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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. Mr. Brooks's Avatar
      Mr. Brooks -
      I'm not saying the Rays and A's hit on every single pitcher they take, that would be impossible.
      I'm saying those 2 organizations hit a lot more than most, so I have a hard time believing that it is purely luck. Clearly there is something those 2 organizations are doing better when it comes to scouting and/or developing pitchers outside of the first couple rounds.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      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?
      Not trying to make any excuses... I just know that every team has picks that work and that don't work. Whether it is college pitchers or high school pitchers. It's just illustrating that it's impossible to know with any certainty on any draft pick. No matter what you think, there's no guarantees with any of them. Some pan out great. Some pan out OK. Some bust. That's the reality. No one makes a pick thinking they're going to bust.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Those international signings were when they could spend whatever they wanted, and they paid more than most teams, and not surprisingly, spending more led to better players....a lesson they should tale to the majors.

      As for the guys coming up soon, not sure how that excuses the last few years . I am hopeful this new batch is good, but we just do not know yet. Yes, the minors are better now, but that is partly driven by willing to totally abandon last year and this year being good teams.

      Of the starting pitching likely to start the first 2 months of the year, none were drafted by this team.

      I would think that three years of being one of the worst teams in the league would indicate they do not have a lot of good players. Maybe I am drawing the wrong conclusion from that data point, but I do not think so.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Sorry Seth, I got is off topic. I think I have beaten my point into the ground, and should probably stop now before I make someone mad...
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Brooks View Post
      The Rays and A's seem to do a pretty good job at it.
      A's
      2004 first-round draft picks: Landon Powell, Dan Putnam, Huston Street, Rich Robnett
      2005: Cliff Pennington, Travis Buck
      2006: none
      2007: Donald Simmons, Sean Doolittle (1B, now reliever), Corey Brown
      2008: Jemile Weeks
      2009: Grant Green
      2010: Michael Choice

      Rays
      2004: Jeff Niemann
      2005: Wade Townsend
      2006: Evan Longoria
      2007: David Price
      2008: Tim Beckham
      2009: LeVon Washington (Did Not Sign)

      So, yup, the Rays drafted Longoria and Price with Top 5 picks, also Beckham. Niemann has been OK. Townsend was one of hte biggest flops ever. The A's are kind of hit and miss as well. Certainly no star caliber choices there...

      So, I guess... do the A's and Rays draft and develop any bette than the Twins... Or, did they get lucky with guys like Matt Moore in the 8th round? I don't know the answer to that.
    1. birdwatcher's Avatar
      birdwatcher -
      Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Brooks View Post
      The Rays and A's seem to do a pretty good job at it.
      Yes, The Rays and A's are pretty good at it too, but remember, they've both had extended cycles of subpar MLB results and benefitted hugely by having a favrable draft order.

      In this year's draft, the pundits say there are MAYBE a half-dozen blue chip prospects. The third-best pitcher is touted as a posible #2-3 starter in MLB. Last year was even worse. So, let's assume for a moment that the average draft contains 10 blue-chippers. A team that has had a top ten pick most years for a decade SHOULD be "pretty good at it", don't you think?
    1. birdwatcher's Avatar
      birdwatcher -
      mike, Ben Revere was a draft choice, right? He got good enough to have trade value, and fetched us Worley and May. So none of the guys in the rotation were drafted by the team. That's your story and you're sticking to it. Hendriks was signed by them, Gibson is next in line, Worley is a product of Revere. But just ignore that, and pretend the Twins just can't seem to develop their own talent. By the way it's been TWO, not three, horrible years, preceeded by quite a few decent years, but let's ignore this too.
    1. Mr. Brooks's Avatar
      Mr. Brooks -
      I dont think either of the last 2 posters realize that I was talking about pitchers they have drafted LATER than the first couple of rounds.
      I am not really sure what draft order has to do with anything when you are talking about players being drafted after every team has already passed on them at least once.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      I'm assuming this year is going to be awful, I should have made that clear, I thought I had, but I guess not.....but again, I'm done. Not much for me to add one way or the other, and we just won't agree......I do agree with the idea that trading guys for other guys counts, but I thought I addressed that when I said, they are able to do that because they are willing to stink (my words and belief) this year.....if they wanted to compete this year, I think it would be harder to make those trades for minor leaguers. But again, I've already said that, and I'm not sure what new i can say.

      I'm not ignoring anyting, all of what you posted was attempted to be addressed. If I failed in that, my apologies.
    1. birdwatcher's Avatar
      birdwatcher -
      it was a good discussion, mike. no apologies required. I appreciate your civility.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      I promise, Seth, next time I'll concentrate just on the year....and NOT bring this up.....Indeed, I am kind of curious to look at a few other teams to see how they really do, and see how they are really built....my assumptions might just be off, would not surprise me. So if anything, you've given me another reason to spend time on the interwebs....

      BW, glad to read.
    1. Loosey's Avatar
      Loosey -
      My feeling has always been the Twins try to get the best value out of their 1st round picks. Instead of shooting for the stars and going all in on a high school pitching prospect that has a 50/50 chance of either bombing out or becoming a super star, they take the "safer" college pitcher with less upside but only a 25% of being a complete bust but a 75% of being a #3 starter. Whether this is right or wrong I don't know, I do know however that a team full of #3 starters isn't going to win many World Series. . . .
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by Loosey View Post
      My feeling has always been the Twins try to get the best value out of their 1st round picks. Instead of shooting for the stars and going all in on a high school pitching prospect that has a 50/50 chance of either bombing out or becoming a super star, they take the "safer" college pitcher with less upside but only a 25% of being a complete bust but a 75% of being a #3 starter. Whether this is right or wrong I don't know, I do know however that a team full of #3 starters isn't going to win many World Series. . . .
      Or they just draft a toolsy H School OF...
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by Loosey View Post
      My feeling has always been the Twins try to get the best value out of their 1st round picks. Instead of shooting for the stars and going all in on a high school pitching prospect that has a 50/50 chance of either bombing out or becoming a super star, they take the "safer" college pitcher with less upside but only a 25% of being a complete bust but a 75% of being a #3 starter. Whether this is right or wrong I don't know, I do know however that a team full of #3 starters isn't going to win many World Series. . . .
      This was actually one of the premises that the pundits lauded the A's with from Moneyball.
    1. Kwak's Avatar
      Kwak -
      Quote Originally Posted by birdwatcher View Post
      Yes, The Rays and A's are pretty good at it too, but remember, they've both had extended cycles of subpar MLB results and benefitted hugely by having a favrable draft order.

      In this year's draft, the pundits say there are MAYBE a half-dozen blue chip prospects. The third-best pitcher is touted as a posible #2-3 starter in MLB. Last year was even worse. So, let's assume for a moment that the average draft contains 10 blue-chippers. A team that has had a top ten pick most years for a decade SHOULD be "pretty good at it", don't you think?
      The A's have had a great deal of success by trading high-quality SPs for multiple SPs. They wind up with a higher number of quality pitchers (who are also younger and haven't yet been injured) that coincidentily have a much lower salary. It seems to me that these guys don't spend much time in the minors before being promoted to the ML (as opposed to the Twins).
    1. Han Joelo's Avatar
      Han Joelo -
      I'm not going to whitewash the past, but give the Twins some credit for drafting HS arms Berrios and Boyd with high picks.

      As for Bard, Melatokis, and Chargois (No-Run BMC), if even one of them develops into a viable starter, I'd be happy, especially if the other two made it as relievers. Imagine if all three were to make it as starter: Someone would write a book about how the Twins revolutionized draft strategy
    1. Han Joelo's Avatar
      Han Joelo -
      Hudson: OK. Mulder was great in that he soon broke down and Haren was a stud. But they didn't get much for Haren or Gonzalez. The Andrew Bailey deal worked out pretty good. Not resigning Zito (like they had a chance) was smart. However, considering what he yielded in free agent dollars, how much could they have reaped by sticking to their "philosophy" and trading him for prospects?

      Quote Originally Posted by Kwak View Post
      The A's have had a great deal of success by trading high-quality SPs for multiple SPs. They wind up with a higher number of quality pitchers (who are also younger and haven't yet been injured) that coincidentily have a much lower salary. It seems to me that these guys don't spend much time in the minors before being promoted to the ML (as opposed to the Twins).
    1. The Wise One's Avatar
      The Wise One -
      Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Brooks View Post
      I'm not saying the Rays and A's hit on every single pitcher they take, that would be impossible.
      I'm saying those 2 organizations hit a lot more than most, so I have a hard time believing that it is purely luck. Clearly there is something those 2 organizations are doing better when it comes to scouting and/or developing pitchers outside of the first couple rounds.
      Outside o
      f the first round, what pitcher other than Leake and Baily has the Oakland braintrust drafted in the later rounds that panned out. You have to go all of the way back to 1998. Is that the track record you want to emulate? They have been very good at trading for prospects and first round pick ups.
      Tampa Bay can draft but not pay for players. Their trades have not worked out so well. Every organization does some things well, some not.
    1. Mr. Brooks's Avatar
      Mr. Brooks -
      Quote Originally Posted by The Wise One View Post
      Outside o
      f the first round, what pitcher other than Leake and Baily has the Oakland braintrust drafted in the later rounds that panned out. You have to go all of the way back to 1998. Is that the track record you want to emulate? They have been very good at trading for prospects and first round pick ups.
      Tampa Bay can draft but not pay for players. Their trades have not worked out so well. Every organization does some things well, some not.
      I'm not saying they hit HR's with those picks, but they at least get some value out of them.
      Dallas Braden gave them 4.5 wins above replacement from the 24th round, and would have given them more if not for injuries.
      A.J. Griffin was a 13th rounder
      Dan Straily was a 24th rounder
      Trevor Cahill was a 2nd rounder
      Dan Haren was a 2nd rounder
      Rich Harden was a 13th rounder

      Now how many starting pitchers have the Twins drafted outside of the first round over the last several years that have given them any value?
    1. Kwak's Avatar
      Kwak -
      Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Brooks View Post
      I'm not saying they hit HR's with those picks, but they at least get some value out of them.
      Dallas Braden gave them 4.5 wins above replacement from the 24th round, and would have given them more if not for injuries.
      A.J. Griffin was a 13th rounder
      Dan Straily was a 24th rounder
      Trevor Cahill was a 2nd rounder
      Dan Haren was a 2nd rounder
      Rich Harden was a 13th rounder

      Now how many starting pitchers have the Twins drafted outside of the first round over the last several years that have given them any value?
      Likely more than those drafted in the first round--because the Twins have had precious little success with pitchers selected in the first round.
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