Can you imagine the difficult decision that highly-drafted high school kids have to make? Do they sign a signing bonus for seven (or at least upper six) figures, or do they go to a college whose coaches have recruited them and clearly want him to play for their school? For a couple of Twins prospects, that decision was all too real.
The Twins had two supplemental first round draft picks in 2011 thanks to losing free agents Michael Cuddyer and Matt Capps. As a result of having one of the best records in the game in 2010, the Twins had the 30th
overall pick. They drafted infielder Levi Michael and signed him for $1.175 million. With their two supplemental first round picks, the Twins went the high school route, selecting third baseman Travis Harrison and right-handed pitcher Hudson Boyd.
Harrison has started all five games at third base this year for Cedar Rapids while Boyd was the starting pitcher in their second game. This weekend in Cedar Rapids, I asked these two top talents just how hard the decision was for them to sign with the Twins and forego their college scholarships.
Harrison said that the decision for him was very hard. “It was because I fell in love with USC. I did. That place is awesome. It’s close enough to my house where there are a lot of people who would support it. But then I got picked by the Twins which is exciting. They didn’t even give me a first offering until two days before the deadline. So, it wasn’t like we were trying to wait. That happened like that, and I think it was a good decision overall.”
When the Twins did make an offer and it was negotiated, the finally agreed upon a signing bonus of $1.05 million.
“My family was supportive of what I wanted to do. In the end, realizing that I really wanted to go pro, I really wanted to do it. With that said, I was ready to go to USC. You really have to balance what you want. I feel like baseball is my thing, so I wanted to go that way. Fortunately the Twins provided that offer so I could.”
He made his debut in 2012 with Elizabethton. He hit .301/.383/.461 with 12 doubles, four triples and five home runs. Manager Jake Mauer believes that his power will come.
“He’s strong. He’s strong in his hands for a young man. (When) he starts recognizing pitches and tendencies, and not only that but what he can really lock in to, you’ll see him start knocking the ball out of the park. It’s learning yourself. Learning what pitches you can take a chance on, per se. Understanding points of the game and counts, when to do it.”
Harrison had three doubles in his first four games with the Kernels this season and last night, he hit his first home run of the season.
The biggest question with Harrison seems to be his glove. Can he stay at third base? At E-Town last year he committed 24 errors in 59 games. He said he worked hard on the defense in the offseason. He was at the ballpark and on the first four hours before game time getting extra groundballs from Mauer. Tommy Watkins said he works hard and has already shown great improvement this spring.
“I played outfield in high school. I played 3B for my high school team, but that’s only 15-20 games a year. I’m still fairly new to the position. Last year I was mostly learning it. This year, I put a lot of work in the offseason, so it feels like night and day different. I make it a priority to get out there with Jake every day, and just keep getting better.”
For Boyd, the decision was just as difficult. The Ft. Myers native could sign with the Twins, or go to the University of Florida. He was the 55th
overall pick in the draft, and he had a certain number in mind. When the Twins made that offer, he agreed to sign. It was not an easy decision, but it was one that he is very happy with.
“It was a tough decision, mostly because I really wanted to go to Florida just because I was a big Gator fan growing up. My brother went there. He graduated from there. Me and Coach O’Sullivan had a pretty good relationship.”
Like Harrison, Boyd signed just minutes before the deadline that August. The Twins had to go slightly over slot to sign him for $1 million.
“I think I made the right decision. I mean, you don’t really get to the big leagues by going to college.”
At Elizabethton a year ago, he went 2-5 with a 2.95 ERA. In 58 innings, he walked 23 and struckout 36. He was a large man, but he made the effort in the offseason to lose some weight and get in better shape. He is still not the skinniest guy on the team, but he now looks like a pitcher. His velocity in his first outing was good. He sat 89-91 but he hit 93 mph a few times. He also showed a very good changeup and a tremendous curveball. He has a ways to go, but he will work and will improve.
The Twins got a couple of extra picks in the 2011 draft, and they used the strategy of taking a couple of big, strong, powerful high school kids with high ceilings. So far, so good for both as they enter their first full seasons in 2013. Harrison will turn 21 on October 17. Boyd will turn 21 on October 18. Both will develop slowly, but each has the potential to be an impact player for the Twins for years to come.