A shift in personnel, not philosophy
Twins' scouting director has options with three first-round picks
MINNEAPOLIS -- When Terry Ryan stepped down as the Twins' general manager last September, it caused a shift in the organization's entire baseball operations staff, and that included moving longtime scouting director Mike Radcliff into a new role as vice president of player personnel. Deron Johnson, who has been with the organization for the last 15 years, took over as scouting director.
But while the team has seen a shift in roles, not much is expected to be different in terms of the philosophy used in the Twins' Draft room this season."We have a lot of experienced personnel out there watching players for us, and we've always trusted their opinions," Johnson said. "That won't change. And the fact of the matter is that Mike will be right there with me helping to oversee the Draft. Having his help has definitely been a positive. He's run the Draft for 15 years, and I've always admired and monitored the way [he] has done things." The Twins will see if anything does indeed change in how the team approaches its selections, as the club has two picks in the first round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft. The club's original pick comes at No. 14, and it will have an additional pick at No. 27, received from the Angels as compensation for signing Torii Hunter as a free agent this past offseason. MLB.com will carry every pick of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, which takes place June 5-6 at The Milk House at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando, Fla. Day 1 coverage begins at 1 p.m. CT, with a simulcast of ESPN2's broadcast of the first round and compensation picks. The remaining rounds on Day 1 will be shown exclusively at MLB.com, with live analysis on site from MLB.com Draft guru Jonathan Mayo.
Several of the top amateur prospects are expected to be in attendance on Day 1, and each of the 30 Major League clubs will be represented by front-office executives and baseball luminaries. Fans are welcome to attend, and admission is free, with seating limited to a first-come, first-served basis.
Day 2 will get under way at 10:30 a.m. CT and continue through Round 50, if necessary. Every pick on Day 2 can be heard live at MLB.com.
Following is a glance at what the Twins have in store as the 2008 Draft approaches.
In about 50 words
The Twins will have three selections over the first 31 picks, giving them a great opportunity to pick up some talent in what they feel is a Draft with depth, heavy with talented college position players. That bodes well for a team looking to bulk up a system that's lacking strong bats and is stocked with pitching talent. Still, the philosophy is always to take the best player available -- and that means pitchers, too.
"I think we've got a chance to pick and choose what we want. In the past, we've always just gone off our rank and order. This year we can sway a little bit with having three picks so early in the Draft. It ought to be interesting. I think we have a chance to upgrade and get some good players in our system." -- Johnson, on the benefit of having two first-round picks and one supplemental first-round pick
Despite the Twins' assertion that this year's Draft is stocked with college talent, it's two high school players who so far have been most commonly linked with the Twins -- outfielders Aaron Hicks and Zach Collier, both of whom are from Southern California. Left-hander Christian Friedrich, from Eastern Kentucky, could also be of interest if he falls to the Twins' spot. But with the focus on taking the best player available, much is still unknown about whom the Twins might select.
The pitching depth in the Twins organization is well known; it's position prospects that have been lacking. Many of the Twins' recent high Draft picks in the infield have either been slow to progress or haven't panned out. The hope is that the team can use this Draft to help restock some areas and perhaps find a strong bat that might move a little quicker up the ladder of the system.
The last two years, the Twins veered away from pitching with their top picks and went for two other key assets -- power and speed. In selecting a high school outfielder with their first pick in each of the last two Drafts, the Twins showed their willingness to go for players with perhaps a little more upside and, at the same time, risk. But while the Twins are looking to beef up their bats, pitching has always been high on their list. And although the team will likely be looking for position players in their first few picks, it hasn't hesitated to take a strong arm if it's available.
Recent top picks
None of the Twins' first-round picks from the last three Drafts is with the club, but the impact of one of them can certainly be felt on the current roster. Right-hander Matt Garza, the 2005 selection, was traded to Tampa Bay this past offseason in exchange for left fielder Delmon Young and second baseman Brendan Harris. The other two -- outfielders Chris Parmelee (2006) and Ben Revere (2007) -- are both at Class A Beloit. Parmelee is batting .232 with seven home runs and 26 RBIs over 39 games, and Revere is hitting .416 with a .471 on-base percentage in his 18 games since being promoted.
Right-hander Jeff Manship, a 14th-round pick in 2006, has already caught the attention of many in the organization. A former high school standout whose college career was sidetracked by Tommy John ligament-replacement surgery, Manship has started to look like his former self. Back in high-A Fort Myers after finishing there last year, he is 5-1 with a 3.62 ERA over nine starts and could be among the first to move up should there be room at Double-A New Britain.
A 19th-round pick out of the University of Miami in 2006, third baseman Danny Valencia has started to garner attention in the system due to his bat and the lack of other third base prospects. Valencia is hitting .326 in 40 games for Class A Fort Myers with 13 doubles, five home runs and 36 RBIs. His .549 slugging percentage leads the Miracle, and he could push his way up by continuing to produce power numbers.
In the Show
Right-hander Kevin Slowey is the only player on the active roster who came from the Twins' last three Drafts. After a slight setback due to a biceps injury, Slowey is back in the rotation. Despite an 0-4 record and a 5.49 ERA, the right-hander appears to be getting stronger in each start.
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.