The early returns on the last two first-round picks have been promising for the Twins, as center fielder Byron Buxton was taken in '12 and is ranked as the No. 1 overall prospect in baseball by MLB.com, while right-hander Kohl Stewart was selected last year and is rated as the No. 32 overall prospect by MLB.com.
The Twins will be looking for similar success this year in a Draft that doesn't have a consensus top pick. Instead, Twins vice president of player personnel Mike Radcliff thinks there are five to seven quality players atop the board before the talent level drops off.
"We think there's a bit of a jumble," Radcliff said. "There's not really a consensus to the order. I think we feel like we'll get a player we like and has some upside and ceiling at No. 5. The Draft quality at the top is a little deeper than the last two, which were basically bad Drafts all the way through."
The 2014 Draft will take place today through Saturday, beginning with the Draft preview show on MLB.com and MLB Network today at 5 p.m. CT. Live Draft coverage from MLB Network's Studio 42 begins at 6 p.m., with the top 74 picks being streamed on MLB.com and broadcast on MLB Network. MLB.com's exclusive coverage of the second and third days will begin with a live Draft show at 11:30 a.m. on Friday.
MLB.com's coverage includes Draft Central, the Top 200 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. Every selection will be tweeted live from @MLBDraftTracker, and you can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
So while there's no real consensus on what the four teams will do ahead of the Twins, there are three pitchers who are regarded as the top three arms in the Draft. The trio includes left-handers Carlos Rodon (North Carolina State University) and Brady Aiken (Cathedral High School, San Diego) and right-hander Tyler Kolek (Shepard High School, Shepard, Texas).
If any of the three pitchers slip to the Twins, they're likely to pounce on them, but they've also been linked to position players such as high school shortstop Nick Gordon, the son of former closer Tom Gordon and the brother of Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon.
"I don't think any of the 30 Draft rooms think there is a consensus No. 1 guy," Radcliff said. "There's more of a group of guys. And I think there are at least five of them that we think will be a good selection. But who it is, it's just impossible to know today."
The Twins will also continue their strategy of selecting the best player available instead of going after specific needs, as they tend to shift over time, especially considering how long it takes prospects to make the Majors.
"We've never subscribed to the Draft-for-need theory," Radcliff said. "Every organization's needs are fluid and change sometimes from month to month. Every organization needs players at every position. You might think you're set at one position in the Major Leagues today, but an injury or a trade later it might not be the case. So especially with an early pick, if you don't take the best player, it dilutes the future."
In about 50 words
With a Top 5 pick in the First-Year Player Draft for the third straight season, the Twins have the chance to add another impact player to a farm system that is already regarded as one of the best in baseball.
"It's a little better Draft than the last two. I think there's a consensus among the 30 teams that the last two Drafts were bad in quality and quantity. And this one is a little better. It's building back up. There are some better college guys, in particular pitchers, so there's a little more depth. I wouldn't call it a great Draft or an organization-saving Draft, but there are players to be had and there always are." -- Radcliff
The Twins have been connected to Gordon in various mock drafts, as the shortstop from Olympia High School in Orlando, Fla., would give them a potential star player up the middle. But the Twins could also decide to take a pitcher, especially if a top prospect such as Kolek slips out of the top four. They've also been linked to LSU right-hander Aaron Nola and Hartford left-hander Sean Newcomb if the consensus top three pitchers get taken before the No. 5 pick.
Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, each team has an allotted bonus pool equal to the sum of the values of that club's selections in the first 10 rounds of the Draft. The more picks a team has, and the earlier it picks, the larger the pool. The signing bonuses for a team's selections in the first 10 rounds, plus any bonus greater than $100,000 for a player taken after the 10th round, will apply toward the bonus-pool total.
Any team going up to five percent over its allotted pool will be taxed at a 75-percent rate on the overage. A team that overspends by 5-10 percent gets a 75-percent tax plus the loss of a first-round pick. A team that goes 10-15 percent over its pool amount will be hit with a 100-percent penalty on the overage and the loss of a first- and second-round pick. Any overage of 15 percent or more gets a 100-percent tax plus the loss of first-round picks in the next two Drafts.
The Twins have $3.85 million available for their first pick and $1.22 million for their second pick. They also have $7.525 million total for their first 10 picks, which ranks as the 10th highest in the Majors.
The Twins are always on the lookout for quality arms but also could look to add a potential star shortstop, as they don't have any elite shortstop prospects in their system. The Twins are likely to add pitching with a few of their top picks, much like last year, when five of their first seven picks were pitchers. The Twins could also look to add a catcher with one of their early selections.
After drafting college players with their first pick in '10 and '11, the Twins went with high schoolers in '12 with Buxton and '13 with Stewart. The Twins are not afraid to take high school talent, and could go that route again with their first pick. The Twins have also been loading up on pitching in recent years, and that trend could continue.
*RECENT DRAFT HISTORY*
Buxton would've been the candidate here if he stayed healthy, as he was on the fast track to his Major League debut early next season. But he's still out with a sprained left wrist and there's no timetable for his return. Fellow 2012 first-round pick Jose Berrios, who was taken in the supplemental round, remains one of the club's top pitching prospects. The 20-year-old right-hander moved up to Class A Advanced Fort Myers this season and has excelled there.
Right-hander Michael Tonkin was a 30th-round pick by the Twins in 2008, and the reliever made his Major League debut last season. He's posted a 3.42 ERA in 23 2/3 innings with the Twins but is currently at Triple-A Rochester after struggling early in the year in Minnesota with a 5.84 ERA in 15 appearances. But he remains one of the club's top relief prospects.
In The Show
Right-hander Kyle Gibson has bounced back after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2011, and has fared better this year than his rookie season in '13. He has a 4.18 ERA in 10 starts this year after posting a 6.53 ERA in 10 starts last season.
Twins recent top picks
2013: Kohl Stewart, RHP, Class A Cedar Rapids
2012: Byron Buxton, OF, injured (wrist) at Class A Advanced Fort Myers
2011: Levi Michael, SS, injured (right foot contusion) at Class A Advanced Fort Myers
2010: Alex Wimmers, RHP, Class A Advanced Fort Myers
2009: Kyle Gibson, RHP, Minnesota Twins