Thursday, June 5, 2008

Draft Preview

Tomorrow is day one of the 2008 MLB draft, and this is an important one for the Twins, who hold picks #14, #27, and #31 after the departure of Type A free agent Torii Hunter. I've never paid any attention to the draft in the past, but this year I'm really excited to follow the action starting tomorrow at 2 PM on ESPN2. Before the draft takes place though, I'm going to go over some of the players who have been linked to the Twins (or who I think should be linked to them at least). There's a good article in the Star Tribune today about the Twins' draft options here, and the quotes about the players come from this article.

Gordon Beckham, SS, University of Georgia (Jr.)
I'll start off with this: I know that there's no chance of Beckham falling to #14, but I just wish there were. He started every game and led the SEC champion Bulldogs by hitting .397/.505/.781 with 24 home runs, 17 stolen bases, and only 29 strikeouts. Beckham was a first team All-American, the SEC Player of the Year, and is one of five finalists for the Golden Spikes Award, given to the top US amateur. All in all, he's an established college player who could be playing for the Twins in a couple of years and he projects to be able to stay at shortstop, which is a very weak position in the organization. It's too bad that those are the same reasons that he'll be gone by the time the Twins make their first pick of the day.

Christian Friedrich, LHP, Eastern Kentucky (Jr.)
Unlike Beckham, most mock drafts actually have Friedrich being available at pick 14, and I haven't seen any that put him in the top 10. Friedrich is the best college lefty in the draft, and he absolutely dominated the Ohio Valley Conference for his sub-.500 team, as a potential top 15 pick should. He started 10 games and allowed only 32 hits (including just one home run) in 65.2 innings, which works out to a miniscule .142 BAA. He also struck out 86 batters and walked only 24 with a 1.78 ERA. All in all, if the Twins liked Friedrich here, I would be happy with the pick, but I'd rather see them go for a top college hitter if one is available at this spot. According to Neal's article, the Twins "like" Friedrich (really candid, I know), and he is a definite possibility at #14.

Brett Wallace, 3B/1B, Arizona State (Jr.)
Another Golden Spikes Award finalist, Wallace led the Sun Devils to a 48-11 record and a spot in the NCAA Super Regionals this week. Wallace has a good shot at being around when the Twins pick, although there are a few teams in front of the Twins who could also take him, especially the Athletics at #12. At first, I thought Wallace would be the best reasonable pick (reasonable=excluding guys like Beckham) for the Twins, but since then I've read that his 6-1, 245 pound body will force him to leave his college position of third base for first base. I don't really buy into the whole body-type-forcing-a-guy-to-change-positions thing, but scouts still think he won't be able to play first in the majors, which significantly alters his value. Nonetheless, the the 2-time Pac-10 Player of the Year and 2-time Pac-10 triple crown winner would still be a great pick for the Twins, a polished college slugger with great plate discipline. He has hit .414/.531/.762 with 21 homers and 16 stolen bases for the Sun Devils so far in 2008. Wallace does not seem like a typical Twins' pick, and I haven't seen any substantive rumors about him going to the Twins, so this probably won't happen.

Jemile Weeks, 2B, University of Miami (Jr.)
Weeks, the brother of the Brewers' Rickie Weeks, is projected to go in the first round, though I've seen varying reports on where exactly. The Twins "really like" Weeks, though the article mentions him being taken at 27 or 31, not #14. He's only 5-9 and does not have nearly the power of many of the college sluggers, but plays a more valuable defensive position. Nonetheless I don't think the Twins should take him at 14 either, and there's a pretty good chance he'll be taken by a team like the Mets before pick #27. Weeks has paced the ACC Champion and #1 ranked Hurricanes with 19 stolen bases while hitting .366/.447/.639 this season.

Reese Havens, SS/3B, University of South Carolina (Jr.)
I haven't really heard Havens' name linked to the Twins, but I think he could be a good pick for them. Most projections have him going #29 to the Red Sox, and like Wallace, a lot of value rides on his position. If he can stay at shortstop, he'd be much more valuable than if he has to move over to the more offensive-oriented third base position. Of course, Havens is no slouch on offense either; he hit .359/.486/.645 for the Gamecocks this season. I think Havens would be a nice pick for the Twins at #27 and a great pick at 31, especially if he can stay at short, though most reports I've seen have him eventually needing to move to third.

Aaron Hicks, RHP/OF, Woodrow Wilson HS (CA)
Hicks is your typical high-upside, toolsy high schooler, similar to former Twins' former 2nd round pick Joe Benson. These types of guys tend to be very hit or miss, in the sense of whether they ever put the tools together to become a baseball player in addition to an amazing athlete. Equal numbers of mocks have had him as a pitcher and an outfielder, though Hicks himself has stated a preference to hit. I'm assuming that the Twins would draft him as a hitter, but I obviously don't really know. It's hard to be disappointed when your team picks a guy as athletic as Hicks, and if the Twins do pick him I'm sure I'll be excited about him. However, while being rational and unbiased before the draft, I'd prefer it if the Twins chose someone more polished and less risky (namely a college player). The Twins are "impressed with" Hicks, but he might be gone by pick 14, as he's been linked to multiple teams including the Rangers and (surprisingly) the A's.

Brett Lawrie, 3B/C, Brookswood HS (Canada)
Lawrie is a guy who has been absolutely rocketing up draft lists, moving from unheard of to now possibly going #7 to the Reds. He's considered by scouts to be one of the most polished high school hitters in recent memory. If he doesn't go to the Reds at #7, he has a good chance of falling to the Twins, and, being a guy that they "really like," the Canadian could easily be their choice. For the same reasons I mentioned above, I'd rather have the Twins take a more proven hitter, but the scouts' talk of Lawrie is very encouraging.

Here is my (reasonable) wish list of what I'd like the Twins to do:
14- Brett Wallace
27- Jemile Weeks
31- Reese Havens

These are my predictions of what the Twins will actually do today (yes, they'll all be wrong I'm sure):
14- Brett Lawrie
27- Jemile Weeks
31- Brett DeVall (he's a high school pitcher, and no, I didn't feel like writing about any more guys)

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