Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Get a grip

It was 6:30 Monday evening when I scrolled through my Facebook feed and saw the following status update from a friend and fellow Minnesota Twins fan:

F--king Twins!!!!!

I was perplexed by this, given that their game against Seattle hadn't started at that point. What could have possibly happened? Did they trade ace starting pitcher Ervin Santana?

As I scrolled through the comments on that post, I realized it had to do with the Twins selection of Shortstop/Outfielder Royce Lewis as the top pick in the 2017 MLB Draft. My buddy's frustration stemmed from the fact the Twins bypassed high school pitcher/outfielder Hunter Greene, a stud prospect with a 100 MPH fastball. My buddy, along with a few of his FB friends, allege the Twins made this move strictly for financial reasons. The armchair critics contended that the Pohlads are just too damn cheap to shell out the bonus money necessary to corral a "can't miss" prospect like Greene, so they settled for a shortstop.

With all due respect to my buddy, I can't even count the ways how utterly moronic these reactions appear.

First off, of all the major professional sports (MLB, NFL, NHL and NBA), Major League Baseball's draft is by far the biggest crap shoot. Heck, look at the three players going into the Hall of Fame this summer.

-Ivan Rodriguez - signed as an amateur free agent at age 16.

- Jeff Bagwell - 4th round pick.

- Tim Raines - 5th round pick.

I then made the point to my buddy that new President of Baseball Operations for the Twins, Derek Falvey, knows a thing or two about building contending clubs given he was part of the front office for the 2016 AL Champion Cleveland Indians. So with all due respect, I'll trust his judgement over said armchair critics. My buddy countered with "Falvey had good pitching in Cleveland. That should trump everything." Indeed he did. So let's look at some of the key pitchers who were vital to Cleveland's success last season.

  • SP Corey Kluber (4th round pick)
  • SP Carlos Carrasco (Free agent out of Venezuela)
  • SP Danny Salazar (Free Agent out of the Dominican Republic)
  • SP Josh Tomlin (19th round pick)
  • SP Trevor Bauer (trade)
  • RP Andrew Miller (trade)
  • RP Cody Allen (16th round)
  • RP Dan Otero (signed off waivers)

The point? It's quite possible to build a pitching staff with guys not selected in the first round or even drafted by your club at all.

In the end, I'm always wary of a high school pitcher being labeled a "can't miss" prospect. It's reminiscent of the 1990 draft when the Atlanta Braves, who were in the midst of their seventh consecutive losing season, had the top pick. A Texas high school kid by the name of Todd Van Poppel was the crown jewel of that draft. The right handed pitcher was already thought to possess major league stuff to the point where then Texas Rangers manager Bobby Valentine indicated he was ready for "The Show" right then and there. The Braves desperately wanted to take Van Poppel, but the young man hinted strongly that he'd prefer to attend the University of Texas. After being unable to secure a commitment from Van Poppel, the Braves then settled for a shortstop out of The Bolles School in Jacksonville, FL. His name? Larry Wayne "Chipper" Jones who, in a mere 13 months from now, will be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.  

And what became of Van Poppel? He would actually be drafted by the Oakland A's with the 14th overall pick in 1990 and end up signing with the club. He would go on to have a mediocre 11-year MLB career with six different teams, compiling a record of 40-52 with a 5.58 ERA. 

So am I saying the Twins made the right move selecting Lewis and thus have a future Hall of Famer in their midst? Of course not. Heck, I'll even submit that Greene may become the next Dwight Gooden (sans the drug habit of course) and Lewis may never amount to anything. But therein lies my entire point. To say we know definitively that the Twins made the right or wrong choice is at best premature and at worst utterly asinine. 


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