By Do-Hyoung Park @dohyoungpark – www.mntwins.com
MINNEAPOLIS — It’s safe to say that this will be an MLB Draft unlike any we’ve ever seen before.
Amid the chaos and uncertainty of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the typical vastness of the Draft process has been condensed into only five rounds, with the ability for teams to scout recent performances and further refine their evaluation processes and Draft boards all but shut down by the pause of amateur play across the country.
But the Twins, like other teams, have adapted. With a smaller pool of Draft-probable players for evaluation, they’ve been able to gain a deeper understanding of some of their targets, with player development staff members and positional coordinators joining area scouts and leadership on calls with those amateur players to better evaluate fits. Those coordinators have also been able to help break down video of potential Draft selections to build a better knowledge base of skills.
The Twins have also prepared for the unique structure and process of the Draft itself by reaching out to teams in other sports, particularly the NFL, which has already gone through the process of a remote Draft.
“We recognize the challenge, and this isn’t unique to the Twins,” said chief baseball officer Derek Falvey. “The challenge is that we haven’t had a scouting season for the spring. But because [director of scouting Sean Johnson] and that group in particular have instilled such an incredible work ethic in our scouts in the amateur space, they worked so hard in the summer and fall to get as much perspective as they can on those players before going into the spring.”
Though the Twins have selected relatively high in the first round in each of the three Drafts led by the team of Falvey, general manager Thad Levine and Johnson, there’s added uncertainty stemming from the fact that they make their first selection this year at No. 27 — the by-product of a 101-win season in 2019 — and will thus need to be more responsive to the trends and selections of the teams above them.
“My sense is that we have a decent idea, I would say, of five or six players that we think could be there that are guys that we like that we would probably have a little higher on the board,” Falvey said. “I would anticipate the first round maybe playing out the way some people think, generally speaking. After that, I think all bets are off at that point in terms of how these things shake out. That’s when the things get harder to differentiate in a normal year, and this will certainly layer on another challenge.”
As though that isn’t enough, the Twins are limited even further by having only four selections across the two days of the Draft next Wednesday and Thursday.
They would normally have a selection in the Competitive Balance Round B, following the second round, but that pick at No. 66 overall was traded to the Dodgers in the Kenta Maeda deal. Minnesota also forfeited its third-round selection after signing Josh Donaldson in free agency. As a result, the Twins will make their first two picks at No. 27 and No. 59 before waiting until the end of the fourth round to make their next selection.
And this season, there will also be far more work to complete following the end of the Draft, as a massive group of undrafted free agents will become available to all clubs, with no limit on how many of those players can be signed by each team. With geographic, financial and other considerations all likely to come in play among those competing teams, the post-Draft process should also be more action-filled than ever before.
“To say we have a great grasp on how that will go will be foolish right now,” Falvey said. “We don’t know exactly, based on who gets drafted and who’s available. But what I will say is that everything around our player development group and system, we’re going to make sure we pitch to players to make sure they understand the resources we invest in them.
“[Undrafted pitcher] Randy Dobnak is a great story that we will continue to use in the sense that he came on from independent ball and developed and was a big part of our club and will continue to be. We put the resources in whether you’re a first rounder or ultimately someone that signed out of independent ball. So I hope that differentiates us, because I do believe it’s something that we live and breathe on a daily basis.”
Day 1 of the 2020 Draft airs on Wednesday, June 10, on MLB Network and ESPN at 6 p.m. CT, and includes the first 37 picks. Day 2 begins at 4 p.m. CT on Thursday, June 11, on MLB Network and ESPN2, and spans the remainder of the 160 picks.