Monday, September 12, 2016

Does Top Pick Territory Salvage Season?

If you're still following along with the Twins, you've nearly made it through the 2016 Major League Baseball season. Just 19 games remain, and Minnesota needs to win 10 of them to avoid 100 losses for just the second time in franchise history, and first since 1982. To be sure, a year full of losing is far from fun, but does a top pick in the upcoming draft make it feel any less gloomy?

Baseball is a different beast than basketball and football. While the top pick in the draft holds immense value, it generally isn't realized at the top level for at least a year or two, and the draft itself doesn't take place until well into the next season. For Minnesota, plenty will change by the time June 2017 comes around.

With Terry Ryan fired midway through the current 162 game schedule, Jim Pohlad and Dave St. Peter are in the process of finding a replacement head honcho (or, as we've learned, a duo). The Twins will have a new Head of Baseball Operations, as well as a new General Manager by the time the 2017 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft rolls around. Paul Molitor may very well be gone, and the hope would be that the on field product shows significantly better than it has this season.

For Minnesota, 2016 was another year of the prospect. Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, Jose Berrios, and even Byungho Park were supposed to lead this group. Instead, their were injuries, failed expectations, and regression for what can be described as the Twins future. Although the offense was expected to carry this club, it was nowhere to be seen out of the gate.

Now with the writing already on the wall, the only thing left for the Twins to do is finish. It's largely understood what has all taken place for Paul Molitor's club this season. What's next is what comes as a result of the final standings. If the year were to end today, that would include the Twins drafting first overall next June.

The Braves currently are two games clear of the Twins when it comes to record. I'm not sure there's a determination to "tank" as there may be in other sports, but Minnesota could have their choice if things stand pat. By the looks of most national experts, there doesn't appear to be a consensus top pick in the upcoming draft. Undoubtedly there's a few names that will rise to the top, but all will have their detractors (however slight they may be).

Unlike in sports such as basketball or football, it's hard to suggest that a first overall pick gives something back to such a horrendous season. Mentioned on the broadcast during the recent Cubs and Astros series, you can bet that Houston wishes they would've selected Kris Bryant over Mark Appel with their recent first overall pick. The stories of the big miss are many, and the sure thing first selection are few and far between.

When it comes down to it, the Twins won't have much to hang their hats on as the 2016 dust settles. The first overall pick is definitely an exciting and welcomed consolation prize, but it will be in the hiring of front office executives, and the retooling of the organization that the true forward progress is felt.

Reality probably suggests that the Twins did this to themselves. They stuck by Terry Ryan and his country club ways for a little bit too long, and it has the year ending with some significant emptiness. His parting gift will likely end up being a top three draft pick, but if Minnesota is looking to hang their hats on something, expecting it to be a relative unknown is probably not a good proposition.

When June rolls around, the first overall pick will have plenty of merit attached to it, but how much excitement it generates will largely be determined by who the Twins put in charge of making those decisions.