Thursday, March 10, 2005

2004 Draft Follow-Up: Part One

Wow! I was pleasantly surprised at the number of people who have come to Twins Chatter for prospect week thus far, especially yesterday to see Twins Chatter’s top 5 prospects. It’s good to know that everyone enjoyed what I had to say. Prospect week continues today with my exclusive follow-up analysis of the 2004 amateur draft.

As you may remember, the excitement surrounding last June’s amateur draft was considerably higher than usual. Because of the free agent defections by LaTroy Hawkins and Eddie Guardado, the Twins received several early compensation picks, giving them a total of six picks in the first two rounds (including the supplemental first round). Last June I spent an entire day crafting an in-depth Draft Preview, which was well received by many readers. I encourage you to go back and read some of the things that I said, as it’s interesting to see where I was both right and wrong! The next day I also wrote a short draft recap, which you can read here (it's the second post on the page).

Below I’ll write a little about the top three of those first six picks, including what was said about them when they were drafted last year, their performance in 2004, and their prospects for the future. The other three will be discussed tomorrow.

Trevor Plouffe (1st round, 20th overall, SS, Crespi HS, Northridge, Calif.)
Plouffe was the team’s first pick in the draft last June, which came as somewhat of a surprise to me. I was under the impression that he was going to be available for the team in the supplemental round, allowing them to draft Missouri prep infielder Blake DeWitt (who went 28th overall to the Dodgers). However, the Twins decided to fill an organizational weakness by taking a guy they know can play shortstop (DeWitt played SS in high school but projected as a 2B/3B in the pros).

Plouffe, who I named the team’s 10th best prospect the other day, started his professional down in Elizabethton last summer. He hit .283/.380/.340 in 237 at-bats, which falls under the category of good-but-not-great. Unfortunately he did commit 16 errors at short, which obviously isn’t the most impressive stat in the world.

“Why on earth,” you’re probably asking me by now, “did you name this guy on your top prospects list if he had such a mediocre first season?” For me, the key word here is “projectable”. Plouffe is still a young kid, but he’s got a tall, athletic frame, good hands, and an excellent arm (he threw over 90 mph as a pitcher in HS). Once the 18 year-old fills out a little (he’s listed at just 175 lbs.) and gains some experience as a hitter, I could see him patrolling the infield of the not-yet-constructed Pohlad Park for a long time.

Glen Perkins (1st round-22nd overall, LHP, U. of Minnesota)
Perkins also made it on to my top-10 list the other day (he was number 7) has established himself as one of the up-and-comers in the organization. Last June there was little doubt that the Twins would be the ones to sign the ‘U’ product and Stillwater native; it was just a matter of when. Well the team played it safe and took the lefty with their second overall pick.

Perkins, who was one of the best pitchers in Gopher history, pitched extremely well during his first season at low-A Quad Cities (although the Twins eased him into pro ball by throwing him a few innings in E-Town before that). In 9 starts, Perkins posted a 1.30 ERA, a 0.93 WHIP, and struck out 9.12 batters per nine innings. I assume he’ll start 2005 with the Fort Myers Miracle (keep an eye out Dianna!) and don’t be surprised if he earns himself a mid-season promotion up to AA as well. This kid is definitely on the fast track.

As we discussed the other day, the only knock against Perkins is his size. He’s 5’11”, 190 lbs., which isn’t small by any means but also isn’t big. The thing is, if Perkins was 6’1” or 6’2”, the Twins would never have had a chance to draft him in the first place! There are countless examples of pitchers making it without possessing great height (our very own Johan K. Santana, for instance) so I’m not too worried about Perkins. I see no reasons why this guy shouldn’t be able to fill a spot in the Twins rotation beginning in 2007.

Kyle Waldrop (1st round-25th overall, RHP, Farragut HS, Knoxville TN)
It is players like Waldrop that separate award-winning organizations like the Twins from the average major league program. Waldrop was a dark horse in the 2004 draft. Draft previews said that he would most likely go in the 10th round or higher, despite possessing first-round skills, simply because of signability issues. This is sometimes the case with top high school players—Dexter Fowler (14th rd, Colorado) and Mark Trumbo (18th rd, Anahiem) are two prime examples of outstanding talents who dropped to the later rounds because of such concerns.

However, the scouting director Mike Radcliffe and the rest of the team’s front office sought out Waldrop before the draft and worked out a deal with him, allowing the team to take the prep righty with the 25th overall pick and quickly sign him for a $1 million bonus. He quickly proved his mettle down in the Gulf Coast League and in Elizabethton, going 5-2 overall with a 2.14 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP, including just seven walks (an outstanding number for such a young player). Looking back, Waldrop appears to be the steal of the first round.

Because he’s so young, we must temper our excitement at least slightly when it comes to this kid. Dominating the Appalachian League (rookie ball) is one thing—doing well in A or AA is quite another. Even with that being said, I think Waldrop has a good chance of succeeding and making it to the big leagues someday.

I don’t want to drag on too much for one day, so that’s all I’m going to print for today. Be sure and check back tomorrow (Friday) as I round out prospect week by profiling picks #4-6 from last year. I'll also finish off the two-part post with a brief preview of the June 2005 draft. Thanks for stopping by Twins Chatter!

-Ryan Maus

p.s. If you're still looking for more coverage of last summer's draft, be sure and read this piece from Baseball America, published last November.