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06/01/06 8:00 AM ET
Twins will stay the course on Draft Day
Radcliff and staff don't forsee changes in philosophy
By Kelly Thesier / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- If there is one thing that the Twins organization is known for, it's developing its own players and getting them to the Major Leagues.
And that process all begins with the First-Year Player Draft.
The Twins have received their fair share of organizational awards and kudos over the past few years and much of that success has been attributed to the stock the organization places on the draft. As the club approaches this year's draft on June 6-7, that philosophy remains unchanged.
"Any accolade that you get from your colleagues is always nice," Twins director of scouting Mike Radcliff said. "The draft is not a perfect deal, but our objective is always to beat our competition. Hopefully as a staff we are on the same page in what to look for and then we try to reap the rewards of that over time in our system."
But unlike previous years where the Twins have had a fairly significant number of early picks, this year they have just one in the first round at No. 20. The Twins have a total of only three picks in the first three rounds, whereas last year they had five.
Pitching has always been an area of strength throughout the Twins organization and as witnessed by their first round selection of right-hander Matt Garza out of Fresno State last year, it's an area that they will continue to target. The Twins also placed a high focus on the middle infield in the 2005 draft, a spot that was deemed a weak point.
"You always have to look at your system and assess where you're at," Radcliff said of determining what to look for in the draft. "We try to do it in five-year increments to determine the areas where you have depth and certain areas you do not. One of them in the last few years has definitely been infield play, where the Dominican and Venezuelan programs didn't quite produce like we thought in those areas so we had to address it in the draft."
But with this year's draft appearing to be lacking in all areas, the Twins feel like they will be a little more relient on what talent is left available than in previous years.
"This is one of the weakest drafts ever since I've been doing it," said Radcliff, who is in his 13th year at the helm for the Twins. "The 2000 draft is generally recognized as one of the worst drafts ever, and I have to believe this one is going to be right in the same class overall.
"But even in that draft, there were good players so you just have to find the right one and pick him -- that's the challenge every year."
After some struggles with first-round picks near the end of the 1990s, the Twins have rebounded in recent years with such selections as current starting catcher Joe Mauer in 2001 along with some high rise other prospects in the organization like outfielder Denard Span (2003) and third baseman Matt Moses (2003).
Part of the credit for the recent success has been attributed to general manager Terry Ryan's ability to keep continuity within his scouting staff. Though Radcliff said there have been many factors to the organization's success, he did agree that having a staff that has been together so long has been a large asset in the drafting process.
"That's something we've focused on," Radcliff said. "Camaraderie and chemistry on a scouting staff is probably just as important as talent. It's all about being on the same page and working together on the decisions that you have to make over the course of a year leading up to a draft."
Now is the time where Radcliff and his team of scouts really shine, but the director knows even one bad year can lead to a dropoff in Minor League talent.
"It is nice to get recognized, but you can't sit back on your laurels," Radcliff said. "The draft is a humbling creature. It will bite you as soon as you think you have it figured it out."
LAST THREE TOP PICKS
Matt Garza, RHP, 2005, pick No. 25: A pitcher designated to be on the fast track, Garza began his first full season in the organization at Class A Fort Myers but was already was promoted to Double-A New Britain. Garza could have a shot at making two first-half All-Star teams as he carried a 1.42 ERA in eight starts while striking out 55 and wowed in his first two starts with the Rockcats by not allowing a run in 13 2/3 innings.
Trevor Plouffe, SS, 2004, pick No. 20: The first of three Twins first-round picks that year, Plouffe signed quickly and batted .283 in 60 games at rookie-level Elizabethton. Plouffe has shown a tendency to struggle offensively, as has been the case so far this season with Fort Myers, where he's hitting just .211 through 42 games.
Matt Moses, 3B, 2003, pick No. 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 in 2004. Now at Double-A New Britain, Moses has shown that he has some power in his bat, but his defense needs some work before the Twins could look to him as their third baseman.