Twins love upside with their top Draft selection

Minnesota also tabs OF Wallner (39), RHP Canterino (54) on Day 1

June 4th, 2019

CLEVELAND -- Keoni Cavaco wasn’t even on the Twins’ radar until last fall, but when they saw the 18-year-old smashing balls onto the rocks beyond the left-center field fence at Angel Stadium, the club dug in its heels and sent a scout to every one of Cavaco’s high school games this spring.

After seeing enough to be impressed by Cavaco’s raw power, speed and defensive ability, the Twins added the high-ceiling infielder to their system with the No. 13 selection in the 2019 MLB Draft, selecting Cavaco from Eastlake High School in California with their first of three picks on Monday night. Minnesota added outfielder Matt Wallner of Southern Mississippi with the 39th pick and right-hander Matt Canterino of Rice at No. 54.

“Getting picked in the first round is probably every kid’s dream when they grow up playing baseball,” Cavaco said. “I’ve been working hard ever since last fall to get to this point and now that I’m here, I don’t know. I have no words to express it. I’m just excited to start playing pro ball.”

The Twins feel that the strong arm and athleticism from Cavaco, who said he models his game after Javier Baez, contribute to an already gifted defensive skill set at third base, with the possibility of him sticking at shortstop in the professional game.

“I think upside is the right word to use here.” Twins scouting director Sean Johnson said. “He’s got electric bat speed. We think he’s going to have home run power. He’s one of the best third basemen I’ve seen in the high school ranks in my time scouting, and most of the guys who saw him -- that’s including guys that’s done it 20-plus years -- so a great defender.”

Cavaco joins a Minnesota system that already boasts plenty of high-ceiling talent on the left side of the infield, including 2017 first overall selection Royce Lewis (No. 1), Wander Javier (No. 4) and Nick Gordon (No. 10).

The 6-foot-1, 180-pound Cavaco was ranked the No. 1 high school player in the state of California by Perfect Game and he had been named to the 2019 Preseason California Region All-High School Senior First Team. Cavaco, who was ranked No. 28 prospect in the Top 200 Draft Prospects by MLB Pipeline, shot up Draft boards this spring after that power-packed performance at the Angel Elite showcase in the fall.

"It was kind of crazy because a lot of teams started coming at me at once and it was kind of overwhelming at first, but then I started to enjoy it and have fun with it,” Cavaco said. “I continued working, working, and now I'm here."

Through all that attention from several teams and the realization around January that a first-round selection could be possible, Cavaco said that the Twins were always checking in with him throughout his senior year, and the selection came as no surprise for him.

"I did have a really good feeling,” Cavaco said. “They've been following me ever since Angels Elite last fall and they stuck with me ever since the season started.”

Cavaco credited part of his success during his senior year to his continued physical development, and Johnson feels the infielder has the ability to keep growing into his frame. In that regard, the Twins like that Cavaco is relatively young among his high school peers -- he only turned 18 years old on Sunday. One thing that has already stood out is Cavaco’s speed, measured at four seconds flat from home to first, which Johnson pointed out is close to that measured for Byron Buxton -- though Minnesota doesn’t necessarily project that in the long-term.

“There's plenty of room for that to happen and maturation,” Johnson said. “I think it's tools and upside with the body physically. I think those are the things you're drawn to as a scout.

“Much like Royce Lewis was in the spring, the more we kept going, the more we kept seeing things that we liked,” Johnson said.

Wallner, who was selected at No. 39, is a native of Forest Lake, Minn. that had also been taken by the Twins in the 32nd round of the 2016 MLB Draft and grew up dreaming about playing for his hometown team. The left-handed slugger had been a two-way talent at Forest Lake High School and “Mr. Baseball” in Minnesota in 2016 before he honored his commitment to Southern Miss and hit 58 homers across three seasons to set the school’s all-time career home run record.

The 21-year-old outfielder led Conference USA in homers during each of his first two collegiate seasons but admitted that he struggled out of the gate this season as he stressed about the upcoming MLB Draft. He hit three homers in the first 26 games of 2019 before knocking 20 in his last 35 contests to claim the school’s home run title.

“Definitely, early in the year, I was probably looking at the Twins at the 39th pick and said, 'I’ve got to land there,’” Wallner said. “Just pressing a little too much. … Two months into the year, I really kind of let that go and let my body work and my hands work and just kind of do what I do. That led to my success.”

Canterino, the Twins’ second-round pick with the No. 54 selection, was the 2019 Conference USA Pitcher of the Year and was one of only two collegiate pitchers to reach triple-digit strikeouts in each of the last three seasons. The 21-year-old right-hander pitched for the U.S. Collegiate National Team in 2018 and features a strong slider and curveball, according to MLB Pipeline.

The 6-foot-3, 235-pound Canterino, ranked No. 46 in the Top 200 Draft Prospects by MLB Pipeline, posted a 3.33 ERA across 48 career appearances at Rice (including 47 starts) with 348 strikeouts in 289 1/3 innings.

The Draft continues on Tuesday with Rounds 3-10. The preview show begins at 12:30 p.m. ET, with exclusive coverage beginning at 1 p.m. ET. Go to for complete coverage, including every pick on Draft Tracker, coverage and analysis from MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo, the complete order of selection and more. And follow @MLBDraft and @MLBDraftTracker on Twitter.