Twins load up on power arms during Draft
Club uses seven of first 11 picks on college pitchers for system
MINNEAPOLIS -- Thanks to the signing of veteran slugger Kendrys Morales, the Twins' biggest transaction over the last three days was not a First-Year Player Draft pick.
But make no mistake; Minnesota made moves that will affect the future of the ballclub, with pitching being the top priority of the three-day event.
After the team drafted shortstop Nick Gordon with the No. 5 overall pick, an arms race began. The Twins selected seven pitchers in a row, all with college experience. Second-round choice Nick Burdi (Louisville) was their first pick on Friday.
The junior -- currently trying to lead the Cardinals into the College World Series -- has hit 103 mph on the radar gun, and consistently tosses fastballs in the high-90s. He's got a wicked slider, too.
Minnesota assistant general manager Rob Antony spoke on Friday about Burdi's chances of reaching the Majors quicker than most prospects.
"You'd think that any of those guys who have that 'now' stuff have a chance to move quickly through the system," Antony said. "With his velocity and slider, I'd say he has a chance to hopefully move through. But we've thought that about other guys, too -- whether an injury slows 'em down, or they struggle. ... I talked to him last night, and I told him, 'It's up to you. If you pitch your way out of a league, we'll move you up.'"
Georgia Tech sophomore Sam Clay was the only lefty out of that run of pitchers. The Twins' fourth-round pick (No. 110 overall), Clay's 1.26 ERA was second in school history for pitchers with at least 40 innings of work.
The rest of the group -- Michael Cederoth (San Diego State), Jake Reed (Oregon), John Curtiss (Texas), Andro Cutura (Southeastern Lousiana University), and Keaton Steele (Missouri) -- was made up of right-handed pitchers.
And, in a new-age twist, six of the seven pitchers taken before Round 9 were primarily relievers in college. Only Reed worked predominantely as a starter over the last season.
"We took a bunch of hard throwers," Twins scouting director Deron Johnson said. "We're probably more bullpen oriented this year. We're hoping we might hit on a few starters out of that. If there's a guy that we think there's an outside chance he might be able to start, you always give him a try. But, for the most part, we think most of the guys are bullpen guys."
Antony was happy with the number of new arms, no matter where they end up.
"You can never ever have too many," Antony said. "You know there's going to be injuries. We're going through some of that now in the Minor Leagues. Hopefully, they'll be back here. If not this year, then some guys next year. You can never have too many. You're going to have injuries, it's just the way that position is."
As far as Minor League pitching health goes, Minnesota has been unfortunate lately.
Top prospect Alex Meyer's progress was slowed by a right shoulder injury last season, Zack Jones suffered an aneurysm in his upper right (throwing) arm early this year, and Luke Bard has had a lingering shoulder issue.
But this year's crop of draftees has also faced its fair share of injuries. Curtiss underwent Tommy John surgery in 2013, Steele missed 2011 with rotator cuff and labrum tears in his shoulder that required surgery, and righty Randy LeBlanc (No. 10 pick from Tulane) underwent Tommy John surgery as a freshman.
Red flags aside, Antony saw strength in numbers.
"We've gotten some velocity, that's for sure," he said. "Got some power arms, which I think is always an objective and a goal."
Over the course of the Draft, the Twins selected a handful of prospects with local ties.
Max Murphy was the first such pick, in the ninth round. Murphy, a Robbinsdale native who plays center field, hit .293/.383/.518 in three years at Bradley.
"We like him," Johnson said. "We had him at a workout on Monday and he did well. He hit a few balls out of the park. He's a strong kid. He's only 5-foot-11, but he's put together pretty good. He runs well and he throws well."
Nebraska second baseman Pat Kelly was the next local pick. The Red Wing native went in the 12th round after two straight All-Big Ten first-team selections.
"It probably could've happened [on Friday], but I wasn't sure," Kelly said. "I was hoping for the first few rounds today. We just kept hoping, and it happened."
The prized infield selection, however, was Gordon, the No. 5 overall pick.
The son of former All-Star closer Tom Gordon and brother of Dodgers second baseman Dee Gordon, he hit .494 with a .576 on-base percentage in 27 games in his senior year at Olympia (Fla.) High School.
"We've been locked in on Nick," Johnson said. "We obviously liked some of the pitchers taken ahead of him, but he's been our guy since the start. We like his ability to play shortstop. We like his swing. I think he's going to have power down the road. He's going to stay at shortstop, in my mind, and has a great work ethic. He's a great kid and, obviously, has a big league [pedigree], with his brother and his dad. We expect big things from him."
Johnson expects to sign at least 25 of the 40 picks, perhaps even a few more.
Alex Smith is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.