Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Prep Or Bust For Twins In The Draft?

While losing isn't fun for anyone, there's a silver lining when it comes to most professional sports. In Major League Baseball, the team with the worst record is awarded the number one overall pick in the amateur draft the following year. In 2017, the Minnesota Twins have that honor, and while there's no Bryce Harper to be had here, it seems like a two-horse race.

Now having landed on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and in a really solid feature by Lee Jenkins, Hunter Greene has become a household name in Minnesota. The multi-talented shortstop and pitcher has been noted to touch 102 mph and hit for a very strong average at the plate. As he wraps up his senior season at Notre Dame High School in California (alma mater of Giancarlo Stanton), he weighs a pro contract or a freshman year at UCLA.

Through 20 games this season, Greene owns a .277/.342/.492 line with five doubles and three home runs in 65 at bats. On the mound, Greene has thrown 28.0 IP and has compiled a 0.75 ERA with a 43/4 K/BB ratio (13.8 K/9). By all statistical measures, Greene is otherworldly. He checks off the character boxes, and looks the part of a kid way beyond his years.

For the prep righty, the biggest question remains whether or not projections should scare away the Twins. At just 17 years old, Greene has lots of growing left to do, and plenty more mileage to put on his arm prior to getting any big league time. Can he stay healthy? What happens if he blows out? Does he both hit and pitch at the pro level? Minnesota has plenty of things to consider, and they'd be the first team to ever draft a right-handed high school pitcher first overall, making it literally uncharted territory.

On the opposite end of the spectrum Derek Falvey and Thad Levine seem to be zeroed in on a similar type athlete of the two-way variety. Brendan McKay, a first basemen and left-handed pitcher for Louisville has put together an incredible year. He's batting .405/.530/.746 with 11 HR (and a recent 4 HR game) as well as an 18/34 K/BB ratio. On the mound, he throws between 92-95 mph and has posted a 1.83 ERA along with an 83/15 K/BB ratio across 59.0 IP.

If you're considering down-the-line projections with Greene, your bet is somewhat hedged with McKay. Already playing top tier college talent, he's being tested against better athletes on a daily basis. Also, at 21 years old, McKay has already started to grow into his frame, and likely has a shorter development arc prior to the big leagues.

By no means am I a draft expert, and selecting players among literally thousands of possibilities is more than a daunting task. When it comes to what name to call first though, the Twins know they can't miss. Byron Buxton remains promising, but there's plenty of misses since that time. For a team that needs to restock the cupboard, a top tier prospect is a must, and they need the guy the organization believes can develop into something spectacular.

With what I know about both players, I'd hope the Twins go with Hunter Greene. His upside is immense, and if everything breaks correctly, we could be talking about him in All Star Games and winning postseason awards for years to come. Brendan McKay has all of the tools that would seem to follow that same vein, but also appears to be the safer pick with less of an ability to reach the top tier that the Twins would so badly covet.

Should Minnesota tend to stay conservative, McKay seems obvious, and would be hard to argue against. Given the organization has their choice though, I'd rather see the guy with an undefined ceiling eventually debut at Target Field.

We'll continue to hear reports all the way up until the draft this summer, and staying plugged into both players is a must. There's a lot to like here no matter what way you cut it, and the Twins are in the driver's seat.

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