Friday, March 11, 2005

2004 Draft Follow-Up: Part Two

Hello! Thanks for stopping by Twins Chatter today. I especially want to welcome all of you who made the trip today because you just had to read more from the genius who so dominated Stick and Ball Guy’s weekly game of Pepper! today. Well, here I am!

Seriously, SBG has a great thing going with his Friday feature, as well as his many other features throughout the week. It seems like nearly every Twins blog has been at the top of its game the past few weeks, and I’d like to think that Twins Chatter is holding its own as well.

Today, as promised, I’m going to finish reviewing the Twins’ fourth, fifth, and sixth overall draft choices from last year’s June draft: Matt Fox, Jay Rainville, and Anthony Swarzak. This will wrap up prospect week, but in case you missed it, here’s all that went on:
Twins Chatter’s Top 10 Prospects #6-10
Twins Chatter’s Top 10 Prospects #1-5
2004 Draft Follow-Up: Part One

Matt Fox (1st rd supplemental– 35th overall, RHP, U. of Central Florida)
In the buildup to the draft, I saw Fox’s name listed at around #65 in terms of the draft’s best players, so I was somewhat surprised when the Twins took him with the 35th overall pick. However, it was good to see the Twins draft a more polished collegian to help balance out all the high school pitchers they ended up drafting.

After having a spectacular senior spring season at Central Florida (14-2, 1.85 ERA, 10.07 K/9) Fox also experienced success last summer down in Elizabethton. His 5.40 ERA is a little misleading, as he averaged almost 11 strikeouts per nine innings and allowed just eight walks in 26.2 innings. Just like Waldrop, Fox has shown excellent command thus far, a great sign for a rookie pitcher.

Fox is a big guy (6’3”, 190 lbs.) and as you can also see, a strikeout pitcher. I’m looking forward to following Fox’s progress this season, as it will be interesting to see if he’s able to achieve a rapid rise to the big leagues like some of the team’s other polished college pitchers. ETA: late 2007-2008

Jay Rainville (1st rd. supplemental – 39th overall, RHP Bishop Hendricken HS, Pawtucket, R.I.)
Rainville, who has drawn comparisons to a young Roger Clemens, was considered one of the top high school pitchers entering the draft but saw his stock fall slightly in the days immediately preceding draft day. Fortunately for us, Rainville’s (slight) loss was our immense gain!

He is a big (6’3”, 220 lbs.) hard-throwing righthanded strikeout pitcher, the kind that scouts dream about. Last summer, Rainville pitched well with the GCL Twins (low-rookie ball), allowing 19 runs in 34 innings while walking just three (!) and striking out 38. Keep in mind this was at the lowest level of the minor leagues, so we’ll have to wait and see what happens with Jay this season at Elizabethton. ETA: 2009

Anthony Swarzak (2nd rd. – 61st overall, RHP Nova HS, Ft. Lauderdale FL)
Of all the prospects on this list, I regrettably admit that Swarzak is the one I know the least about (I do have his rookie card at my house, but I’m still at my dorm right now). But I do know that Swarzak had a very good first professional season with the GCL Twins (click on his name to see the stats) which vaulted him up near the top of many Twins’ prospect lists. Other than that, there isn’t much I can tell you. ETA: 2009

Overall, it appears that the 2004 draft was an immense success for the Twins. The team was able to squeeze several very good players out of what was perceived as a relatively mediocre draft pool. It also served as a way to replenish a minor league system that had graduated many top prospects (Mauer, Morneau, Crain) into the major leagues. With a solid foundation in place at the lower levels, there is no reason the Twins can’t continue to win using their current approach: scout well, draft well, and develop your own talent.

Personally I had became a bit worried last June after reading quotes like “this isn’t a good year to have a lot of picks” or “2004 features one of the weakest drafts in years”. But the Twins made the right choice in focusing on high school pitchers, which are much more high risk/high reward-type players than their college counterparts. If even a couple of these players live up to their potential, the 2004 draft may go down as one of the best in team history.

That’s quite enough for one night. Again, if you haven’t done so already read my Pepper! answers over at SBG. After writing four elaborate posts in a row, I may be taking next Monday off, so don’t be too disappointed if there’s nothing new to start next week. However, John (remember him?) may possibly make his triumphant return to the Twins blogging scene sometime in the next few days, so keep your eyes open for that.

-Ryan Maus