KANSAS CITY -- Twins scout Elliott Strankman received a tip that there was a hard-throwing reliever dominating the Golden State Collegiate Baseball League in northern California this summer, so he figured he might as well see the guy pitch.
Strankman had heard of this pitcher -- 24-year-old Brandon Poulson -- because he had attended San Francisco's Academy of the Art University's workout day in the fall and was intrigued by what he had seen of him and what he'd been hearing about Poulson's performance with the Healdsburg Prune Packers.
It only took 18 pitches from Poulson in an outing in mid-July for Strankman to be convinced that the Twins should sign Poulson, and it's exactly what they did Tuesday. The Twins inked Poulson, who has hit as high as 100 mph on the radar gun, for $250,000, and he'll head to Rookie-level Elizabethton to start his professional career.
"I saw him throw 18 pitches and after that we kind of got into a bargaining thing and went ahead and agreed to terms," Strankman said. "This is my sixth Draft and I've been around baseball, but I've never seen anything quite like it. He just kind of figured it out. He figured out his mechanics and is a hard worker. It's just a great story."
Poulson, a 6-foot-6, 240-pounder, has never been drafted, and struggled last season with an 8.38 ERA to go along with 24 strikeouts and 24 walks in 19 1/3 innings. But he put it all together this summer, striking out 31 batters in 12 1/3 innings, and it was enough to impress several clubs, including the Twins.
Poulson comes from an unusual background, as he played baseball and football at Santa Rosa Junior College in California, but worked for his father's excavating business the last few years before pitching. He boasts a 40-inch vertical and a 6.6-second time in the 60-yard dash, according to Strankman.
"He's a freak athlete," Strankman said. "He's 24 years old but he's got ceiling. He played football for a couple years and took a couple years off before he started pitching. He has to pick up on some of the nuisances of pitching, but in terms of being athletic and big and having a big arm, he has all that."
Strankman joked that someone within the organization compared their find to the fictional flame-throwing Sidd Finch in the famous April Fool's hoax in Sports Illustrated in 1985, but only this time the hard-throwing pitcher is for real.
"He had the best fastball I've seen this year," Strankman said. "To have a guy that size and have such a clean delivery, it's pretty remarkable. We're excited to add him to our inventory."