In case you tuned out the last three years of Minnesota Twins baseball, the biggest need in Minneapolis right now is pitching. In fact, aside from putting up a "Help Wanted" sign outside of Target Field, the Twins could not have made it any more obvious come draft time.
Of Minnesota’s top 10 picks in last week’s draft, six of them were pitchers.
The Twins added to a farm system already stacked with guys like Kyle Gibson, Trevor May and Alex Meyer and are hoping that by rehabbing Gibson, trading for May and Meyer and adding another slew of arms in this draft, their pitching woes will be a thing of the past sooner or later and remain that way for a long time.
That’s not to say that general manager Terry Ryan and Co. focused solely on pitchers in this draft. Minnesota took three catchers and a third baseman, but their goal seemed to be shoring the pitching problems that have put the Twins in the AL Central cellar in recent years.
The following is a look at the top five players Minnesota selected in last week’s draft, four of which are pitchers. Keep in mind that none of these players have signed as of this article’s release.
RHP Kohl Stewart, St. Pious X HS (Texas)
There are a couple of intriguing facts about Stewart.
For starters, he had a 0.18 ERA last year. You read that right: 0.18. Anyone that has an ERA that close to the legal limit, especially in a baseball hotbed like Texas, should turn into a great pitcher.
He won’t keep that up once he gets into the minor leagues, but damn, that’s crazy.
Secondly, as a youth, he led his under-13 team to 155 straight victories (h/t Houston Chronicle). Again, he’s going to lose games once he turns pro, but this guy has been good for a while.
Finally, the most interesting thing about Stewart may be that he was a high school quarterback, and had he not been drafted so high, he may be backing up Johnny Football at Texas A&M next season. (Just for safe measure, it looks like Stewart will sign. “You don't get drafted fourth and not go,” his father told Yahoo! Sports. “It's a once-in-a-lifetime offer.”)
Tyler Mason of FOX Sports North pointed out that there are two other Twins that were high school quarterbacks: catcher Joe Mauer and top prospect Byron Buxton.
Mauer was drafted No. 1 overall in 2001 and chose baseball despite having an offer to play football at Florida State under legendary coach Bobby Bowden. The St. Paul native has gone on to win three batting titles and was named the American League MVP in 2009.
Buxton went No. 2 overall last year, and the Georgia high school outfielder also played quarterback at Appling County High School in Baxley, GA. It’s up for debate, but there are scouts and prospect evaluators who feel that Buxton has overtaken the highly-touted Miguel Sano as the No. 1 prospect in the Twins system right now—which is no small feat.
Our very own Mike Rosenbaum projects Stewart to be a high-end No. 2 starter, potential All Star that has a floor of being either a No. 4 starter or a dynamic closer.
Unfortunately, because he is a high school prospect, baseball fans in Minnesota will have to wait a while to see this man pitch in the major leagues.
MLB ETA: 2017
RHP Ryan Eades, Louisiana State University
Eades was originally drafted in the 19th round by the Colorado Rockies back in 2010, but the Louisiana native opted to go to LSU. Perhaps, it is the thin air of Denver that makes it difficult to pitch, maybe it was his desire to represent his state at a big-time college down south or it could just be that he felt he had to refine his game at the college level.
Either way, the Twins ultimately benefited from his decision to go to LSU.
MLB.com’s draft prospect report labeled Eades as “everything you want from a pitcher: size, stuff and feel for pitching.”
"He's a starter," Twins scouting director Deron Johnson told Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com. "Good body. Really good athlete. Good competitor, and he's got an out-pitch curveball. He's been anywhere from 90 to 96 [mph]. He's got a really good fastball. He needs to work on his fastball and needs work on his changeup, but we feel he's got a chance to start."
One major red flag with Eades is the labrum surgery he had during his senior year of high school at Northshore High in Louisiana. It does not appear to be a major problem. As mentioned earlier, Eades was drafted by Colorado in 2010. He also went on to light up the Cape Cod League in 2011 and had a successful college career at LSU, a team that is currently in the NCAA Super Regionals.
"We aren't afraid of that," Twins scouting director Deron Johnson told Tyler Mason of FOX Sports North. "He's had a pretty good workload this year, and he's held up. We'll definitely monitor him this weekend in regionals."
Johnson went on to say that the team did not necessarily have its heart set on selecting a pitcher with the No. 43 pick and that they chose Eades simply because they felt he was the best player available.
"Eades was the best player in that particular round,” Johnson told Mason. “And we got starting pitching, which is good. We definitely need starting pitching in this organization."
The nice thing about choosing a college pitcher is that he’ll get to the majors faster and can help bolster a sputtering rotation in need of an overhaul.
MLB ETA: 2015
C Stuart Turner, Ole Miss
The Twins strayed away from pitchers with their third selection (No. 78 overall) in the draft, but they didn’t go too far from the mound.
Known as a defensive catcher, Stuart Turner will probably see many of the Twins prospects from his draft class up close over the next few years. The Eunice, LA native spent two years playing junior college ball at LSU-Eunice before transferring to Ole Miss last season. At LSU-Eunice, he led the Bengals to a Division II junior college national championship, and then established himself as one of the best catchers in the SEC the next year.
"He has advanced catch skills," scouting director Deron Johnson told Kelly Erikson of MLB.com. "He's a really good receiver, he can throw, he's got a big durable body. He swings the bat enough. We think he's got the chance to be an everyday catcher in the big leagues."
His game lacks offensive punch, however, something that may keep him out of the big leagues for a while.
“His offense…is not as well regarded,” read an MLB scouting report. “Turner regularly puts the ball in play, but scouts worry he doesn't make hard contact consistently enough"
MLB ETA: 2017
LHP Stephen Gonsalves, Cathedral Catholic HS (Calif.)
Once considered one of the top lefties in his draft class, Gonsalves went 10-0 during his senior season in high school and pitched a complete game in the CIF San Diego Section Division III championship game.
At 6’5”, 205 lbs., he has a very lanky frame, however, many experts, including Zachary Ball over here at B/R, suggest that he should honor his commitment to the University of San Diego, pack on some weight and hope to be a top 10 pick in three years.
“He's slipped down draft boards now,” writes Ball of the No. 110 overall pick, “so it might make more sense to head to USD, pack on some pounds, boost his velocity and try again in three years.”
Gonsalves is not as MLB-ready as some scouts thought a couple months ago, and it will be a while before Minnesota ever sees him in a major league uniform, should he choose to sign with the Twins.
MLB ETA: 2019
RHP Aaron Slegers, Indiana University
Twins fans had an opportunity to see Slegers play in Target Field when he led the Hoosiers to the Big Ten championship. Although his team defeated the hometown Minnesota Gophers behind his seven inning, one run performance in Minneapolis, baseball fans in the Twin Cities should be able to find it in their heart to support the ginormous 6’10”, 250 lb. pitcher.
“Slegers typically throws his fastball about 90 mph and has touched 95 mph,” reads one MLB.com report. “He has a good approach on the mound and is able to add and subtract from his fastball as needed.”
Scouts feel that his size should not be a negative because he repeats his delivery well for a pitcher of his size. While he has a solid changeup, Slegers needs to work on his slider if he wants to make it to the major league.
MLB ETA: 2017
The Twins addressed their biggest need—pitching—in the draft, and now have to hit the negotiating table and figure out who is going to sign and who is going to college. Fortunately, Stewart appears committed to playing major league ball, and of their first five picks, the only player in serious jeopardy of not signing is Gonsalves.
In the end, even if Gonsalves goes to the University of San Diego, Minnesota has added arms to their farm system while bringing a defensive catcher into the mix.
Some of these guys are a ways out, especially the ones in high school, but there is no doubt that the future of Twins baseball looks awfully bright right now.