The 2017 June amateur draft is just around the corner and our hometown Minnesota Twins have the first overall pick. Sometimes there is a clear number one choice to take, this is not one of those years. When you have the top pick on the draft you had better hit the bull’s eye and then sign that player or you will pay for your mistake for years to come.
The top players rated by many (in no particular order) are Hunter Greene, a RHP/SS from Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, California, Brendan McKay, a LHP/1B from Louisville University and Kyle Wright, a RHP from Vanderbilt University. Let’s assume for the moment that these players are indeed the cream of the crop and that the Twins will select one of these players.
Several mock drafts have the Twins snapping up the LHP/1B prospect Brendan McKay from Louisville with the initial pick in the draft come June 12. Baseball America states that:
Meanwhile, McKay has changed in the last month, adding a cut fastball and pitching with diminished velocity. Against Georgia Tech on April 13, he pitched much of the game at 88-91 mph but one-hit the Yellow Jackets over eight shutout innings. Then last weekend against Clemson, in five shutout innings, McKay threw plenty of cutters—a pitch he just broke out April 28 against Toledo—as his fastball dipped into the 88-90 range. Despite that velocity drop, McKay is striking out more batters than ever, ranking eighth nationally with 12.4 strikeouts per nine innings and 110 strikeouts overall.
You have to wonder if you should take a pitcher with the first pick in the draft that throws only in the 88-91 MPH range? Now days with the need for speed, it has to raise some serious question marks. When you pick a player that is both a pitcher and a position player are you hedging your bet or are you going to waste a few years if you choose the wrong position for McKay. If he turns out to be a first baseman, do you want to have selected him number one over all?
Some feel that the right-hander from Vanderbilt, Kyle Wright has the highest upside with lowest risk. He supposedly has four plus pitches at times and is trending towards being the top pick.
Then last by certainly not least we have the high schooler from Sherman Oaks, California, Hunter Greene. He is a RHP and a shortstop who has already reached 101 MPH on the mound but has been shut-down as a pitcher this spring and is playing shortstop full-time. The next coming of Babe Ruth some say… The rumors are that he wants to be a San Diego Padre. No RHP out of high school has ever been drafted number one over-all.
I am not sure if there is any good way to rank the 52 (actually 51 because Danny Goodwin was drafted number one twice) over-all number one picks selected over the years so I will use WAR (B-R) in the list below to rank them, If you look at the 52 number one over-all picks rated by WAR, the top seven are all high school picks and all position players. As mentioned earlier, no RHP has been picked number one over-all out of high school.
All teams covet high picks but with high reward comes high risk. A super-star might take you to the promised land for years to come but the odds are stacked against you, only 29 of 52 picks have a WAR higher than 10.0. A dud at number one over-all and your organization takes a hit for years to come and that doesn’t even take into account the $7 million or so that it will take to sign this player. But it is not the money as much as it is the player, teams piss away millions of dollars on free agents on a regular basis.
Another thing, what would you rather have, a position player that plays every day or a pitcher you send out every 5th day and who knows if that turns into a 6th day or once a week in the future? What about the injury risk? You take a pitcher and you can probably count on losing him for a year or two for TJ surgery. Look at the Mets for example and how many times has Clayton Kershaw taken his team to the World Series?
One thing that really bugs me about baseball, why do draft picks have to spend years in the minor leagues before they work their way up to the big leagues? Why doesn’t a team take a first rounder, college or high school and throw them in a big league uniform and give them a try? Really, what do they have to lose? Confidence? That is a bunch of bull, if they don’t think they can play big league ball you don’t want them anyway. Service time? That can be remedied quickly by going to the players union and saying that the teams are willing to give drafted players big league opportunities sooner but service time rules need to be modified, why wouldn’t the union go for that? If they can’t cut the mustard, send them down to the minors to improve their skills. Why does baseball assume that players can’t play in the big leagues without giving them an opportunity to prove that they can play? I am not saying that applies to everyone, but it seems to me that there are players in college and maybe in high school that can play in the big leagues and should not be wasting their time in the minor leagues, not to mention cheating there fans out of watching an exciting player. Players going directly to the big leagues are rare as hens teeth and that is just old-fashioned baseball thinking talking.
The last player to go from college to the big leagues was pitcher Mike Leake with the Reds in 2010 and the last player to go to the big leagues after high school was Mike Morgan with the Oakland A’s in 1978. In 1965 Catfish Hunter came out of a North Carolina high school and put on a Kansas City A’s uniform and went on to be a Hall of Famer.
What is going to get a drafted player signed quicker than a big league uniform? What is going to draw a bigger crowd to the home ballpark than a number one draft choice particularly for a team with no playoff hopes and dwindling attendance? If you give them a chance, some will succeed. A number of them will fail, but so what, they now realize what it takes to play in the big leagues and they will work that much harder to get back there, baseball has had it all wrong all these years. Baseball drafts these players, pays them a ton of money, tells the fans what great players they just drafted and then sends the players to the hinterlands not to be seen again for years. Baseball wastes years off of players big league careers by making them play in the minors. Poor playing conditions, poor coaching, and poor facilities can lead to injuries, burnt-out, and careers ended before they even had a chance. How often do players get to the big leagues and exceed their minor league expectations, more often than you think.
What team out there in MLB will have the guts to change this archaic thinking first? Sure there is risk, but there is a risk just crossing the street. If you want to be a winner in baseball you have to look for an edge, doing something different and hopefully better than anyone else.
Why change the old tried and true process? I can hear all those reasons and excuses now, but I have this to say to MLB, sure the process works but so did plowing with horses, using the pay phone at the gas station, and sharing a glove by leaving it out on the field for the other team to use but we left that behind because there was a better way. It is time to assume the people we hire and draft can do the job rather than assume they can’t.
What would be more talked about in Minnesota and across the country if the Minnesota Twins shook up the establishment by announcing that their first over-all pick in the 2017 draft on June 12 would be wearing a Minnesota Twins uniform that week-end against the Cleveland Indians at Target Field? Opportunities like this don’t come around to often, you have to jump on them when they present themselves.
So who will the Twins pick number one over-all? No one knows the answer to that just yet but I can tell you this, he should be wearing a Minnesota Twins uniform within a week.