05/30/2002 00:35 am ET
Success in '01 means later pick
Twins have 20th selection in draft
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS --- When your organization becomes competitive at the Major League level, your draft position sinks, which makes it a little tougher to draft and fill important holes at the minor league level.
That is an issue that Minnesota Twins scouting director Mike Radcliff and his staff must deal with for the 2002 First Year Player Draft on June 4-5.
Last year, Minnesota owned the overall No. 1 pick of the draft and selected catcher and St.Paul-native Joe Mauer. Coming off an 85-win season by the Twins in 2001, the organization gets to pick 20th this year and holds no between-round sandwich picks.
Radcliff's draft board will be loaded with hundreds of talented kids looking to get their break into professional baseball. The big difference from 2001 is that he might not have a chance to grab the cream of the entire crop.
"This is a draft that we probably have less margin for error on our first four to five selections," said Radcliff via a mobile phone from a location he would not disclose. "We really need to hit on the first four or five guys we take to maximize the ability to get players out of this draft."
When Radcliff and his team of scouts began convening May 25 in the executive conference room at the Metrodome (a.k.a. "War Room"), the discussions were about how to do just that.
The group is resigned to believing the top 10 players on the draft board wish list will already be gone.
"This isn't going to be the draft where you can get that guy you can readily say has that impact feeling and full-packaged tools," Radcliff said. "We're going to be down and away a little bit."
Radcliff, Twins general manager Terry Ryan and other club executives try to define the organizational needs each season as the June draft approaches. That helps the team focus on where holes are that need filling.
"We'd love to get as much pitching as we can," Radcliff said. "If we had a wish list, we'd get the best position we could with either the first or second pick, then we might just take pitching for the next 8-12 rounds. We feel good about the position player prospects in our organization. You can never get enough pitching. The more you have, the better off you are."
Middle infielders are the one organizational hole that Radcliff doesn't expect to fill during the draft. The club relies on its Latin American scouting and can usually find available foreign players from Venezuela and the Dominican Republic.
As June approached, the scouting department continued to look at charts, review tape and discuss players. When the two-day marathon of drafting is finished, what will be considered a successful draft for the Twins?
"Power pitching, starting pitching and maybe one -- lucky, two -- power-type bats," Radcliff said. "We'd consider that an excellent selection process."
2001 draft recap
Possessing the overall No. 1 pick in 2001, the Minnesota Twins didn't have to go too far to find their man.
The Twins selected catcher Joe Mauer from Cretin-Derham Hall High School in St. Paul. Although Mauer could have accepted a football scholarship to play quarterback for Florida State, he signed with the Twins last summer and is progressing well in the minor leagues.
Mauer first reported to Minnesota's rookie-level affiliate Elizabethon in 2001, where he batted .400 (44-for-110). This season at Class A Quad City, Mauer was hitting .311 with two homers and 20 RBIs over his first 132 at-bats.
After taking Mauer, the Twins loaded up on a lot of pitching, with six pitchers selected in the top 10.
With picks 2-4, the Twins drafted and signed RHP Scott Tyler, shortstop Jose Morales and RHP Angel Garcia. According to Twins Minor League Director Jim Rantz, all three are in extended spring training and will be playing rookie league ball in 2002. RHP Jeremy Brown, the No. 5 pick, is coming off surgery and going through rehabilitation.
Overall, the Twins signed 34 of their 50 draft choices. Some of the notables further down included infielder Jake Mauer, Joe's brother. Jake was selected in the 23rd round and is also playing at Quad City this season.
"Unfortunately, Jake hasn't played a whole lot and we're hoping he'll get an opportunity to get some at-bats," Rantz said. "The plus with Jake is that he can play around the infield and even some outfield. He's going to get some at-bats. It's just he has to stay ready to play."
With the 40th pick, Minnesota selected RHP Erik Lohse, brother of Twins pitcher Kyle Lohse. Rantz said that Erik endured a sore pitching elbow in Spring Training, but that he's okay now. He will begin the summer pitching at Elizabethton.
Twins Draft history
The Twins have drafted and developed numerous players who are making or have made a difference in Major League Baseball.
Recent No. 1 picks have included Gold Glove outfielder Torii Hunter (1993), pitcher Todd Ritchie (1990), infielder Chuck Knoblauch (1989) and infielder Jay Bell (1984). Back when there was a January draft also, Hall of Fame outfielder Kirby Puckett went in the first round in 1982. A couple of first-rounders who chose not to sign included first baseman Travis Lee (1996) and catcher Jason Varitek (1993).
There have even been some prominent players taken in the later rounds that have contributed to the club. Utility infielder Denny Hocking, a 10-year veteran, was taken in the 52nd round in 1989. Third baseman Corey Koskie was taken in the 26th round in 1994 and lefty reliever Eddie Guardado was picked in the 21st round in 1990.
Mark Sheldon covers the Twins for MLB.com and can be reached at
email@example.com. This article was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.