The twenty-second part of my draft preview series is on the Minnesota Twins and their scouting director Deron Johnson.
Owner: The Pohlad family, bought club in 1984
General Manager: Bill Smith, first season was 2008
Scouting Director: Deron Johnson, first draft was 2008
2008 Draft: $7.3 Million Budget
1. Aaron Hicks, OF, Wilson HS (CA), #14 Overall: Hicks was a legitimate two-way first round talent in the 2008 draft, and he could have easily been selected this high as a pitcher. However, in the field he was a five tool talent with a plus-plus arm, making this an excellent selection. Following players selected: Ethan Martin, Brett Lawrie, David Cooper. Signing bonus: $1,780,000.
2. Carlos Gutierrez, RHP, Miami, #27 Overall: Gutierrez wasn’t seen by many as a first-round talent at all, making this quite the opposite from Hicks. He was a sinker/slider closer at Miami, and while he was a possible 3rd-5th round relief arm, the Twins were one of the few that thought of him this highly, and it was a bit of a shocking pick. Following players selected: Gerrit Cole, Lonnie Chisenhall, Casey Kelly. Signing bonus: $1,290,000.
3. Shooter Hunt, RHP, Tulane, #31 Overall: Hunt was seen as a mid first-round pick, though he slid to the Twins with the first pick of the supplemental first round. He had plus stuff, though he didn’t have much command at the time, and his control has fallen apart since. At the time, this pick was considered a bargain. Following players selected: Jake Odorizzi, Brad Holt, Zach Collier. Signing bonus: $1,080,000.
4. Tyler Ladendorf, SS, Howard JC (TX), #60 Overall: Ladendorf was considered as high as an early supplemental first-round prospect, and it’s possible that the Twins were thinking about him with the pick that they took Hunt. He featured plus speed and amazing production, making this an excellent pick. Following players selected: Josh Lindblom, Cody Adams, Kenny Wilson. Signing bonus: $673,000.
5. Bobby Lanigan, RHP, Adelphi (NY), #92 Overall: Lanigan was a solid small college prospect, featuring big size and solid-average stuff. He was expected to go somewhere in the 3rd-6th round range to a team that wanted to use him as a starter, and the Twins picked him in the third. Following players selected: Kyle Russell, Logan Schafer, Andrew Liebel. Signing bonus: $417,000.
Other Notable Selections: RHP B.J. Hermsen (6th), West Delaware HS (IA), $650K bonus.
2009 Draft: $4.7 Million Budget
1. Kyle Gibson, RHP, Missouri, #22 Overall: Gibson was thought of as a top ten talent before he went down with an arm injury shortly before the draft. Teams were unsure of how severe the injury might be, but the Twins ended up getting a top ten talent in bottom third of the first round, an excellent bargain. Following players selected: Jared Mitchell, Randal Grichuk, Mike Trout. Signing bonus: $1,850,000.
2. Matt Bashore, LHP, Indiana, #46 Overall: Bashore was a big college lefty with above-average stuff, though he was overshadowed by first-rounder teammate Eric Arnett. Bashore was considered a solid supplemental first-round talent, making this another solid selection. Following players selected: Kyle Heckathorn, Tyler Kehrer, Victor Black. Signing bonus: $751,500.
3. Billy Bullock, RHP, Florida, #70 Overall: Bullock fought with Stanford’s Drew Storen and Arizona’s Jason Stoffel for much of the year for the title of best closer draft prospect. He featured a power arsenal and big body, and he was considered a solid second-round prospect that had been in the conversation for the late first-round at one point during the spring. Following players selected: David Holmberg, Steve Matz, Max Walla. Signing bonus: $522,000.
4. Ben Tootle, RHP, Jacksonville State, #101 Overall: Tootle was another pitcher who was considered near the first round before unfortunate circumstances showed up. He went down with a stomach bug not long before the draft, and in his weakened state returning, he lost much of his stuff. However, he was still a solid first-day prospect, making this another excellent pick. Following players selected: Bryan Morgado, Robbie Shields, Jake Marisnick. Signing bonus: $324,900.
5. Derek McCallum, 2B, Minnesota, #132 Overall: McCallum was a late bloomer in the college game, but he put together a historic junior season, pushing him up draft boards. He featured a plus hit tool and average raw power, and he was considered a 3rd-5th round prospect. Another solid pick. Following players selected: Matt Heidenreich, Darrell Ceciliani, Adam Warren. Signing bonus: $209,700.
Other Notable Selections: None.
Deron Johnson took over the amateur scouting department from long-time scouting director Mike Radcliff following the 2007 season, a position that Radcliff held for 15 drafting seasons. Needless to say, Johnson had a big some big shoes to fill following his promotion. Prior to the promotion, Johnson had been the Twins’ West Coast Crosschecker for almost a decade, a position that resulted in a fair amount of talent coming into the Minnesota system. Prior to holding that crosschecker position, Johnson had been the Twins’ Northern California area scout, and his scouting instincts are not in question. He’s an excellent evaluator, and the Twins have benefited from having him in their system as they rebuilt towards success with a proven plan under Radcliff’s drafting strategy. Johnson now has a pair of solid drafts under him, and it’s time to look at a few of the trends he’s been following since his first draft in June 2008. To begin, Johnson generally capitalizes on excellent players with higher draft stock falling to him in lower spots. Hicks was picked right where he should have gone, but players like Kyle Gibson, Shooter Hunt, Tyler Ladendorf, and Ben Tootle should have all gone higher than when the Twins grabbed them. That’s an excellent testament to how well the Twins have executed their draft strategy, as they’ve been able to maximize the value in each pick, with the vast majority signing for slot money. Looking beyond that, Johnson has continued much of what Radcliff had started in terms of the type of player that the Twins draft. Generally, they are high makeup players with solid baseball skills. They get a solid mix of upside players with safer players, and the bats they spend high draft picks on are usually more toolsy than polished. The pitchers they draft are quite the opposite, as they have plus command or a lot of experience, with Hunt falling in the latter. This method of operation has been very successful for the Twins as an organization, and I expect more of the same in 2010.
Looking at draft budgeting under Johnson, the Twins have been quite middle of the road. Looking at combined bonus amounts for 2008 and 2009, the Twins rank 17th in draft spending, right behind Texas and Colorado and right ahead of Cleveland, their division rival. If you just look at how much each scouting director has had to spend on average in their years of tenure, then Johnson comes in 12th, behind David Chadd of Detroit and ahead of Brad Grant of Cleveland. That’s behind Kansas City, but ahead of the White Sox, which is to be expected. In general, the Twins are keeping up with their division rivals for draft spending, which is all that can be expected. However, with the opening of a new stadium, it should be interesting to see if the Twins invest a little more in the draft this year. They own picks 21, 71, 102, 135, and every 30 picks after that. That’s a pick in each natural spot of every round, no compensation picks going either way. Looking at previous draft spending, I’d expect budgeting somewhere in the $5-6 million range, maybe a tad less if they stick to slot or a tad more if they open the wallet a little due to the new stadium. We’ll just have to wait and see, as this is a little more unpredictable than a lot of stable front offices.
Connecting the Twins to certain players is tough since they jump on players that fall to them for whatever circumstances, but let’s give it a shot. I have them taking Georgia prep third baseman/pitcher Kaleb Cowart in my most recent mock. Knowing their history, I don’t see them taking Cowart as a pitcher, but he could fit in as a hitter, as he has good upside with the bat, but also excellent defensive skills, including a plus-plus arm. Other names that could be available to them include Yordy Cabrera, Alex Wimmers, Josh Sale, Stefan Sabol, and Chad Bettis, all players I could see them taking. For the second round and beyond, I’ve linked players such as Drew Vettleson, Chevez Clarke, Josh Mueller, and Josh Spence. It will be interesting to see what route they take, because if they have more resources than usual due to the new stadium, then we could see a bit of a departure from the more conservative draft spending they’ve had in recent years, leading to more aggressive player drafting of guys considered less signable. However they go, I expect another solid draft, one that should be in my top third for talent when taking into account the slot in which they pick. The future remains bright for the Twins, and I still think their drafting philosophy is near the top of the league.
*Bonus information came from BA.
What do you guys think? What will the Twins do?