06/07/2004 7:01 PM ET
AL Central teams go to the mound
College pitchers high on teams' draft lists
By Jim Molony / MLB.com
The Minnesota Twins have always been a team that did things their own way. So it was not surprising that in a year where most teams were taking college player after college player, the Twins were one of the rare teams still drafting a lot of high school players.
|Justin Verlander is a college pitcher with a very high ceiling. (courtesy Old Dominion U)
Then again the Twins had plenty of picks to spare. Because of free agent losses last winter like Eddie Guardado and LaTroy Hawkins, Minnesota had three first-round picks and two supplemental round draft picks within the top 39 selections -- unprecedented in the history of the franchise. The Twins wound up drafting 54 players during the two days of the First-Year Player Draft.
"We got so many extra picks, we think we took advantage of that," Twins Scouting Director Mike Radcliff said. "Going in, we thought it was an average draft, nothing more -- if you're amenable to taking high school players, which we are."
Of the 54 players drafted by the organization, 24 were out of high schools. Overall, 33 pitchers were taken. But because of the big five picks early, most of the scouting efforts zeroed in on the early rounds of the draft.
Minnesota got a shortstop it coveted with the 20th pick, Trevor Plouffe of Crespi Carmelite High School in Encino, Calif., then used the other four selections to take pitchers they believe can be future starters in lefty Glen Perkins (22nd pick) and right-handers Kyle Waldrop (25th), Matthew Fox (35th) and Jay Rainville (39th).
"We'll be drafting and following guys that might turn out," Radcliff said. "We might spend some money on them eventually. We knew we wouldn't be signing a bunch of guys in this crop on the second day. We focused our resources on the first six or seven or eight rounds."
The Twins only regret was that they were unable to draft a catcher in the first 10 rounds. Other than that, it was a good haul for Minnesota, even if many of them were high school players.
Elsewhere around the AL Central:
Royals: Third baseman Billy Butler, the club's first pick in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, will be in Kansas City on Wednesday after signing a $1.4 million contract Tuesday.
The 18-year-old shortstop from Jacksonville, Fla., is the cream of Kansas City's current crop, which was split between high ceiling high school talent and near-ready collegians. The Royals' 53 selections included 34 pitchers, nine infielders, eight outfielders and two catchers.
"I think everyone knew coming in here we wanted to get an impact-type bat and we were able to get that with our first selection," Royals Senior Director of Scouting Deric Ladnier said. "We wanted to get pitching that could get quickly through our system and be quality Major League starters and I think we did that with the next three selections, (South Carolina lefty Matt) Campbell, (Texas lefty J.P.) Howell and (South Carolina right-hander Billy) Buckner."
"The college guys are quick movers," general manager Allard Baird said. "They've got a feel for pitching and they're playing at a very high level of college baseball and had success. So I expect those guys to move very quickly."
Indians: The Indians used 30 of their 50 selections on pitchers.
"We pretty much knew from the pool of players we were dealing from in this draft that it was very deep and very lopsided in terms of pitching," said John Mirabelli, Cleveland's Assistant General Manager in charge of scouting. "So one thing that stands out is the abundance of pitching. We try to balance out every one of your drafts, if you can. But this one was tilted, obviously, toward pitching."
The Indians landed one of the better arms in the land in Jeremy Sowers, the Vanderbilt product rated the best lefty in the draft by Baseball America. Sowers should be on the fast track to the big leagues, he is that good. But the projected talent level of the pitchers the Tribe took after Sowers is less certain. It is a group with potential but also with question marks.
Among the pitchers the Indians selected after Sowers were Ohio State lefty Scott Lewis, who underwent Tommy John surgery two years ago; Florida right-hander Justin Hoyman, Stanford right-hander Mark Jecmen, Vanderbilt right-hander Jeffrey Sues and Villanova right-hander Adrian Schau.
White Sox: The White Sox selected the impact player they were looking for in Josh Fields, the third baseman from Oklahoma State. Chicago also went hard after lefties, taking 10 southpaws among their 54 selections.
That list includes Clemson hurler Tyler Lumsden, the pitcher selected as a supplemental first-round pick, and Wes Whisler from UCLA and Noblesville, Ind. Fields or Lumsden could have the quickest impact at the Major League level, according to White Sox senior director of player personnel Duane Shafferr. Left-hander Ray Liotta, selected in the second round from Gulf Coast Community College, could be the sleeper of the draft, and Donny Lucy, also a second-round selection, gives the White Sox a much-needed frontline catcher in the minor leagues.
"We took the organization and filled a lot of the holes," said Shaffer, who said the team drafted heavy collegiately at the top and finished with a great deal of high school players.
Tigers: For the first time since 2001, the Tigers selected collegians with each of their first six picks. Four of the first five were right-handed pitchers.
Top pick Justin Verlander is one of the best pitching prospects in the land and expected to move quickly up the organizational ladder.
Verlander's velocity reportedly tops out at 99 miles per hour. That made him the hardest throwing college prospect in the draft, but fifth-round pick Collin Mahoney comes close. While Baseball America ranked Verlander as having the best fastball of draft-eligible college pitchers, it ranked Mahoney second.
Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. MLB.com site reporters contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.