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Twins hope high picks can climb ladder

Twins hope high picks can climb ladder

With the 2009 season and Arizona Fall League (where several 2009 draftees got their first taste of pro ball) in the books, we take a look at the early results of each club's '09 Draft class: how their top picks did; late-round picks that fared well; which picks are likely to move up the ladder quickest; and which picks clubs were unable to sign.

The Minnesota Twins used the 2009 Draft to add more depth to a current abundance of good young arms, using their first four picks on college pitchers that they hope will move quickly into impact status.


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The Twins signed their first 10 picks, nine of whom came from the college ranks, and five of the first eight were pitchers. Overall, Minnesota signed just 24 out of its 51 picks, but is certainly pleased with the ones that did join the ranks.

Top five picks

1. Kyle Gibson, RHP: The Missouri ace dropped to the 22nd pick overall because of a stress fracture in the forearm of his pitching arm that was diagnosed shortly before the Draft. Before that, he was well known for his sinking fastball around 90 mph, his plus slider and change, his command and his good mechanics. Though he didn't make his pro debut in '09 due to the injury, all of the latter qualities were evident in his brief time on the mound in the instructional league, and the club is confident he'll be ready to roll when 2010 comes around. At 6-foot-6 and 200 pounds, Gibson has a good pitcher's body, repeats his delivery well and has good "pitch ability." He is spending the offseason working on his conditioning, and the Twins believe he'll be on the fast track.

1S. Matt Bashore, LHP: Taken at No. 46 overall, the Indiana product has a plus curveball and solid fastball, but only pitched in one game at short-season Elizabethton after signing late. He had a strong finish to his college season, which saw him move up in the Draft.

2. Billy Bullock, RHP: Converted by the Florida Gators from starter to reliever, Bullock showed inconsistent control out of the bullpen, but he has a great pitcher's build at 6-foot-6 and 225 pounds, as well as a mid-90s fastball, so he was worth the gamble as he works on command. Between Elizabethton (1.23 ERA) and Class A Beloit (2.73 ERA) he earned that confidence, combining to go 4-0 with a 2.41 ERA in 33 games and striking out 45 while walking just 13 in 33 2/3 innings.

3. Ben Tootle, RHP: Drafted out of Jacksonville State, Tootle had been clocked in the high 90s in the Cape Cod League in 2008, but an illness during his junior year caused him to lose a lot of weight and strength, which affected his performance. Healthy now, he tossed 6 1/3 shutout innings down the stretch at Elizabethton after signing late, and he limited hitters to a .190 average.

4. Derek McCallum, 2B: A local signing out of Minnesota, McCallum is a pure hitter who can also fill in at shortstop if needed. He hit .241 with five homers and 38 RBIs in his debut at Elizabethton.

Best of the Rest

Catcher Tobias Streich (fifth round) out of West Virginia hit .222 with 10 homers and 37 RBIs at Elizabethton. Left fielder Chris Herrmann (sixth round), who was primarily a catcher at Miami, moved into the outfield and batted .297 with seven homers, 30 RBIs and a .453 slugging percentage for Elizabethton. Shortstop Brian Dozier (eighth round) out of Southern Mississippi was an Appalachian League All-Star, combining to hit .349 between Elizabethton and a handful of games in the Gulf Coast League. Dozier, who could see time at second base as well as down the line, suffered a broken collarbone in college, which saw his draft stock drop, but not his pro debut performance. Lefty Matt Tone (14th round) out of SUNY Cortland ranked among the Minor League leaders when it came to average against in relief at .119, with a 1.31 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 34 1/3 innings at Elizabethton. Outfielder Steve Liddle (15th round), a power prospect and the son of the Twins' big league bench coach, signed out of Vanderbilt and hit .360 with two homers and five RBIs in 13 games at Elizabethton. Righty Dakota Watts (16) out of Cal State Stanislaus combined at three levels for a 4.60 ERA in 22 games and limited hitters to a .196 average, rising as high as Advanced Class A Fort Myers.

Fast Risers

With so many college pitchers in the early rounds, there are several to choose from, so you could probably pick any of the first four and make a case for them. But a healthy Gibson certainly gets the first nod.

Unsigned

Signing just 24 picks out of 51, there were several who could be considered "the ones that got away," but the top two are most notable. Outfielder Blake Dean (10th round) out of Louisiana State underwent shoulder surgery over the summer and returned to LSU for his senior year. He hit .328 with 17 homers and 71 RBIs for the team as a junior. Outfielder Ronnie Richardson (11th round) was one of the most exciting young players to participate in MLB's Urban Academy program in recent years. The Florida high schooler, an exciting sparkplug type of player, heads to the University of Central Florida to pursue his education for three years before coming back to play pro ball.

Lisa Winston is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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