The calendar turned to September over a week ago and change can stay with a failing team into the final month of the year. On the Minnesota Twins, younger players continue to get more playing time over veterans like Ryan Doumit and Josh Willingham. It is the time of year for the Twins to see what the future might hold and changes like this can bring up other questions.
The last two seasons, the Twins have been able to see the value of having a high draft pick. Byron Buxton and Kohl Stewart were added to the fold over the last two years to bolster a minor league system that is considered one of the best in baseball. The higher a team can draft, the more money the club can spend and, we hope, receive better prospects.
This can lead to some questions about tanking in the final month of the year. Over at ESPN's SweetSpot Blog, the idea of tanking was discussed
since there is a cluster of team's battling to be in the top 10 draft picks for 2014. For example, the Mets are trotting out a final month rotation that includes Daisuke Matsuzaka and Aaron Harang. These aren't your father's "Amazing Mets."
Minnesota hasn't signed a bunch of aging veterans in the last couple weeks to fill their rotation but some might argue that was the team's overall strategy during last offseason. Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey have pitched the most innings on Minnesota's staff and each man has an ERA north of 4.00. One expected this kind of production from these two and it doesn'thelp that other members of the rotation have failed to live up to expectations.
At the end of 2012, the Twins finished with 96 losses but it wasn't because of terrible play in September. The club went 13-15 during the final month and their .464 winning percentage was their second highest for any month. June was the only month the club finished over .500 with a 14-13 record. Minnesota entered the month in the fourth draft position and that's where they finished.
The month of September in 2011 was a bit different story. Minnesota started the month in fourth place in the AL Central and they were in line to get the fourth pick in the 2012 draft. An awful final month saw the team go 6-20 to post a monthly .231 winning percentage. It was their worst record for any month and the team ended up improving their draft position from fourth to second.
As the final month of the 2013 season got underway, the Twins were in the sixth position for next year's draft. There were only four games separating them from the Angels, the team that started the month positioned to get the13th draft pick. Entering play on Tuesday, Minnesota had accumulated a 5-6 record for the month and they are now tied with Milwaukee for the fifth pick. With two fewer wins, they would be in the fourth spot.
There are plenty of benefits to having a top 10 pick in the draft. Obviously, a team gets more money to spend in their draft pool for next June. Also, a team with a top 10 pick has a protected first round pick. This means the front office can approach top tier free agents without fear of losing the club's top draft pick. Some teams have run into this issue with the recent switch in the collective bargaining agreement and it doesn't seem fair for clubs trying to rebuild.
The Twins haven't been known to spend a ton in the free agent market so this wrinkle in the free agent system might not be a huge issue for them. Willingham has been the club's biggest free agent acquisition in recent years and he wasn't in the top tier. Players like like Doumit, Pelfrey, and Correia haven't been huge names but they have found their way to Minnesota.
There are going to be plenty of openings in the starting rotation for Minnesota. It might be nice for the team to have the opportunity to go after a top free agent. This likely will only happen if the team's first round pick is protected. It has never been Terry Ryan's strategy to spend big money on pitchers but the club might need to change this behavior to be more productive next year.
September can be a time to try out plenty of pieces for the future. Minnesota will continue to audition some of their younger players to see what they have lined up for next year. The losses might continue to pile up but the team isn't exactly in tank mode.
At least not yet...