College standouts dominate Twins' Draft board

Club selects 17 pitchers, 10 outfielders across three-day event

College standouts dominate Twins' Draft board

MINNEAPOLIS -- After selecting four prep players on the first day of the 2016 MLB Draft, the Twins went heavy on college players the rest of the way, especially on Saturday, the final day.

Of Minnesota's 42 selections, 31 came from the college ranks, including 24 of their 30 picks on Day 3. They drafted 17 pitchers, eight infielders, 10 outfielders and seven catchers. The Twins went with upside early in the Draft, taking Pittsburgh-area high school outfielder Alex Kirilloff with the No. 15 overall pick before taking Wisconsin prep catcher Ben Rortvedt (No. 56), Puerto Rican shortstop/third baseman Jose Miranda (No. 73) and Georgia prep outfielder Akil Baddoo (No. 74).

"We loaded up on bats early," Twins scouting director Deron Johnson said. "We were happy with it. We got who we wanted."

The Twins then went on a run of selecting four straight right-handed pitchers, including three from the college ranks, to open the second day. Right-hander Griffin Jax of the Air Force Academy highlighted the day, while the club also took reliever Thomas Hackimer, Canadian high schooler Jordan Balazovic and Cal right-hander Alex Schick, who was highly touted coming into the year but dealt with a knee injury. Jax, the son of former NFL linebacker Garth Jax, is expected to have his five-year service commitment deferred and can play in the Minors this summer, but he'll need to finish his senior year from August until May before rejoining the organization.

"We did our homework on this," Johnson said. "This is going to be a little unique to us. The good thing is that they're going to allow him to finish his senior year, which makes it a lot easier. Us taking him in the third round, I think they're going to give us some leeway."

To open the third day, the Twins also went with a pitcher who was highly regarded before injuries derailed his season, selecting Tyler Benninghoff with the No. 333 overall pick in the 11th round. Benninghoff, a high school right-hander from Missouri, was projected as a top 3-round pick but dealt with a biceps injury that limited him to one outing.

Twins draft RHP Jax No. 93

The Twins also made one local selection, taking Forest Lake (Minn.) High School right-hander Matt Wallner with the No. 963 overall pick in the 32nd round. Wallner, who is committed to Southern Miss, grew up a Twins fan and was at Saturday's game against the Red Sox when he found out he was selected by his hometown team, getting a call from local scout Mark Wilson.

"I felt pretty fortunate and pretty blessed," Wallner said. "We got tickets from [Twins CFO] Kip Elliott because I'm buddies with his kid. He gave tickets to me and two friends, and as we were walking up, I was on the phone with Mark and Kip waved me down. So I went up to the Twins offices to meet some of the guys. That was really cool."

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for since 2011. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.