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Twins in position for draft haul

By La Velle E. Neal III, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) –

MINNEAPOLIS — Months of evaluation culminates Monday when the Twins take part in the Major League Baseball draft, one of the most important drafts in their history in terms of the number of picks they have and the need to improve a struggling farm system.

With five early picks — Nos. 2, 32, 42, 63 and 72 overall — the Twins have a chance to add several top prospects and address their starting pitching needs. Three of those picks are compensation for losing Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel to free agency.

With so many early selections, the Twins have focused on the top 75 prospects. And they have been as thorough as they can in identifying whom they will select with the second overall pick.

On Saturday, they worked out Puerto Rican prep shortstop Carlos Correa at Target Field. Correra has moved up the charts in recent weeks, and the Twins have worked him out twice, once in Fort Myers, Fla., and once in Minneapolis.

“It just so happens he’s had a few workouts in the Midwest this week,” Twins scouting director Deron Johnson said.

After gathering as much information as they can about Correa, indications are that the Twins’ pick still will come down to one of three players: Stanford righthanded pitcher Mark Appel, Georgia prep outfielder Byron Buxton and University of San Francisco righthander Kyle Zimmer.

Appel could reach the majors in a year or two. The Astros have the first overall pick, and Appel is from Houston.

Buxton has elite speed and an elite arm, but some have wondered if he will develop power. Still, he might have the most potential of anyone in the draft.

Zimmer, who has been battling a sore hamstring lately, also could reach the majors in a couple of years. It just so happens that Johnson is a former USF assistant coach.

California prep righthander Lucas Giolito has hit 100 miles per hour on the radar gun, but he sprained his right ulnar collateral ligament during the season. He certainly would have been in the mix for the Twins — and might have been the first prep righthander ever to be selected first overall — but his injury has many teams concerned.

ASTROS PICK WILL DICTATE

There has been speculation for weeks that the Astros will take Appel, leaving the Twins to choose between Buxton and Zimmer. If the Twins take Buxton, they still have plenty of early spots to address their starting pitching. If Houston takes Buxton, the Twins will have an interesting decision between Appel and Zimmer.

What they could use now is a sign from Houston about its intentions, but the Astros entered the weekend still undecided on whom they will take. Sometimes a club will tip off the team drafting behind it of what it plans to do.

“It depends on that relationship you have with that particular scouting director,” Johnson said. “They might call us [Monday] and say, ‘We might take this guy.’ They hold all the cards.”

In the hours leading to the draft, teams are talking with prospects’ families and advisrrs and are getting an idea of what their bonus demands will be, which can shake up draft boards.

MONEY TO SPEND

Because of the number of picks they have, the Twins are in the strongest financial position of any team entering the draft. Major League Baseball has overhauled is signing bonus system, assigning dollar values to each pick in the first 10 rounds and adding the value of each pick to determine a team’s draft pool. The Twins have 13 picks among the first 10 rounds for a total of $12,368,200 in their draft budget. Teams can negotiate above and below the slotted amount but, if they spend more over the 10 rounds than what the league has them budgeted for, they can be fined or lose picks.

The value of the second overall pick, for example, is slotted at $6.2 million. The Twins could sign that pick for $5.5 million and have $700,000 more to spend for their remaining picks in the top 10 rounds.

Will teams look for players who will sign for a little less, thus leaving more money for rounds 2 through 10? One knock on the new system is that teams won’t be able to entice elite prep prospects to sign with them instead of going to college, but saving money in the early rounds could help them lure other prep players in the later rounds.

“The objective should be to get the best players, not how creative you can be,” said Mike Radcliff, Twins vice president of player personnel. “The rules do allow for some options for each team to allocate their money.”

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