05/30/05 2:25 PM ET
Twins look to build on reputation in draft
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
Minnesota has received organizational awards and accolades in recent years, in part because of its dedication and devotion to scouting and player development. That commitment often bears many fruits during the annual First-Year Player Draft.
"We've gotten some credit lately with our drafts and player development and that's a positive," Twins scouting director Mike Radcliff said. "But we work hard just like the other teams."
Radcliff insisted that his organization has no secret formula.
"Patience and a lot us have worked together a long time," Radcliff said. "We're reaping the benefits of our solidarity."
Indeed, there is front office continuity. Radcliff is in his 12th year as scouting director and is the longest tenured at the post in Major League Baseball. Twins general manager Terry Ryan has held his job since 1994 and is among the longest-tenured GMs. Jim Rantz has been Minor League director since 1986 and with the organization's front office in other capacities since 1965. Many of the scouts have been with the club for years.
Once again, Ryan, Radcliff and their group will be hunkered down in a conference room inside the Metrodome for the 2005 draft on June 7-8.
"It's one of the parts of the year that's under the radar but these next 10 days are huge," Ryan said. "Because the guys we have here at the Major League level are usually guys we selected in the draft."
Last year, the Twins held three first-round picks and two first-round "sandwich" compensation picks that gave them five selections in the top 39. They used the extra picks well, getting infield prospect Trevor Plouffe (No. 20), and pitching prospects Glen Perkins (No. 22), Kyle Waldrop (No. 25), Matthew Fox (No. 35) and Jay Rainville (No. 39).
There were many solid selections in the later rounds as well and the club signed all of its top 15 picks. Baseball America rated the Twins as having the best draft in 2004.
This year, Minnesota has only one first-round pick at No. 25 overall. But it will have five picks among the first 107 selections this year, mostly in the second round, as compensation for losing free agents Corey Koskie, Cristian Guzman and Henry Blanco.
Like others in the industry, Radcliff believes the 2005 draft lacks talent or depth seen in recent years -- especially in the first round.
"There's usually a dropoff every year somewhere in the middle of the first round," Radcliff said. "This year, it's pretty early. It falls off precipitously and it's hard to tell where the first-round guys are [on the board]. There are 30-40 and we've narrowed it down to six or eight."
Organizational needs are to add middle infield and catching depth. As usual, expect to see many young pitchers selected.
"We're one of the teams willing and able to take high school pitchers," Radcliff said. "We can take high school pitching all the way through. We're not afraid of them. Our player development people have the patience to work with them."
Many clubs don't have patience. Some can't resist the urge to win now and might deal prospects. Even though they endured some dark years in the late '90s, the Twins have stuck with their model of developing from within. Other clubs have begun copying the blueprints.
"We've stayed with it," Radcliff said. "We believe it has long-term benefits."
Three consecutive American League Central division championships with a shot at fourth this season is proof of that.
"The draft is part of it, one large part actually," Ryan said of his club's reputation. "But we wouldn't get that unless the Major League team succeeds."
TWINS DRAFT HISTORY
Although the Twins have been lauded in recent years for how well they draft, the first-round selection has been a mixed bag for Minnesota. For every first-round success like center fielder Torii Hunter (1993), third baseman Michael Cuddyer (1997) and catcher Joe Mauer (2001), there have been mistakes such as pitchers Ryan Mills (1998) and Adam Johnson (2000) and outfielder B.J. Garbe (1999).
LAST THREE TOP PICKS
Trevor Plouffe, SS, 2004, pick #20: The first of three Twins first-round picks, Plouffe signed quickly and batted .283 in 60 games at rookie-level Elizabethton. Turning 19 on June 15, Plouffe is struggling offensively so far at low Class A Beloit.
Matt Moses, 3B, 2003, pick #21: There have been some health setbacks, including a heart defect that was detected the summer he was drafted and a back injury that forced him out over three months last season. Now at high Class A Fort Myers, Moses has delivered with an excellent season to this point.
Denard Span, OF, 2002, pick #20: With his speed, the organization remains hopeful Span can become a leadoff hitter in the mold of the Marlins' Juan Pierre. Like Moses, he is off to a fantastic start with Fort Myers.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.