The 1989 Minnesota Twins Draft Class
I first started paying close attention to the draft in 1989, when I got a Baseball America subscription. It was like a whole new aspect of the game opening up to me. Naturally, as a Twins fan I followed that first class very closely. And the 1989 Twins draft was extremely successful.
The Twins picked 25th that year. Scouting director Terry Ryan and his staff went for a mix of college and high school talent. Here is what they got, a full look at the first ten rounds and then other guys who made the Show:
1) Chuck Knoblauch, SS, Texas A&M
Scouts liked his speed and on-base ability, though most projected that he'd have to move to second base due to a weak arm. He did very well in the minors, adjusting rapidly to pro competition. The starting second baseman for the 1991 World Series champions, he was Minnesota's best player aside from Kirby for most of the mid 1990s. He was traded to the Yankees in 1998, bringing Eric Milton and Cristian Guzman to Minnesota. Worn down physically, he faded early and was finished at age 34. Four-time All Star, American League Rookie of the Year in 1991. Obviously a successful pick. Career record of .289/.378/.406 with 407 stolen bases in 1632 games.
2) John Gumpf, OF, Poly HS, Riverside, CA
Gumpf was a toolsy outfielder with good raw power, but scouts also said he had a hitch in his swing, and would need to make adjustments to hit at higher levels. Alas, he failed to make these adjustments, and was out of the game after hitting just .208 in the Midwest League in 1991.
3) Denny Neagle, LHP, University of Minnesota
Strike-throwing college lefty with a local connection, Neagle pitched brilliantly in the minors in 1990, going 20-3 with a 186/47 K/BB in 184 innings. He reached the majors in 1991 but didn't impress Tom Kelly, resulting in a trade to Pittsburgh in the spring of 1992 as part of the package for John Smiley. Neagle struggled for three years with the Pirates, then broke through as a solid starter in 1995. His best season was 1997, when he went 20-5, 2.97 in 34 starts for the Braves. Career record of 124-92, 4.24 ERA with 1415/594 K/BB in 1890 innings. Two-time All star.
4) Scott Erickson, RHP, University of Arizona
Righthander with power sinker but occasional control problems. Blossomed quickly, reaching the majors within a year of being drafted. Went 20-8 for 1991 World Series team, with 3.18 ERA. It was his best season; he became quite erratic after that, occasionally brilliant but often too hittable. He rebounded a bit after a trade to Baltimore, but he fell apart physically in 2000 and never recovered. Career record of 142-136, 4.57 ERA with 1250/858 K/BB in 2349 innings.
5) Jay Richardson, OF, Northside HS, Ft. Smith, AR
Toolsy high school outfielder, did not sign.
6) Ken Norman, OF, Sweetwater HS, Sweetwater, TX
Toolsy high school outfielder, had good speed but never hit with any authority. Topped out in Double-A in 1995.
7) Ray Ortiz, 1B-OF, Oklahoma State University
Ortiz had some power from the left side, but was something of a tweener, lacking the speed to be a really good outfielder but not hitting with enough power to be a first baseman. Topped out in Triple-A.
8) Jeff Thelen, RHP, Craig HS, Janesville, WI
Thelen was a young projectable righthander with an upper 80s fastball that scouts thought would get faster. It didn't. Topped out in the California League in 1992.
9) Troy Buckley, C, Santa Clara University
Hit .307 in the California League in 1990, but just .254 when he repeated the circuit in 1991. Had trouble finding a position, and didn't hit enough to force the issue.
10) Marty Cordova, 3B, Orange Coast Junior College
Junior college third baseman converted to the outfield. Had injury problems in 1990 and 1991, but was healthy in 1992 and broke out with a huge season in the California League, hitting .341 with 28 homers and 131 RBI. Made the major league team in 1995 and hit .277 with 24 homers and 20 steals, earning Rookie of the Year honors. He followed that up with a strong 1996 season, but faded after that, struggling with injuries and erratic strike zone judgment. Hit .274/.344/.448 in 952 games. Pretty solid career for a 10th round pick.
11) Dan Masteller, 1B, Michigan State University
Line drive hitter with good plate discipline and a good glove, but not much power, sort of a lesser version of Doug Mientkiewicz. Got a 71-game trial with the Twins in 1995, hitting .237/.303/.343.. Masteller never returned to the majors, but at least he got there. Seemed to remind Tom Kelly of himself.
14) Mike Trombley, RHP, Duke University
Trombley had an average fastball but a very good curveball and splitter. He emerged as a sleeper prospect with very strong pitching performances in the minors in '90, '91, and '92, although scouts never liked him much. Nowadays he'd be a stathead prospect darling. He reached the majors in 1992, but it took him four years to really put things together. He had several solid years as a middle reliever in his late 20s and early 30s before fading out with the Dodgers in 2001. Career record 37-47, 4.48 ERA, 44 saves, 672/319 K/BB in 796 innings.
15) George Tsamis, LHP, Stetson University
Sort of a lefty version of Trombley: not huge velocity, but decent movement on his pitches with decent control. Won 23 games in Triple-A in 1991 and 1992, earning a shot in the Twins bullpen in 1993. He was used in garbage relief and pitched poorly, with a 6.19 ERA in 41 games. Never saw the majors again.
52) Denny Hocking, SS, El Camino Junior College
Originally a catcher, but converted to infield to make better use of his quickness, speed, and athleticism. Emerged as a prospect by hitting .331 with 38 steals in the California League in 1992. Inherited the Al Newman Memorial Utility Infielder Roster Spot and held it for eight years. Hit .251/.310/.344 in 954 career games. Not a great player, but had some value when deployed properly and not overexposed.
In this draft alone, Terry Ryan and his scouts found two Rookie of the Year hitters, two starting pitchers who each won more than 100 games at the major league level, a solid utility infielder, a solid utility pitcher, and two other guys who got a cup of coffee. Not a bad days work, I'd say.