Draft picks take longer to develop in MLB
MINNEAPOLIS — The 2012 Major League Baseball draft is in the books.
Baseball's draft, which spans three days and lasts 40 rounds, doesn't drum up the same excitement as its counterparts in the NFL and NBA —for several reasons. For starters, the football and basketball drafts don't last 40 rounds like baseball's does. The NBA's is just two rounds, the NFL's seven. Even with just 60 seconds between picks for much of the event, MLB's draft is a grueling marathon that doesn't translate well for the casual fan.
But perhaps the bigger reason is that the players selected in this week's MLB draft won't see a major league field for years, if at all. With the 40 rounds, plus two compensation rounds, a total of 1,238 players were selected from Monday to Wednesday. There are only 750 roster spots in all of baseball.
Do the math, and you'll find that the odds of most of these players making a major league team in the near future aren't great. Those who sign will all start out in the minor leagues and slowly work their way up through the rankings. If they're lucky, they'll one day crack a 25-man roster.
So how does that apply to the Twins' recent draft? What should we make of the players they took this week? First, let's look at the breakdown of positions drafted by Minnesota. Knowing that the organization lacked pitching depth, the Twins focusing on pitching, selecting pitchers with 24 of their 43 picks. That includes 20 college pitchers and just four high school arms.
Of the 19 position players, eight of them are outfielders. Six are catchers. Just five are infielders. One of those outfielders was the Twins' first pick and the No. 2 overall player taken in the draft, Georgia high school standout Byron Buxton. Many experts ranked Buxton as the top position player in the draft, and some had him tabbed as the most talented player at any position.
Sure, the Twins seem to be set for outfield depth, both at the major league and minor league levels. The big league team currently has the likes of Denard Span and Ben Revere, two former first-round picks. In the minors, guys like Joe Benson and Aaron Hicks add to the outfield depth throughout the system.
But remember, Buxton is just 18 years old. He's still several away from playing for the Twins. Even the top high school talent takes time to mature and adjust to the professional game. Catcher Joe Mauer, the Twins' highest draft pick before Buxton, took years to reach the majors after Minnesota selected him first overall in 2001.
Buxton will likely start in the Gulf Coast League in Florida once he signs (and the Twins don't think there will be any snags in signing him). Whether he'll advance to the Elizabethton Twins of the Appalachian League during this season remains to be seen. While Buxton will likely be one of the first players — if not the first — from Minnesota's 2012 draft to advance to the majors, it'll take time.
"They'll dictate their course. We'll certainly give them all the opportunities to show what they can do," said Mike Radcliff, the Twins' vice president of player personnel. "Obviously, picking a guy that high, we truly believe he's got skills and tools. You think he'd be able to get going and get on track, but you can't force the issue. You've got to let them try to play where they can have success. The movement will just be determined by how they go through it."
It will be years before anyone can assess just how well or how poorly the Twins — or any other team, for that matter — drafted in 2012. None of the Twins' picks since 2008 has made it all the way to the majors yet. One of the youngest players currently on Minnesota's roster, Revere, was a 2007 first-round pick and is still establishing himself in the majors five years after he was drafted.
As Radcliff said, every team feels happy about how it drafted immediately after the fact, but he admits it takes time to truly judge a draft's success rate.
"I think I'm being conservative when you say six or seven years," Radcliff said. "Most of the players will have dictated whether they're going to be big leaguers or not by then. But heck, just look at our team now. Trevor Plouffe, (Glen) Perkins, Kyle Waldrop, they were all first-rounders in the same draft (in 2004) and they're just now establishing themselves this many years later.
"You'll kind of know within four years where it's at. There will be guys that have washed out by then, and there will be guys that are really doing well. But it may take even longer than that to see what a guy's major league value is going to be."
The Twins believe they obtained plenty of value in this year's draft, especially in the earlier rounds. Minnesota had five of the first 72 picks in the draft and loaded up on power arms with the hope of bolstering the organization's pitching depth.
But again, this isn't the NFL or NBA. One player in any given draft can't change a team's fortunes overnight. It takes time before a baseball team can truly see the fruits of their draft labor.
That might not be what Minnesota Twins fans want to hear after a 99-loss season in 2011 and another losing record so far in 2012. But for an organization that prides itself on its farm system and promoting players from within, stocking up in this year's draft was crucial.
Let's give this draft some room to breathe, let these players get their feet wet in the organization and adjust to the lifestyle of professional baseball. Then we can judge whether the Minnesota Twins hit a home run or struck out in the 2012 draft.
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