Friday, June 7, 2013

Feeling a draft: Rounds one and two

Ryan Eades of LSU was the Twins second round selection
Thursday. He's represented by Scott Boras.
The Twins, like most organizations, have certain patterns in the amateur draft. The Twins generally use their high picks on high school position players -- particularly outfielders -- or college pitchers.

On Thursday, they broke that pattern with their first round pick for the second time in three years by taking Kohl Stewart, a high school pitcher. (In 2011 they took a college shortstop, Levi Michael.)

Stewart's selection has been expected literally for weeks; the Twins had long been seen around baseball as locked in on him. He's a 6-foot-3 righthander who was also a prime quarterback recruit who had signed with Texas A&M. But there's not likely to be any real difficulty getting Stewart to abandon pigskin for hardball. This is a high-risk, high-reward selection, but the risk is not in signability.

Stewart is, as an 18-year-old, less mature and refined than the two college pitchers (Mark Appel and Jonathan Gray) who went 1.1 and 1.3 Thursday evening. But he's also regarded as more athletic than either and with a ceiling no lower than the elder two.

A high school pitcher is generally riskier than a collegian, and the high school pitchers taken in the first round have at best a checkered history. Guys who throw with high velocity in their teens tend to get hurt. Stewart's physical risk is perhaps heightened by his Type 1 diabetes.

As for his stuff: He's described as having a mid-90s fastball, a slider in the mid 80s that he uses as his out pitch, and a changeup that the Twins say is his best secondary pitch. He also has a curve ball that still needs some development but is definitely distinct from his slider (many young pitchers trying to throw both wind up with two mediocre "slurves"). He's working on a hard sinker, which suggests that the fastball is a four-seamer. Durability within games is said to be an issue, which, again, is no surprise.

Command is also an issue, but as Keith Law said on Twitter, if he had plus command right now, he'd have been the No.1 overall pick, which no high school right-hander has ever been.

In the second round, the Twins reverted to type and took a college pitcher with the 43rd overall pick: Ryan Eades, a right-hander from Louisiana State. He had labrum surgery as a high-schooler. He's 8-1, 2.81 this year for LSU, 77 strikeouts and 30 walks in 96 innings, with super-regional play coming up this weekend against Oklahoma.

Presumably the Twins are confident the shoulder issue that turned him into a first baseman for his senior year in high school is no longer a factor. His fast ball is clocked in the low 90s and his best pitch is said to be his curve. To become an effective major league starter, he'll need a third pitch (probably a change up).

Between his slender frame (6-3, 198), his injury history and his limited repertoire, I suspect Eades may wind up in the bullpen. But the Twins will certainly try him as a starter first.

Rounds 3 through 10 are today; Rounds 11 through 40 are Saturday.

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