The June amateur draft started in 1965 and the Minnesota Twins have had 72 first round selections including supplemental/compensation picks. Nine of those first round picks have been left-handed pitchers (eight were collegiate picks and one was from high school) with Tyler Jay being the most recent lefty being selected in the first round in 2015. So how have these pitchers fared for the Twins?
1973 – Eddie Bane – Drafted in round 1, 11th over-all out of Arizona State University and went straight to the big leagues making his debut on July 4, 1973 at Met Stadium in a start against the Kansas City Royals. The 5’9″ Bane didn’t figure in the decision but pitched well in a 5-4 loss to the Royals. Injuries hindered Bane’s career but Bane himself said that he just wasn’t good enough to be a big league pitcher. Bane’s big league career consisted of 44 games for the Twins with a 7-13 record and 4.66 ERA. Bane became a free agent in October 1977 but never saw big league action again. WAR with the Twins was a -1.0.
1982 – Bryan Oelkers – Drafted in round 1, 4th over-all (selected one pick earlier than the Mets selection of Dwight Gooden) out of Wichita State University. Oelkers was a 20th round pick of the Chicago Cubs in 1979 but he chose not to sign. Oelkers was only the second player born in Spain to reach the major leagues. Oelkers debuted in the big leagues with only 8 minor league games in his resume the following season on April 9, 1983 at the Kingdome in a start against the Mariners. Oelkers had a good start going 6.2 innings giving up only 3 hits and 2 earned runs but he came away with his first big league loss. Oelkers ended his first and only season with the Twins with an 0-5 record and a 8.65 while allowing 56 hits in 34.1 innings. In January of 1986 the Twins traded Bryan Oelkers and Ken Schrom to the Cleveland Indians for Ramon Romero and Roy Smith. Oelkers pitched for Cleveland in 1983 going 3-3 with a 4.70 ERA in 35 games. Oelkers pitched in the Expos, Cubs and Cardinals minor league systems but never reached the big leagues again. WAR with the Twins was -1.3.
1992 – Dan Serafini – Was the Twins round 1 selection and 26th over-all out of Serra High School in San Mateo, California. In 1996 Baseball America had him rated as the 76th best prospect and the Twins called Dan Serafini up to pitch a game against the New York Yankees on June 25 at the Metrodome. Here is what Serafini had to say about that experience in a 2013 interview –
“It was not an easy team to pitch against for my first time playing in the big leagues, but it was a great memory. It was kind of funny. The Twins wouldn’t let me into the locker room before the game. They didn’t want any animosity in the locker room because they hadn’t sent anyone down (to Triple-A) yet. I had to stay in a hotel and then on game day I got to show up right before the game started so that I could get ready to play. It wasn’t the greatest experience, but it was still a good experience. I got to the big leagues!”
You can see the entire interview here. Serafini’s start lasted 4.1 innings and he gave up 7 hits and 5 earned runs and was saddled with the loss in a Yankees 6-2 over Minnesota. That was the only game that Serafini pitched in a Twins uniform in 1996. Serafini spent portions of 1997 and 1998 in Minnesota but as spring training ended in 1999 the Twins sold Dan Serafini to the Chicago Cubs. Serafini career numbers with the Twins were 9-6 in 35 games with a 5.88 ERA. Serafini went on to pitch for the Cubs, Pirates, Reds and eventually the Rockies not to mention pitching in Japan, Mexico and Independent ball. Appears to have hung up his jock strap after the 2013 season. His WAR with Twins was a -0.6.
1994 – Travis Miller – Was a supplementary 1st round selection and 34th pick over-all from Kent State University for the Twins not being able to sign 1993 first round pick catcher Jason Varitek. Miller’s debut at the Metrodome on August 25, 1996 against the Rangers was one he would like to forget, one inning pitched with five hits and two walks including two home runs allowed and seven earned runs and he took the defeat in a 13-2 Twins loss. Miller however continued to pitch for the Twins albeit primarily in relief from 1996-2002 until the Twins released him in June of 2002 and he never pitched in the big leagues again. His Twins career lasted all or parts of seven seasons in which he appeared in 203 games winning 7 and losing 18 with a 5.05 ERA and a Twins WAR of 1.2.
1995 – Mark Redman – Was a Tigers 42 round pick in 1992 but did not sign and he went on to be the Twins first round selection in 1995 and 13th pick over-all. Debuted in a start against the Mariners at the Metrodome on July 24, 1999 and got a no decision for his efforts in which he lasted 4.2 innings and gave up 3 earned run on 4 hits and three walks. The Twins won the game 10-3. Redman was primarily a starter for Minnesota from 1999-2001 going 15-13 with a 4.86 ERA before being traded to the Tigers for closer Todd Jones. Redman was an All-Star with the Royals in 2006. Redman who pitched in the big leagues for 10 seasons with eight different teams posted a 3.6 WAR with the Twins.
1998 – Ryan Mills – Was originally drafted in 1995 by the Yankees in round 13 but didn’t sign and the Twins scooped him up in round 1 with the 6th over-all pick out of Arizona State University and signed for a $2 million bonus. After seven seasons Mills had a 17-40 minor league record with a 5.79 ERA and a 1.73 WHIP before the Twins told him to look for other employment. Mills never put on a Twins uniform.
2004 – Glen Perkins – Perkins was selected by the Minnesota Twins in the first round and 22nd over-all of the 2004 amateur draft out of the University of Minnesota as compensation for losing Eddie Guardado and signed for a $1.425 million bonus. His big league debut took place September 21, 2006 at Fenway Park as a reliever in a Twins 6-0 loss and he pitched 1.1 innings without allowing a hit. Perkins was originally a starter but after putting up an ERA of 5.89 in 2009 and 5.82 in 2010 the Twins put him in the bullpen where he has flourished as a closer when he is not injured. Perkins has been a Minnesota Twin for all or parts of 11 seasons and has a Twins WAR of 8.8 and has made the All-Star team three times.
2009 – Matt Bashore – Bashore was a first round and 46th over-all supplemental pick for the loss of Dennys Reyes. Injuries kept Bashore from achieving his dream and the Twins let him go after the 2011 season when he pitched in Elizabethton for the second time after sitting out 2010 due to injury. Never wore a Twins uniform and walked away with a $751,550 Twins signing bonus.
2015 – Tyler Jay – Twins first round selection and sixth player taken over-all from Illinois when he was the highest ever MLB draft choice and signed by Minnesota for $3.8 million. Jay was a reliever in college but the Twins are transitioning him to a starting role. Jay was promoted to Chattanooga (AA) in July but only appeared in 5 games there pitching 14 innings before being placed on the DL in early August with a neck/shoulder injury. Additional info on his injury can be found here, not exactly promising news.
So there you are, 57 years worth of LHP drafted in the first round by the Minnesota Twins, nine left-handed pitchers, eight out of college and one out of high school drafted by the Twins and what have we had to show for it? Glen Perkins has been the only one to really pan out and he didn’t come into his own until he was moved to the bullpen. You expect your first round picks to be All-Star caliber players and the Twins have had just two. You have to wonder, with their dismal track record why do the Twins even bother drafting LHP in round one? Why waste a first round pick on LHP?
Let’s look at the rest of the league
Since 1965 American League teams have drafted 127 left-handed pitchers in round one of the amateur free agent draft, 19 of these first round picks either made an all-star team at least once or had/have a career WAR of 15.7 or greater. First round selections need to be All-Star caliber players or at least solid contributors to the ball club.
- Indians – CC Sabathia drafted in 1998 – 20th overall – WAR of 57.9 – All-Star 6 times and CYA winner in 2007 – still active
- Angels – Frank Tanana drafted in 1971 – 13th overall – WAR of 57.9 – All-Star 3 times
- Red Sox – Bruce Hurst drafted in 1976 – 22nd overall – WAR of 35.0 – All-Star once
- A’s – Barry Zito drafted in 1999 – 9th overall – WAR of 32.6 – All-Star 3 times and CYA winner in 2002
- Rays – David Price drafted in 2007 – 1st overall – WAR of 32.2 – All-Star 5 times and CYA winner in 2012 – still active
- White Sox – Chris Sale drafted in 2010 – 13th overall – WAR of 31.1 – All-Star 5 times – still active
- Indians – Greg Swindell drafted in 1986 – 2nd overall – WAR of 30.9 – All-Star once
- Astros – Billy Wagner drafted in 1993 – 12th overall – WAR of 28.1 – All-Star 7 times
- Astros – Floyd Bannister drafted in 1976 – 1st overall – WAR of 26.9 – All-Star once
- Rangers – John Danks drafted in 2003 – 9th overall – WAR of 21.0 – never an All-Star – still active
- Yankees – Scott McGregor drafted in 1972 – 14th overall – WAR of 20.4 – All-Star once
- A’s – Mark Mulder drafted in 1998 – 2nd overall – WAR of 20.0 – All-Star 2 times
- Angels – Jim Abbott drafted in 1988 – 8th overall – WAR of 19.8 – never an All-Star
- Mariners – Matt Thornton drafted in 1998 – 22nd overall – WAR of 13.7 – All-Star once
- Blue Jays – Ricky Romero drafted in 2005 – 6th overall – WAR of 9.9 – All-Star once – Still active
- Mariners – Shawn Estes drafted in 1991 – 11th overall – WAR of 9.3 – All Star once
- Twins – Glen Perkins drafted in 2004 – 22nd overall – WAR of 8.8 – All-Star three times
- Angels – Joe Saunders drafted in 2002 – 12th overall – WAR of 8.8 – All-Star once
- Blue Jays – Brett Cecil drafted in 2007 – 38th overall – WAR of 6.9 – All-Star once – Still active
Three teams, the Orioles, the Royals, and the Tigers have NEVER drafted a LHP that qualifies for the above list and they have drafted 27 lefties between them.