'Let's go': Twins ink first-round pick Jenkins before deadline

July 26th, 2023

MINNEAPOLIS -- Two years ago, noted agent Scott Boras watched then-high school sophomore Walker Jenkins play in some tournament games, and at the family’s house in North Carolina, Boras knew he wanted to get a closer look at Jenkins’ swing, and mentioned it in passing.

The only problem is that it was around 11 p.m. at the time.

Jenkins’ response was simple: “Let’s go.”

At first, Boras thought Jenkins had to go somewhere, and he figured he should leave -- but no, Jenkins actually meant that there was a batting cage out back, and they should go hit, right that second.

Didn’t matter that it was raining. Didn’t matter that it was way past bedtime. They hit for an hour and a half.

“If that tells you anything about the spirit of the Jenkins family and who Walker is and what his commitment to baseball is, I think that best describes his character,” Boras said.

That’s the baseball-obsessed character, the “Captain America” type player Minnesota landed with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2023 MLB Draft, in the words of former Twins star Michael Cuddyer, who has a longstanding relationship with Jenkins.

Landing this kind of talent was once a pipe dream for the Twins this year, but their move up in the inaugural Draft Lottery put them in position to get Jenkins into a Minnesota uniform.

On Tuesday, that became official, as Jenkins became the final member of the Twins’ 2023 Draft class to sign with the organization, inking a $7,144,200 bonus, just above the slot value for the No. 5 pick of $7,139,700.

“I always tell people, I hate losing more than I like winning, so that kind of sums up the way I play baseball on the baseball field,” Jenkins said. “I’m going to give it my all. Go 100 percent, try to be the best player, teammate that I can be.”

Though Jenkins’ signing came down to the wire prior to Tuesday afternoon’s signing deadline, both president of baseball operations Derek Falvey and Boras downplayed the timing of the signing, noting that there were no medical issues and that the time was spent helping Jenkins and his family understand the Twins’ organization ahead of their decision.

“We just spent a lot of time on the phone together and navigated it all,” Falvey said. “It's just the process of it all. Ultimately, Scott and I have had plenty of conversations throughout it.

“And with the shorter timeline to signing than it was just a few short years ago, when the Draft signing deadlines went into August and it went later, continue to work through that, with Scott, on behalf of Walker, to understand all the details and how this all worked out.”

Jenkins was the last of the first-round selections from this Draft to sign. With his entry to the organization, the Twins inked their first 19 picks and all but their high school selections in the 19th and 20th round, who were considered unlikely to sign.

Jenkins will report to the Twins’ complex in Fort Myers, Fla., where the organization is less immediately focused on getting him into games in the Rookie-level Florida Complex League.

Instead, they’ll look to get him in good physical condition after the delay at the end of his high school season, and look at getting him into more action in instructional league play.

“This is one of the challenges of the timing of the Draft now, with the July Draft instead of June," Falvey said. "You often have your high school season ended, and there's a really long period of time until the actual Draft. … You work out, you stay in shape, you do all the things I'm sure he's been doing, but playing actual games, a little less so.

"I think we're going to take some time to get him into baseball game play and just make sure he's in a good spot physically.”