A pre-draft look at the Twins’ options at #2 overall

Last year’s debacle gongshow of a season is in the books, and now the Twins get to reap their reward for being the second worst team in baseball. Of course, this, by all accounts, is one of the worst drafts at the top in quite some time. Pretty much falls in line with the Twins luck the past few years, hasn’t it?

Let’s take a look at the Twins’ options for the second overall pick in Monday’s Rule 3 Amateur Draft.

1) Byron Buxton, OF, Appling County HS (Baxley, GA), 6-1″, 175 lbs

Buxton has long been considered the cream of the high school crop in this year’s class. An absolute freak of an athlete, Buxton has drawn comparisons to current major league monsters Matt Kemp and Justin Upton due to his similar body type and array of tools. Most draft writers (Keith Law, most notably) feel Buxton has the potential to be a Gold Glove caliber defender in centerfield, and he grades out to be one of the fastest players in the entire draft. He also reportedly touches 96 MPH when pitching, so he’s obviously got the potential to have a cannon.

I like Buxton, but it remains to be seen if he will end up being #2 overall good. Yes, Buxton is one hell of a talent, but the Twins are in a position where they absolutely cannot miss on this pick and there is definite risk with Buxton. First, his level of competition is obviously very poor. Buxton has been dominant as a high school player, but how will he fare against stiffer competition? I am guessing there are not a lot of Georgia high school pitchers that throw in the low 90’s with a filthy breaking ball.

That said, he is the highest upside player in this year’s draft, and if he fills out his frame and can hit 20+ homers in the majors and get on base at a decent clip, you’ve got yourself one of the very best position players in the game. However, if there is one position that the Twins have a surplus of in the minors right now, it’s outfield. They’ve got Eddie Rosario, Oswaldo Arcia, Aaron Hicks, Joe Benson, Max Kepler, possibly Miguel Sano if he outgrows third base. If you think Buxton is going to be a superstar, then take him. I am a firm believer of taking the best player available and figuring out the rest later.

2) Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford University, 6-5″, 215 lbs

A big, lanky starter who has drawn comparisons to Justin Verlander because of his stature and fastball, Appel has really turned it on the second half of the season for Stanford, answering a lot of questions along the way. He and Buxton have been considered front runners for the #1 pick since the beginning of the season, and watching Appel pitch, you begin to realize why. He features three pitches, a fastball, curveball, and changeup. The changeup is considered the better of his two secondary pitches, but he hasn’t had to use it much so far in his college career. That will definitely change when he hits the minor league circuit.

Appel has been somewhat of an enigma to most draft writers and scouts. He has premium velocity, reportedly sitting around 95-97 MPH regularly. He has occasionally touched 100 MPH in a few outings this year. However, hitters seem to hit his fastball more than they should for how fast it is, indicating a lack of movement. It’s not the end of the world, though. These college hitters are still using composite bats. It’s a lot harder to hit that kind of gas with a piece of lumber. His command has been better this year, but that has been a question in the past, particularly his fastball location. Another negative to Appel is Stanford’s long history of overworking their starters while still in college. Earlier this season, Appel threw 149 pitches in a complete game. It’s pretty clear that Stanford has no desire to protect Appel in the future.

Appel would be a top 10 pick in pretty much any draft because of his size and velocity. The Twins desperately need to stockpile power arms as their no-walks, no strikeouts philosophy is obviously not working at the major league level anymore. Appel would be a very good start to that process. He projects to be at least a #2 starter, with ace potential easily attainable if he can continue to develop his solid changeup and average curve.

Carlos Correa, SS, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy (Santa Isabel, PR), 6-4″, 190 lbs

Correa has rocketed up draft boards in the past month, mostly because of questions on Byron Buxton’s hitting ability. Correa, 17 years old, is the alternative to Buxton. He’s a better pure hitter than Buxton at this point, showing raw power in numerous showcase games across the US.

Correa is extremely lanky at this point of his physical development, and it’s pretty tough to see him sticking at shortstop despite his athleticism and arm strength. Keith Law absolutely loves this guy, he has stated that he nearly moved Correa ahead of Buxton in his top 100 but decided against it due to Buxton’s athletic ability.

The question with Correa, as it was with Buxton, is how he will adjust to quality pitching. He’s obviously superbly talented and could easily end up as the best prospect in this draft class, but there’s definite risk there as well.

The Twins reportedly flew Correa back to the Twin Cities for a second private workout, so it appears they are at least entertaining the notion of selecting Correa over either Buxton or Appel. I’d still place my bet on Buxton at #2 if he is available, however.

Other possibilites:

Kevin Gausman, RHP, LSU – A name that has been rising due to his development of his changeup and slider. Unlikely, but possible. #2 starter potential with a chance to be a #1 if things fall into place.

Kyle Zimmer, RHP, San Francisco – Twins reportedly were very high on him earlier in the spring, but his lackluster performance in the second half of the season will probably drop him into the 7-10 range.

Mike Zunino, C, Florida – I just don’t see the Twins taking a college catcher right now. You are taking Zunino because he is going to get to the majors very quickly. The Twins have this guy they are paying $23 million a season for penciled in for quite some time. It’d be one heck of an insurance policy.

Lucas Giolito, RHP, Harvard Westlake HS (Studio City, CA) – This kid could have been the first high school right hander to go #1 overall, but a sprained ulnar collateral ligament has squelched that possbility. He’s got the highest upside of any starter in this draft, but the injury risk makes him a huge gamble at #2.

Images courtesy of Hardball Talk, ProjectProspect, and Bleacher Report

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