, the story gets much much much better. You know their system is ranked as high as #3 (Law). Just possibly, is this because they're better at it than most these days? You know of the high-profile international guys: Sano, Arcia, Kepler, Polanco. Do you give them enough credit for this part of their track record?

      But here's a more recent indicator: Sickels posted his top 150 prospects list. Now, if talent was evenly distributed, meaning all teams were almost equally adept (not factoring draft order), wouldn't each team have 5 prospects on the list? Why do the Twins have 9 prospects on it? Why does the rest of the AL Central have a total of 12 prospects, every one of them ranked lower than our top 3? And now, we signed the #7 and #22 ranked international prospects for this past year, Minier and Silva.

      So, you can say the Twins are bad at drafting and development, and point to the fact that they don't have a draftee playing at SS, 2B, 3B, at least that meets with your approval. I look at these facts, and others, and draw a different conclusion. They may have been too average in the past, but I think they'r pretty good now.
    1. Mr. Brooks's Avatar
      Mr. Brooks -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      Listen, I understand that point about the Twins not signing big free agent pitchers, and because of that they need to be better at the draft. It's a fair line of thinking. I just struggle with how realistic it can be. In a system where #1 (and 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, ...) overall picks don't make it all the time, I don't know that it's always realistic. They could make the absolutely perfect pick at the time, and two years later, some will be wondering how they could have taken the player. These are all people, not machines, and that element makes it what it is. Maybe it would be better to say that the Twins need to be more LUCKY than other teams when it comes to the draft if they're not going to sign the free agent pitchers?
      The Rays and A's seem to do a pretty good job at it.
    1. old nurse's Avatar
      old nurse -
      It would appear that people are forgetting a few things along the way. It is hard to fire the scouts for a bad draft as the results are not known for years. I can't remember where I read it but the Twins do keep track of how well the scouts do with their recommendations and move out the less successful ones. The current scouting director would appear to be getting the job done by the prospect rating lists. Baseball drafting is rarely the instant gratification that some seek.
      In 2000 the Tampa team drafted Shields in the 16th round. No other player from that draft made much of an impact for Tampa. They signed 6 pitchers that they drafted before Shields. None ended up household names. The following year, nobody they drafted played much in the majors. They drafted 9 pitchers in 16 rounds 16 being where they picked Shields) There is a lot of luck involved.
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