Sunday, June 3, 2012

Draft Preview: Part Deux

The pervading belief going into the 2012 MLB Draft is that it's a relatively weak draft class with little of the top-flight talent seen in recent years (i.e. Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper and David Price). This doesn't bode well for a team picking at the top of the draft, like the Minnesota Twins at #2 overall. I would like to throw in the qualifier that there is simply little obvious top-flight talent. There is a mess of about 6 players that occupy the top of most draft boards and each have a shot at being a worthy choice #2 pick in any draft, though they do all have their shortcomings (significant in some cases). My partner-in-crime, Andy Johnson, wrote a summary of three of the top prospects in this years draft including the consensus top two in Byron Buxton and Mark Appell as well his man-crush Mike Zunino. Here are a few other options the Twins will have with their first choice:

Carlos Correa: It's difficult to emphasize how important age is for a potential draftee. Rany Jazayerli recently did a study that showed that, on average, the youngest quintile of a draft class is expected to significantly outperform their older counterparts.  Especially for high school hitters, which is relevant for Correa as he is a 17-year old shortstop fresh out of Puerto Rican high-school (or their equivalent). So Carlos has that going for him - which is nice.

Aside from his young age, Carlos has the ability to play shortstop, absurd hitting potential and boasts a projectable, big body at 6'4" 190 lbs. While he may outgrow his position and be forced to move to third, his bat could play at any position. Scouts love his athleticism and all-around hitting talent and rave about his plus power potential. Correa has been shooting up big boards in the last month topping out at #1 on Kevin Goldstein's list for Baseball Prospectus and #2 overall for Keith Law. The 'low man on the totem pole' on Correa is Baseball America who have him rated at #6 overall. The youngin' has the potential to be the best player to come out of this year's draft, but as a 17-year old, he will take a long time to develop and carries a lot of risk.

Kevin Gausman: I'm not great at this, but I'm like 95% sure that Gausman means 'man who throws gas'. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I'll run with it. Gausman does indeed throw gas; his fastball, sitting in the mid-90's and occasionally hitting 99, can match anyone in the draft class. He also throws a mean change-up that Law puts a 60 on (20-80 scale). Two plus pitches to go along with a 6'4" frame is a nice starter kit for a future top-of-the-rotation pitcher. He needs to find more consistency with a breaking ball, although his slider does flash plus potential.

Until recently, the LSU product was viewed as the third best college starting pitcher in the draft, behind Mark Appell and Kyle Zimmer. However, with Appell as the favorite to go 1.1 and Zimmer falling due to injury Gausman could very well be the best available option at #2.

Lucas Giolito: Hands down the pitcher with the most upside in draft, Giolito is the biggest wildcard in the draft. Entering the season, most experts had him #1 on their draft boards and a likely target for the Twins at #2. However, he missed most of his high school season with a sore elbow, scaring many teams away from spending a top pick on him. Others aren't convinced the injury is serious in the long-term, as an MRI revealed no structural damage and doctor's gave him a clean bill of health. Although it's easy to understand why teams will be wary with him as so many young pitchers are missing entire years with elbow injuries and soreness like this cannot be totally ignored.

Before the injury, Giolito, 6'6" 230 lbs, hit 100 mph with his fastball, showed a hammer curve in the mid-80's and solid change-up. Pretty much a perfect package coming out of high school. He's an interesting case, if he was picked by Houston at 1.1 nobody would say it was reach. Conversely nobody would be shocked if he wasn't drafted at all based on signability concerns (he probably wants a ton of $$$).

So what should the Twins do?

I can't say I have a favorite this year. I just hope the Twins go with whoever is the best available player on their draft board. Some players would get me more excited than others, like Buxton, Correa, Giolito or Appell. But, I don't think there really is a wrong pick to be made here. And there are plenty of good options. The college guys are the least risky, will be able to make an impact by the beginning of 2014 and all fit perfectly with the current needs of the major league team. The downside is their upside is limited as none project as elite players.

The high-school guys on the other hand all have elite potential but come with some serious risk. Buxton might be the safest of the group. His elite speed and great arm give him the tools to play a great center field for years to come, though his hitting ability is very raw. He's kind of like a rich man's Aaron Hicks (for you Twins fans out there). All the tools are there, but he'll have to develop his bat to stick in the majors. If Buxton is taken #1 overall, then Correa is likely to be in the mix for the Twins (see below), he recently came into MN for his second private workout with the club, so they are clearly interested. Giolito, even though I'd love him, is probably too risky based on his injury and possible money demands. The Twins will probably pass on him and take somebody with fewer question marks.

All in all, from what I've read, I believe the Twins will take Byron Buxton with their first pick. In that scenario, everyone in Minnesota should be very excited. However, Houston has yet to commit to a guy at 1.1, so there is the possibility the Twins won't even get a shot at Buxton. In this case, I think it comes down to Appell and Correa, and I think they go with Appell. This choice would be more up for a debate. Our very own Andy Johnson is not a huge fan and he isn't alone.

Regardless of which player they pick, I trust the Twins scouting staff to do a good job and net a future big leaguer on Monday and I'm excited to see what happens.

UPDATE 5:26 PM: ESPN's Jim Bowden tweeted:

Still nothing is set in stone, so this obviously subject to change, but Bowden is reasonably reliable source of information so it counts for something. If Appell is the #1 selection, Byron Buxton is the expected choice at #2. Although there is an outside chance at Carlos Correa or Kevin Gausman.

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