Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
The Official Site of the Minnesota Twins
news

Twins News

Twins surprise Mauer with retirement of No. 7

Minnesota icon will be eighth member of organization to receive honor
Special to MLB.com

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Joe Mauer sat in a small black chair at the field house named in his honor at Cretin-Derham Hall, the high school where Mauer's athletic achievements were first noticed.

Prior to a ceremony Tuesday to celebrate Mauer's retirement from baseball, the Twins star mingled among the crowd in attendance. Mauer's high school coach, Jim O'Neill, spoke to the assembled students, as did Tony Leseman, Mauer's friend since childhood and now the school's admissions director. Leseman told Mauer it would be a simple ceremony, like the many Twins winter caravans he participated in during his playing career.

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Joe Mauer sat in a small black chair at the field house named in his honor at Cretin-Derham Hall, the high school where Mauer's athletic achievements were first noticed.

Prior to a ceremony Tuesday to celebrate Mauer's retirement from baseball, the Twins star mingled among the crowd in attendance. Mauer's high school coach, Jim O'Neill, spoke to the assembled students, as did Tony Leseman, Mauer's friend since childhood and now the school's admissions director. Leseman told Mauer it would be a simple ceremony, like the many Twins winter caravans he participated in during his playing career.

Twins' all-time retired numbers

After Mauer took questions from students, Twins legends Tom Kelly, Tony Oliva, Kent Hrbek and Bert Blyleven entered the auditorium to surprise Mauer. Hrbek approached the podium and announced that the Twins will retire Mauer's No. 7 next summer.

"It's not every day that you have your favorite player growing up tell you you're going to go on the wall with him with the retired numbers," Mauer said. "That means a lot to me. Obviously, Bert and Tony and T.K. coming too, I'm still kind of in shock right now. Those guys helped me out so much, not only as a baseball player, but how to conduct yourself as a man and as a professional. Those guys mean a lot to me too."

In a ceremony at a to-be-determined home game next season, Mauer will become the eighth member of the Twins organization to have his number retired as either a manager or a player. He joins Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew, Oliva, Hrbek, Kirby Puckett, Blyleven and Kelly.

Video: Joe Mauer's first and last Major League hits

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton, in a taped announcement, also proclaimed that the day would forever be known as Joe Mauer Day in the state.

In the same building he first signed with the hometown Twins as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2001 Draft -- and where he met his wife, Maddie -- Mauer's career had come full circle.

"I signed my contract in the old gym up there," Mauer said. "It doesn't seem that long ago, but it is 18 years. That's one of the things I wanted to say to these students. Things happen pretty fast and you want to enjoy the time that you have. And the opportunities that are in front of you, you try to take advantage of them when you can."

Mauer took advantage of every opportunity he had.

He was a three-sport star at Cretin-Derham Hall -- the Gatorade National Player of the Year in football his senior year and an All-State selection in basketball as a junior and senior. He tied a national high school baseball record with a home run in seven consecutive games. He had committed to play football at Florida State before deciding on a career in baseball.

Mauer finished last season ranking first on the Twins' all-time list in doubles (428) and times on base (3,087). He is second in Twins history in games played (1,858) and hits (2,123), and fifth in RBIs (923).

Video: DET@MIN: Mauer becomes Twins' all-time on-base leader

And now Mauer's No. 7 will be hanging inside Target Field in the community he still calls home.

"Being able to put on the Twins' uniform, being at home, like I said before, meant more to me than you'll know," Mauer said. "Now, when I take my kids to the game and see No. 7 up there, it will probably put a smile on my face every time I see it. I'm excited for that."

Mauer didn't have to wait long in retirement for his number to join him. The Twins moved swiftly to recognize the local son.

"If I were Joe, I would think, 'They might retire my number someday,'" team owner Jim Pohlad said. "But I don't know if he would have thought it would be announced today. It's a great thing."

Video: Mauer details how he wants to be remembered

Mauer is enjoying being home with his wife and three kids, the third of which was born a few days after his retirement announcement. He's also gotten back to playing basketball, joining a group that plays pickup games at Cretin-Derham Hall on Sundays.

"It's been fun to be a full-time dad and help out at home as much as I can," Mauer said. "I was saying, it kind of almost feels like a regular offseason. I know there might be some different emotions and different feelings come Spring Training, but I'm definitely in a good place and feeling good about it."

Brian Hall is a contributor to MLB.com.

Minnesota Twins, Joe Mauer

Internal options could emerge as Twins' closer

May had 3 saves late last season; Romero also a potential fit
MLB.com @dohyoungpark

The Twins are in the market for relief help this offseason, but the front office entered last week's Winter Meetings in Las Vegas with some uncertainty about how this year's bullpen market would develop. There had been a flurry of relievers on the move at the Winter Meetings a year earlier, and Seattle's trade of Edwin Diaz to the Mets also threw an unforeseen wrench into the closer market.

But after actively surveying the relief market in Las Vegas, with some conversations more direct than others, the Twins emerged from the Meetings with a better idea of the landscape and a stated desire to bolster the back end of the bullpen in particular.

The Twins are in the market for relief help this offseason, but the front office entered last week's Winter Meetings in Las Vegas with some uncertainty about how this year's bullpen market would develop. There had been a flurry of relievers on the move at the Winter Meetings a year earlier, and Seattle's trade of Edwin Diaz to the Mets also threw an unforeseen wrench into the closer market.

But after actively surveying the relief market in Las Vegas, with some conversations more direct than others, the Twins emerged from the Meetings with a better idea of the landscape and a stated desire to bolster the back end of the bullpen in particular.

"We do feel there is some need to continue to build that group," chief baseball officer Derek Falvey said.

The Twins could shy away from the lengthy, costly commitments projected for Craig Kimbrel and Adam Ottavino. Joakim Soria, David Robertson, Brad Brach, Kelvin Herrera and Cody Allen are among other free-agent names on the market for back-end roles. But even if the Twins add to their late-innings crew, could an in-house candidate eventually seize the closer role?

For one, Trevor May can be penciled in as a reliever for the foreseeable future. Even after the 29-year-old was stretched out as a starter during his rehab from his March 2017 Tommy John surgery, the right-hander expressed a desire to Twins leadership to move back into the bullpen for 2018 and beyond.

That proved a wise decision -- according to both traditional and underlying metrics. The 4-1 record and 3.20 ERA in 24 games speak for themselves, and May posted career bests in both strikeout rate (12.8 K/9) and walk rate (1.8 BB/9) and was best among Twins relievers in hard-hit rate allowed (29.5 percent) and whiff rate (32.7 percent). He saw upticks in whiff rates on both his four-seam fastball and his curveball in 2018.

Whether he closes or not -- and he did save three games in late September -- the Twins see a healthy May's continued progression as an important piece of the bullpen picture in 2019.

"When he finished the year healthy and in a good spot throwing the ball pretty well down the stretch there, we felt that's probably our best bet," Falvey said.

But for those that believe in intangibles that might separate closers from other relievers, consider hard-throwing 23-year-old Fernando Romero, who not only has the plus fastball that could serve him well as a bullpen gem, but is also drawing attention for his ironclad mentality.

"I think he has a thirst for competition. It seems to be insatiable," general manager Thad Levine said. "I think he's one of those guys who goes on the mound and toes the rubber and thinks he's about 5 inches taller than he is and is prepared to do battle with anybody who's in the box.

"Whether he's pitching the seventh, the eighth, the ninth, the second or third, or maybe even five or six innings at some point in a game, you have to be determined. I think what is pretty clear to us is that this guy wants the ball when the game is on the line. There will be plenty of opportunities to deliver that to him."

Video: MIN@STL: Romero fans 9, shuts out Cards over 6 frames

Romero made a strong first impression as a starter in 2018, as he jumped out to a 1.88 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 28 2/3 innings through five starts then settled at a 4.69 ERA over 11 starts before he returned to the Minor Leagues in July.

The right-hander's fastball touched 97.5 mph in 2018, and he showed a willingness to attack the strike zone, even as a starter, as his 50.9 percent of pitches in the zone would have placed third among Twins relievers behind Addison Reed and Zack Littell.

Romero likely won't be an immediate candidate to close, as the Twins still feel that he has a starter's repertoire, pending the continued development of his changeup. But don't be surprised if he factors into the picture in the future.

Do-Hyoung Park covers the Twins for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @dohyoungpark and on Instagram at dohyoung.park.

Minnesota Twins, Trevor May, Fernando Romero

The stats say: Rooker poised to take off in '19

MLB.com @GoldenSombrero

One great feature on MLB Pipeline is the prospect stats tool. In addition to offering helpful data on specific performances through all the basic, commonly-used stats, it's become an especially valuable resource for doing deeper dives into players' strengths and weaknesses.

Specifically, the 'Advanced search' tool allows for a highly detailed and customizable look inside specific players' performances and how they compare to others throughout both the Minors and big leagues.

One great feature on MLB Pipeline is the prospect stats tool. In addition to offering helpful data on specific performances through all the basic, commonly-used stats, it's become an especially valuable resource for doing deeper dives into players' strengths and weaknesses.

Specifically, the 'Advanced search' tool allows for a highly detailed and customizable look inside specific players' performances and how they compare to others throughout both the Minors and big leagues.

So, with the offseason now in full swing, we thought that we'd begin a new series using the aforementioned stats tool to take a deeper dive into certain players' 2018 seasons as a means of forecasting future success.

The goal in this first installment is to identify hitters who have the potential to make developmental strides in 2019. That could mean a full-blown breakout campaign for some players, while for others it could simply mean a return to form after a down year.

In the Minor Leagues, distinguishing types of contact is not a perfect science -- for example, some official scorers might label a line drive as a fly ball and vice versa. So, for the sake of consistency, we'll mostly be looking at line-drive and fly-ball rates, or a combination of the two, for this article. Pop-ups are not factored into the fly-ball rates, and please keep in mind that these numbers represent raw data and have not been properly adjusted for league and/or park factors.

Luis Carpio, 2B/SS, Mets' No. 17
Carpio's .219 average was the fifth worst among qualified hitters in the Class A Advanced Florida State League last season. He did, however, hit a career-high 12 homers and 21 doubles in the pitcher-friendly league, and there are quite a few signs that the 21-year-old is in store for more success moving forward. Specifically, Carpio had a surprisingly low .242 batting average on balls in play last season even though 52.2 percent of his contact was either a fly ball or line drive. He also struck out a reasonable 18.4 percent clip, had an equally reasonable 9.4 percent swinging-strike rate and walked 9.3 percent of the time.

Yu Chang, SS/3B, Indians' No. 6
Chang had a solid first Triple-A campaign by all standards, slashing over .256/.330/.441 over 127 games in the International League at age 22. And while he's never really hit for a high average as a .251 hitter in more than 500 Minor League games, Chang has long shown that he can drive the baseball to all fields using a combination of plus bat speed, top-hand-led barrel control and a swing that features good extension through contact. Last season, 57.6 percent of Chang's contact was a line drive or fly ball, a mark that ranked tied for second among all Top 30 prospects (with at least 300 BIP) and furthered a trend that's followed him during his rise through the Minors.

Video: Top Prospects: Yu-Cheng Chang, SS, Indians

Isan Diaz, 2B/SS, Marlins' No. 9
After joining the Marlins in the offseason blockbuster that sent Christian Yelich to Milwaukee, Diaz totaled 13 home runs, 41 extra-base hits and produced a .232/.340/.399 line over 119 games between Double-A and Triple-A. While Diaz's ability to drive the ball out of the park to all fields remains one of his strengths, his fly-ball rate has hovered around 29 percent in the past two seasons -- well below the 39.7 percent mark he posted back in 2016, when he connected on a career-high 20 home runs. The good news is that the 22-year-old's plate discipline as well as his feel for using the entire field has remained steady during his rise through the Minors, so the ingredients seemingly are there for Diaz to make strides offensively in 2019.

Jeter Downs, SS/2B, Reds' No. 7
The 2017 Competitive Balance A pick (No. 32 overall) showed a serious knack for lifting the ball in his first full season en route to 13 home runs and 23 doubles. His 33.2 percent fly ball rate was the 10th-highest among Top 30 prospects who had at least 350 BIP in 2018, and he also posted a solid line-drive rate of 17.5 percent. The fact that he has some swing and miss to his game (19.7% K%) and hits a lot of popups (16.6 percent) highlights Downs' room for growth, so improvement in those departments could very well prompt an uptick in power from the 20-year-old middle infielder.

Lucas Erceg, 3B, Brewers' No. 4
At face value, Erceg underwhelmed in his first Double-A campaign by hitting .248/.306/.382 with 13 home runs over 508 plate appearances. His strikeout and walk rates both improved, though, and he even drove the ball in the air more frequently compared to his first full season. The left-handed hitter's combined line drive-fly ball rate of 54.1 percent was 10th-best among Top 30s with at least 350 BIPs and suggests that the quality of his contact might translate well in the Majors even if the results currently aren't there, and there are some evaluators who believe Erceg will earnestly tap into his plus raw power as he learns to turn on the ball.

Video: Top Prospects: Lucas Erceg, 3B, Brewers

Santiago Espinal, IF, Blue Jays' No. 23
Toronto acquired Espinal from the Red Sox for Steve Pearce back in June, in the middle of the 24-year-old infielder's breakout campaign. He would ultimately hit .297/.356/.444 with 43 extra-base hits including 10 home runs over 124 games, finishing the year in Double-A. Espinal produced a line drive or fly ball in 44.4 percent of his 518 plate appearances in 2018, and that number was the highest among qualified Top 30 prospects. 56.7% of his BIP was either a line drive or fly ball, the second-best among Top 30 prospects with at least 350 BIP, yet his .412 average on such contact was the 10th-lowest mark. Factor in his solid strikeout and walk rates (12.9 and 7.3 percent, respectively) and the fact that he uses the entire field well, and a case can be made that Espinal is merely scratching the surface of his underrated potential.

Jake Rogers, C, Tigers' No. 12
Few hitters elevated the ball last season better than Rogers, who hit a line drive or fly ball nearly 60 percent (59.8) of the time when he put the ball in play That translated to 17 homers over 99 games in his first Double-A season, though it came at the cost of a .219 average and a career-worst 27.5 percent strikeout rate. Making more contact should result in even more over-the-fence power in future seasons for the 23-year-old, and along with his plus defense, gives him a realistic floor as an everyday big league catcher in the mold of Mike Zunino.

Video: Tigers prospect Rogers on the Arizona Fall League

Brent Rooker, 1B/OF, Twins' No. 7
Productive first baseman in the Minors are all too often overlooked, if only because so many prove to be Quad-A types or ultimately have to take a back seat to an even more productive incumbent. But a deeper dive into Rooker's 2018 campaign suggests reason to be bullish on his future. The Twins' Competitive Balance Round A pick from the 2017 Draft moved up to Double-A for his first full season and finished second in the Southern League in home runs (22) and tied for first in doubles (32). Specifically, 56.6 percent of Rooker's batted balls were line drives or fly balls -- third-best among Top 30s with at least 350 BIP -- and 14.8 percent of those were extra-base hits

Keibert Ruiz, C, Dodgers' No. 2
As MLB Pipeline's No. 39 overall prospect, Ruiz is perhaps the most notable name on this list. He proved to be a highly advanced hitter as a 19-year-old in Double-A last season, slashing .268/.328/.401 with 12 homers over 101 games. Hitting from a pronounced crouch, Ruiz is adept at using his lower half and quick bat to elevate the baseball, and nearly half (49 percent, to be exact) of his contact was either a line drive or fly ball in 2018. That bodes well for Ruiz's future success, as it's easy to envision him hitting for more average and power given his present strengths at the plate.

Video: Keibert Ruiz on Fall League experience

Max Schrock, 2B, Cardinals' No. 11
After hitting .324 across his first three pro seasons, Schrock uncharacteristically slashed just .249/.296/.331 last year over 114 games in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. While some of Schrock's struggles can be attributed to poor luck (.260 BABIP), he did experience a dip in his line-drive rate (from 23.1 percent to 19.0) and employed a more pull-heavy approach after he had excelled at using the entire field in previous years. Beyond that, however, Schrock once again posted strong strikeout and walk rates, rarely swung and missed (4.3 percent whiff rate) and hit the ball in the air more often. So don't be surprised if the 24-year-old returns to his pre-2018 form in '19.

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.

Twins leave Winter Meetings seeking pitching

'Active' front office laying ground work for potential moves
MLB.com @dohyoungpark

LAS VEGAS -- The Twins' stated goal at the Winter Meetings was to treat it as more of an orientation than a swap meet.

And as they left Las Vegas on Thursday afternoon, they felt fantastic about the progress they made in integrating new manager Rocco Baldelli to the organization after the 37-year-old skipper spent a significant amount of time planning with scouting, player development and analytics personnel -- meeting some of the staff in person for the first time.

LAS VEGAS -- The Twins' stated goal at the Winter Meetings was to treat it as more of an orientation than a swap meet.

And as they left Las Vegas on Thursday afternoon, they felt fantastic about the progress they made in integrating new manager Rocco Baldelli to the organization after the 37-year-old skipper spent a significant amount of time planning with scouting, player development and analytics personnel -- meeting some of the staff in person for the first time.

Chief baseball officer Derek Falvey and general manager Thad Levine viewed first base and second base as the most pressing offseason needs for the club. After the earlier signings of C.J. Cron and Jonathan Schoop, there simply wasn't any need for urgency for Twins leadership to make additional moves at this relatively early stage of the offseason.

Latest Hot Stove rumors

With that said, the Twins did use their time in Las Vegas engaged in active dialogues with most clubs and many agents, with Levine characterizing the organization as "pretty active" on both the trade and free-agent markets. Twins leadership still sees an opening to add another quality Major League bat to the lineup and seeks to build out its pitching depth.

"We're trying to make sound business decisions, and there's a lot of supply out there," Levine said. "There's a lot of players on the marketplace still. So we've got a lot of options we can continue to pursue."

Video: Baldelli on talented roster featuring Buxton, Sano

BIGGEST REMAINING NEEDS
1. Relief help:
Addison Reed, Taylor Rogers, Trevor Hildenberger and Trevor May comprise the core of the Twins' bullpen as things currently stand, and some of the many young arms competing for the fifth rotation spot could be shifted to the bullpen to gain experience. But Twins leadership wants to build out its pitching depth, and Falvey expressed there is "some need to continue to build that group."

2. Another bat: It doesn't necessarily need to be a left-handed bat, nor do the Twins have a glaring positional need after signing Cron, Schoop and Ronald Torreyes. But Twins leadership has clear interest in adding an experienced Major League hitter, and they feel good that the current flexibility on the roster allows them to be choosy about the quality of the hitter.

3. A fifth starter: The bottom line here is that the Twins do want to give their young pitchers some experience next season, with Adalberto Mejia, Chase De Jong, Kohl Stewart, Stephen Gonsalves, Aaron Slegers, Zack Littell, Fernando Romero and others likely competing for the only open rotation slot. The Twins are open to bullpenning or using an opener, but in the interest of building more depth, they could pursue an outside option if the opportunity presents itself.

RULE 5 DRAFT
The Twins didn't select or lose any players in the Major League phase of Thursday morning's Rule 5 Draft.

They didn't have room to make a selection after filling their 40-man roster prior to the Winter Meetings with the acquisitions of Torreyes and Schoop. Minnesota didn't protect a pair of top 25 Rule 5 eligible prospects in outfielder Lewin Diaz and left-hander Tyler Jay, the sixth overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft, but neither was taken by another team.

Minnesota selected right-handed reliever Dusten Knight from the Giants in the Triple-A phase of the draft. The 28-year-old was a 28th-round selection by the Giants in the 2013 MLB Draft from the University of Texas-Pan American.

Knight has a 3.11 ERA across six Minor League seasons and topped out at Triple-A in 2017 and '18. He spent the majority of this past season with Double-A Richmond, where he was 4-1 with a 2.27 ERA, 35 strikeouts and 10 walks in 20 relief appearances.

GM'S BOTTOM LINE
"There were things that were proposed to us that could help our team, and we're continuing to monitor those. But our goal was to fill as many holes as we possibly can and not necessarily jump to just one. So that's I think how we're approaching this. We were active here, we were actively trying to have dialogue around helping the Major League team, and that's the focus right now. I know that doesn't bring anything to fruition just yet, but our goal was to be ready when we get to Spring Training, not necessarily on December 15." -- Levine

Do-Hyoung Park covers the Twins for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark and on Instagram at dohyoung.park.

Minnesota Twins

Baldelli looks to connect with Buxton, Sano

Twins' new skipper has trips scheduled to visit former top prospects
MLB.com @dohyoungpark

LAS VEGAS -- It's been a tough year for Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano -- and for those that hoped to see two key pieces of the Twins' young core continue to tap into their tantalizing potential.

While first-year manager Rocco Baldelli has been busy reaching out to all of his players this offseason, he plans to go a step further with Buxton and Sano, with trips planned to both Georgia and the Dominican Republic to share some personal time and understand how to best prepare their mindsets for the upcoming season, as the Twins' front office continues to build the team's future around them.

LAS VEGAS -- It's been a tough year for Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano -- and for those that hoped to see two key pieces of the Twins' young core continue to tap into their tantalizing potential.

While first-year manager Rocco Baldelli has been busy reaching out to all of his players this offseason, he plans to go a step further with Buxton and Sano, with trips planned to both Georgia and the Dominican Republic to share some personal time and understand how to best prepare their mindsets for the upcoming season, as the Twins' front office continues to build the team's future around them.

"I think it's all about the individual," Baldelli said. "And having, doing everything we really can to get these guys in a good frame of mind, ready to go. And kind of as prepared for the new staff coming in and new group coming in as well. If we can do that and get guys ready and feeling good coming into camp, we'll do whatever we have to do."

After Buxton took a promising step forward in the second half of 2017 by hitting .300/.347/.546 with 11 homers and 13 steals, he hit .156/.183/.200 in only 28 games this year due to injuries, and the 24-year-old publicly expressed anger at the Twins' decision to not recall him to the Major League roster in September.

Buxton still big part of Twins' plans

Sano, 25, hit 71 homers with a 125 OPS+ over his first three seasons but slumped in 2018. He was hitting .203/.270/.405 with seven homers in mid-June when he was sent to Class A Advanced Fort Myers for continued development.

"I've seen these guys play since they were teenagers and watched them grow from afar and have always been kind of enamored with them as players," Baldelli said.

Video: Baldelli fine with Buxton's frustration, his future

Comfort level with his players is a significant factor in how Baldelli wants to manage the team. During his Wednesday press conference at the Winter Meetings, Baldelli, formerly with the notably progressive Rays, was asked about the opener, his views on player rest and recovery and other stategic nuances. But later, he noted that making sure his players are relaxed and happy, on and off the field, is a greater priority than any on-field strategy.

Chief baseball officer Derek Falvey said Baldelli led a meeting with the Twins' staff in which they discussed the kinds of behaviors and culture they wanted to project when working with the club.

"I know the in-game stuff is extremely important and challenging at times, but I think the most important part of the job, at least in my opinion, is making sure that people can come to the field and have a great environment to show up to and have a smile on their face and the conversations that you have, and taking your experiences and sharing them, I think, are a big part of that," Baldelli said.

Video: Morris discusses if Buxton can bounce back next year

Twins likely not active in Rule 5 Draft
The Twins filled up their 40-man roster with the signings of Ronald Torreyes and Jonathan Schoop prior to the Winter Meetings, and Falvey doesn't anticipate the Twins clearing up a spot before Thursday morning's Rule 5 Draft. That means that Minnesota will likely not make a selection in the Major League phase of the Draft.

Though the Twins protected top prospects Nick Gordon, LaMonte Wade and Luis Arraez by adding them to the 40-man roster prior to the Nov. 20 deadline, they could potentially lose left-hander Tyler Jay, who was the sixth overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft. Jay was 4-5 with a 4.22 ERA in 38 appearances for Double-A Chattanooga in 2018.

Do-Hyoung Park covers the Twins for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark and on Instagram at dohyoung.park.

Minnesota Twins, Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano

Minnesotans dedicate plaque to Metrodome

Next season will mark a full decade since the Twins last called the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome their home. The stadium hosted Twins games for 27 years and made the most of its presence on the national stage. Thanks in no small part to the deafening noise from their fans, the Twins went 8-0 in World Series games at the Metrodome, clinching a pair of championships at home.

Frustrated Buxton still big part of Twins' plans

MLB.com @dohyoungpark

LAS VEGAS -- Byron Buxton was unhappy when the Twins didn't recall him to the Major Leagues following an extended stint in Triple-A to finish a difficult 2018 season -- and he was blunt in expressing those sentiments on Tuesday.

"Yes. I ain't sugarcoating nothing," Buxton told the Minneapolis Star Tribune about his displeasure with the decision. "It kind of didn't go over well."

LAS VEGAS -- Byron Buxton was unhappy when the Twins didn't recall him to the Major Leagues following an extended stint in Triple-A to finish a difficult 2018 season -- and he was blunt in expressing those sentiments on Tuesday.

"Yes. I ain't sugarcoating nothing," Buxton told the Minneapolis Star Tribune about his displeasure with the decision. "It kind of didn't go over well."

The Twins recognized Buxton's need to get those frustrations off his chest in his first public comments regarding the decision, but said that they turned the page on the issue following the season. The organization commended his continued commitment to the Minnesota community after he traveled from his home in Georgia to take part in the Twins' holiday event on Tuesday at the Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare hospital in St. Paul.

"I would say, first and foremost, the fact that he's up in Minnesota doing the event that he did -- that he was asked to do and be a part of -- speaks to who he is and what he wants to do moving forward," Twins executive vice president and chief baseball officer Derek Falvey said.

Video: DET@MIN: Buxton turns a single into a double

Buxton had a hot second half in 2017, hitting .300 with 11 homers and 35 RBIs, and earned the American League's Platinum Glove Award as the league's top defender. But the soon-to-be 25-year-old hit .156/.183/.200 in 28 games in 2018 and was sent on a rehab assignment for a toe injury in late June -- and stayed in Triple-A for the remainder of the season.

Because of the center fielder's extended stay in the Minor Leagues, the Twins gained one additional year of team control, pushing Buxton's eligiblity for free agency back until after the 2022 season.

Twins in 'learn-and-explore mode' at Meetings

Falvey said that the Twins had exchanged a phone call and text messages with Buxton following the season, and feel "really positive" about the continued development. They've additionally had conversations with Buxton's agents and feel that the conversations are moving in the right direction, as they look ahead to focus on Buxton's continued development and offseason training regimen.

Video: Morris discusses if Buxton can bounce back next year

The Twins also plan for manager Rocco Baldelli to fly to Georgia to touch base with the center fielder and continue ongoing conversations.

Hot Stove Tracker

"I feel like as soon as Byron gets around his teammates and we get things moving going forward, he's going to be exactly what we expect him to be, and we're going to support him to be the best possible player he can be," Falvey said.

Video: Baldelli on talented roster featuring Buxton, Sano

Buxton mentioned to reporters in St. Paul that he expects to have to earn the starting center field job back for the 2019 season, but Twins remain adamant that Buxton's starting role isn't in question.

"He's a huge part of our franchise moving forward and I respect the attitude he's taking coming into Spring Training," general manager Thad Levine said. "But in every planning conversation we have, this guy is central to those conversations, and he's featured prominently on this team as the center fielder."

Do-Hyoung Park covers the Twins for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark and on Instagram at dohyoung.park.

Minnesota Twins, Byron Buxton

Twins in 'learn-and-explore mode' at Meetings

With most urgent needs already filled, Minnesota now acting prudently
MLB.com @dohyoungpark

LAS VEGAS -- With their most pressing needs at first and second base having already been addressed with the signings of C.J. Cron and Jonathan Schoop, the Twins came into the Winter Meetings without much urgency to make a splash during the event's four days.

Thus far, this offseason has seen aggressive trade action contrasted with a relatively slow free-agent market. Therefore, chief baseball officer Derek Falvey and general manager Thad Levine look to remain in "learn-and-explore mode" through the Meetings as they feel out the market through conversations with agents and teams.

LAS VEGAS -- With their most pressing needs at first and second base having already been addressed with the signings of C.J. Cron and Jonathan Schoop, the Twins came into the Winter Meetings without much urgency to make a splash during the event's four days.

Thus far, this offseason has seen aggressive trade action contrasted with a relatively slow free-agent market. Therefore, chief baseball officer Derek Falvey and general manager Thad Levine look to remain in "learn-and-explore mode" through the Meetings as they feel out the market through conversations with agents and teams.

In other words, don't expect the Twins to make a major move at the Winter Meetings -- but there's plenty of offseason during which they may make some noise.

"We're constantly having conversations that span agents and other teams so that we understand the landscape and when we need to strike," Levine said.

There have been rumors concerning the Twins, including a source confirming to MLB.com that there is "mutual interest" between the club and 38-year-old slugger Nelson Cruz, who is coming off five straight seasons of 37-plus homers.

Video: Nelson Cruz slugs his way to free agency in 2019

While Falvey acknowledged the reports, he cautioned that it's all a part of the Twins doing their homework on various potential targets.

"I think there have been a lot of reports and indications, but a lot of this right now, to be candid, is due diligence work," Falvey said. "There's a lot of rumors, but there's a lot more responsibility to check in with different people around potential fits with our team."

The Twins feel confident in filling their designated hitter role with their in-house talent, with some combination of Tyler Austin, Miguel Sano, various outfielders and others able to rotate at the position. The robust den of young arms competing for the fifth rotation spot will also factor into the bullpen picture.

Falvey and Levine did acknowledge that those groups could be helped by adding some talent. There's just less of a need to move quickly there, with the market currently still developing.

"We probably were a little more aggressive at first base and second base because we saw clear holes, whereas the relievers, we do have some incumbents that could compete -- similar for the DH -- so it was a little bit less of urgency, I think, on our side to fill those holes," Levine said.

Despite the waiting on the transactional side, there will be plenty of activity happening within the club's ranks, as Falvey and Levine view the Meetings as an opportunity for new manager Rocco Baldelli to personally connect with the team's player development and scouting staffs.

The skipper hadn't met some members of the organization in person prior to his arrival in Las Vegas, so aside from the standard checking in with teams and agents, the ability to talk under one roof about some big-picture planning is also an important consideration for the Twins during their time in Las Vegas.

"Any time you get your group together it is kind of a de facto organizational meeting," Levine said. "So we will try to move forward as a group and continue the bonding there."

Do-Hyoung Park covers the Twins for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark and on Instagram at dohyoung.park.

Minnesota Twins

Twins sign middle infielders Schoop, Torreyes

MLB.com @RhettBollinger

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins shored up their middle infield with a pair of moves on Thursday, as they signed second baseman Jonathan Schoop and utility infielder Ronald Torreyes to one-year deals.

Schoop's deal is for $7.5 million.

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins shored up their middle infield with a pair of moves on Thursday, as they signed second baseman Jonathan Schoop and utility infielder Ronald Torreyes to one-year deals.

Schoop's deal is for $7.5 million.

Schoop and Torreyes figure to try to fill the holes left by Brian Dozier and Eduardo Escobar, who were traded at this year's non-waiver Trade Deadline. Schoop profiles similar to Dozier as a power-hitting second baseman with solid defense, while Torreyes is a better defender than Escobar but doesn't have his extra-base power.

Schoop, 27, was non-tendered by the Brewers on Friday, but has power, especially for a second baseman. Schoop had a career year in 2017, slashing .293/.338/.503 with 32 homers and 105 RBIs in 160 games with the Orioles. But he had a bit of a down year in '18, slashing a combined .233/.266/.416 with 21 homers and 61 RBIs in 131 games with Baltimore and Milwaukee. He also went hitless in eight postseason at-bats.

Advanced metrics paint Schoop as an above-average defender at second where he can pair with shortstop Jorge Polanco as a double-play combo. He's a career .258/.294/.444 hitter with 110 homers, 130 doubles and 333 RBIs in 681 games over parts of six seasons.

Torreyes, meanwhile, was also non-tendered on Friday, as he was traded from the Yankees to the Cubs last week but was still ultimately not tendered a contract by Chicago. The Twins have been busy signing non-tendered players, as they also claimed C.J. Cron, who wasn't tendered a contract with the Rays despite hitting 30 homers last season.

Video: CWS@NYY: Torreyes hustles for a triple in the 3rd

Torreyes, 26, slashed .280/.294/.370 with seven doubles and seven RBIs in 41 games with New York last season. He's hit .281/.310/.375 with four homers, 30 doubles and 56 RBIs in 229 games with the Dodgers and Yankees over parts of four seasons in the Majors. He has experience at second base, shortstop and third base. He's expected to back up fellow utility infielder Ehire Adrianza.

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.

Minnesota Twins, Jonathan Schoop, Ronald Torreyes

Each team's best 1st-rounder of the past decade

MLB.com

The release of the 2019 Draft Top 50 list had the MLB Pipeline staff thinking about Drafts in years past. Teams always want to get that first pick right, and there have been some real home runs hit in the first round.

Who were the best first-round picks for each team over the last decade? MLB Pipeline dug through the first rounds of the last 10 years (2009-18) and picked the top first-rounder for each organization. Only those chosen in what was the official first round each year were considered -- no supplemental picks were allowed. The 2014 Draft has been the most fruitful, with six players from that first round making the list. The Drafts from 2012 and 2009 are right behind with five selections, with the latter boasting the player who has to be the single best first-round selection over the last 10 years.

The release of the 2019 Draft Top 50 list had the MLB Pipeline staff thinking about Drafts in years past. Teams always want to get that first pick right, and there have been some real home runs hit in the first round.

Who were the best first-round picks for each team over the last decade? MLB Pipeline dug through the first rounds of the last 10 years (2009-18) and picked the top first-rounder for each organization. Only those chosen in what was the official first round each year were considered -- no supplemental picks were allowed. The 2014 Draft has been the most fruitful, with six players from that first round making the list. The Drafts from 2012 and 2009 are right behind with five selections, with the latter boasting the player who has to be the single best first-round selection over the last 10 years.

AL East

Marcus Stroman, RHP, Blue Jays, 2012 (No. 22 overall)
Stroman's profile scared away many teams in the 2012 Draft, but the Duke product has done his part to overcome the stigma associated with being an undersized right-hander. Though he regressed in 2018, while dealing with right shoulder fatigue and, later, a blister issue, Stroman posted back-to-back 200-inning seasons (2016-17) and has been worth 10.6 WAR over five seasons with the Blue Jays.

Manny Machado, SS, Orioles, 2010 (No. 3 overall)
Machado made the jump straight from Double-A to the Majors as a 19-year-old in late 2012, and quickly became a star. His 33.8 WAR is the highest among 2010 first-round position players, second only to Chris Sale, and after helping guide Baltimore to two postseason appearances as a four-time All-Star, Machado netted the organization five Top 30 prospects when it dealt him to the Dodgers this past July.

Ryne Stanek, RHP, Rays, 2013 (No. 29 overall)
Drafting in the first round has long been a problem for the typically savvy Rays, and even their selection of Stanek isn't a hands-down win for the organization, considering he was viewed as a starter (before needing hip surgery) out of the Draft. That said, the right-hander emerged as a legitimate late-inning weapon (and, at times, an "opener") for the Rays in 2018, when he compiled a 2.98 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 11.0 strikeouts per nine innings over 66 1/3 innings (59 appearances).

Andrew Benintendi, OF, Red Sox, 2015 (No. 7 overall)
Benintendi went from unheralded Arkansas freshman to consensus College Baseball Player of the Year as a sophomore, soaring up Draft boards in the process. The Red Sox had him No. 2 on theirs (behind Dansby Swanson), which he justified by becoming a regular in their 2018 World Series championship lineup just 13 months after signing.

Video: 2015 Draft: Red Sox draft OF Andrew Benintendi No. 7

Aaron Judge, OF, Yankees, 2013 (No. 32 overall)
Judge was the second of three Yankees first-rounders in 2013, sandwiched between Eric Jagielo (No. 26) and Ian Clarkin (No. 33), and lasting that long because there were questions about how well his massive raw power would translate into production. After only hitting 18 homers in three years at Fresno State and 56 in three seasons in the Minors, he exploded for a rookie-record 52 in 2017.

AL Central

Francisco Lindor, SS, Indians, 2011 (No. 8 overall)
Cleveland landed perhaps the best player in a historically good first-round class, as Lindor has become one of the faces of game while totaling 23.9 WAR -- second to Mookie Betts (35.2) among 2011 draftees -- and leading the Indians to an American League title (2016) since his debut in '15, when he finished second in AL Rookie of the Year Award voting. Entering his age-25 season, he's garnered All-Star honors and finished Top 10 in MVP voting in each of the last three years.

Aaron Crow, RHP, Royals, 2009 (No. 12 overall)
The Royals haven't fared well in the first round during the last decade, though Crow made the All-Star Game as a rookie in 2011, and was an effective reliever for four seasons until he blew out his elbow shortly after a trade to the Marlins. Cristian Colon (No. 4 overall, 2010) didn't have as much sustained success but delivered the championship-winning hit in the 2015 World Series.

Casey Mize, RHP, Tigers, 2018 (No. 1 overall)
Perhaps this one is more aspirational because he's thrown only 13 2/3 career innings since being the top pick in last June's Draft, but Mize should be able to use his three plus pitches and his plus control to move quickly through the Tigers' system. Look for him in Detroit sooner rather than later.

Alex Kirilloff, OF, Twins, 2016 (No. 16 overall)
The rules for this story don't allow for a supplemental first-round pick to be chosen, otherwise Jose Berrios might be the guy. But after missing the 2017 season, Kirilloff erupted in '18, his first real full season, and is looking like one of the best hitting prospects in all of baseball.

Chris Sale, LHP, White Sox, 2010 (No. 13 overall)
After 2010's Big Three of Bryce Harper, Jameson Taillon and Machado, Sale should have been the next player taken. But teams psyched themselves out over worries about his low arm slot and desire for a big league contract (typical for top college arms at the time), allowing the White Sox to steal him at No. 13. He was saving games for Chicago by September and has been an All-Star in each of his seven seasons as a starter.

Video: WS2018 Gm1: Sale K's Dozier to start off World Series

AL West

Matt Chapman, 3B, A's, 2014 (No. 25 overall)
Chapman emerged as the A's next homegrown star in his first fully healthy season, as he ranked third in WAR (8.2) among all position players, finished seventh in AL MVP voting and took home the revered Platinum Glove award as baseball's best defensive player. His 11.7 WAR in 229 career games is tops among positional players from his Draft class -- ahead of even Trea Turner (10.4), who's played 360 games.

Mike Trout, OF, Angels, 2009 (No. 25 overall)
The teams that say they had Trout No. 2 on their board are sort of like the million people who say they were present for The Shot Heard Round the World. Their loss was the Angels' gain, obviously, as he's turned into one of the game's top stars, with seven All-Star appearances and two MVP Awards.

Carlos Correa, SS, Astros, 2012 (No. 1 overall)
George Springer (No. 11, 2011) and Alex Bregman (No. 2, 2015) can also make a case, but our choice is Correa. A series of impressive pre-Draft workouts gave him late helium and made him the first Puerto Rican taken with the top choice. He won AL Rookie of the Year Award honors in '15, then received All-Star recognition and won a World Series two year later.

Video: ALCS Gm1: Correa knocks go-ahead single in 6th

Mike Zunino, C, Mariners, 2012 (No. 3 overall)
Zunino struggled for several years after being rushed to the Major Leagues and hit .207 over 2,000 plate appearances with Seattle. His combination of right-handed power and strong defense behind the plate, however, became increasingly valuable, especially with the quality of the position on the decline across the Majors.

Lewis Brinson, OF, Rangers, 2012 (No. 29 overall)
The Rangers' 13 first-round picks from the last decade have produced only three big leaguers and a combined -0.4 WAR so far. An exceptional athlete who has yet to hit in the Majors, Brinson went to the Brewers in a deal for Jeremy Jeffress and Jonathan Lucroy in July 2016, and to the Marlins in a trade for Christian Yelich last January.

NL East

Kyle Wright, RHP, Braves, 2017 (No. 5 overall)
The Braves hoped Wright would move quickly when they took him with their first pick in the 2017 Draft out of Vanderbilt. Starting his first full season in Double-A was a good sign and reaching Atlanta before the year was over was ahead of schedule, even for a fast-tracker.

Christian Yelich, OF, Marlins, 2010 (No. 23 overall)
One of the 2010 Draft's better hitters as a California prep, Yelich reached the Majors in mid-2013 and received a seven-year, $49.57 million contract extension two years later. He hit .290/.369/.432 (18.6 WAR) over 643 games with Miami, and then helped the organization restock its farm system with four prospects, including Brinson and Monte Harrison, when they dealt him to Milwaukee last offseason. In his first year with the Brewers, Yelich won the batting title (.326) and powered the club to the National League Championship Series en route to MVP honors.

Video: NLCS Gm7: Yelich crushes solo homer to right-center

Michael Conforto, OF, Mets, 2014 (No. 10 overall)
It took the Oregon State product only a year to get to the big leagues, and while his performance has been a little up and down, he's hit 56 homers the last two years and has an All-Star nod already on his resume. Still only 25, he has already amassed nearly 1,400 Major League at-bats.

Bryce Harper, OF, Nationals, 2010 (No. 1 overall)
The Nationals' selection of Harper with the first pick in the 2010 Draft forever changed the course of the franchise, as it gave the club a player with near-immediate impact potential as well as generational-star upside worthy of building around. Over seven seasons with the Nats, Harper -- a six-time All-Star and the 2015 NL MVP -- hit .279/.388/.512 with 184 homers in 927 games, good for a 27.4 WAR.

Aaron Nola, RHP, Phillies, 2014 (No. 7 overall)
Nola took his combination of solid stuff and outstanding command and made a beeline to Philadelphia, joining the rotation in just over a year following his selection. And the 25-year-old is just getting going, making his first All-Star team and finishing third in NL Cy Young Award voting in 2018.

NL Central

Keston Hiura, 2B, Brewers, 2017 (No. 9 overall)
The Brewers' track record with first-round picks isn't great, but Hiura could soon help reverse that trend. After leading all Division I hitters in average (.442) as a UC Irvine junior, Hiura raked his way up to Double-A this past season and then took home MVP honors in the prestigious Arizona Fall League. He still needs some more time in the Minors, but it shouldn't be long before Hiura is driving in runs from the middle of Milwaukee's order.

Jack Flaherty, RHP, 2014 (No. 34 overall)
The Cardinals have had some solid back-half-of-the-first-round selections, like Michael Wacha and Kolten Wong, but Flaherty made it to the big leagues in 2017, then finished fifth in NL Rookie of the Year voting in '18. Flaherty will be only 23 in 2019, so the best may be yet to come.

Kris Bryant, 3B, Cubs, 2013 (No. 2 overall)
Bryant had a stunning junior season at San Diego, swatting 31 homers to not only lead NCAA Division I but also topping 223 of the 296 teams at that level. He raced to the big leagues, winning the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2015 and encoring with an NL MVP Award and World Series championship the next season.

Video: STL@CHC: Bryant belts a towering solo homer to center

Gerrit Cole, RHP, Pirates, 2011 (No. 1 overall)
Cole's 17.4 WAR is more than double any other Pirates' first-rounder in the last decade. Perhaps his tenure with Pittsburgh was up and down, but he made the All-Star team, finished fourth in NL Cy Young voting and made three postseason starts in 2015. He's also topped 200 innings in three of the last four years (albeit the last one coming for the Astros).

Mike Leake, RHP, Reds, 2009 (No. 8 overall)
Leake spent exactly zero days in the Minor Leagues between getting drafted and his Major League debut, breaking with the Reds' rotation on Opening Day in 2010. He's compiled more WAR than any Reds first-rounder in the last 10 years (15.6) and his trade to the Giants in 2015 netted them Adam Duvall (two years of 30-plus homers) and Keury Mella, who should contribute to the pitching staff in '19.

NL West

A.J. Pollock, OF, D-backs, 2009 (No. 17 overall)
When Pollock was coming out of Notre Dame, he was a solid college performer, but one who didn't have a plus tool, so some thought he might end up a bit of a tweener. There have been some injuries, but there's also been an All-Star appearance and a Gold Glove as an everyday center fielder, one who is currently coveted on the free-agent market.

Corey Seager, SS, Dodgers, 2012 (No. 18 overall)
After taking pitchers with their previous six first-round choices -- landing Clayton Kershaw and five non-impact big leaguers -- the Dodgers changed course and went for Seager, who was one of the better all-around high school bats but also came with some signability concerns in the first Draft with bonus-pool rules. He signed for $2.35 million ($400,000 above the assigned value at No. 18) and proved well worth it, earning the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2016 and All-Star recognition in each of his two full big league seasons.

Zack Wheeler, RHP, Giants, 2009 (No. 6 overall)
He wasn't a cornerstone of World Series championships like Giants 2006-08 first-rounders Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey, but the guy who followed them has been a quality big league starter when healthy. Wheeler didn't last long with San Francisco, however, going to the Mets in a 2011 trade for Carlos Beltran.

Trea Turner, SS, Padres, 2014 (No. 13 overall)
Turner played the first half of his pro debut on borrowed time, as he'd already been dealt to the Nationals as part of a three-team trade with Tampa Bay (that netted the Padres Wil Myers) by the time the 2015 season began. He's emerged as one of the more impactful young players with the Nats.

Video: Draft 2014: Padres draft SS Trea Turner No. 13

Kyle Freeland, LHP, Rockies, 2014 (No. 8 overall)
The Rockies hoped for Kyle Schwarber or Nola, but the Cubs and Phillies foiled those plans and led them to Freeland, whose elbow worried some clubs because he had arthroscopic surgery as a Denver high schooler. He had bone chips removed from his elbow in 2015 but has been otherwise healthy, winning 11 games as a rookie in '17 and finishing fourth in NL Cy Young Award voting last season.

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.

These are the top 50 prospects for the '19 Draft

MLB.com @JimCallisMLB

The crop of talent for the 2019 Draft appears to be one of the most imbalanced in recent memory. Quality position prospects abound all over the diamond, while question marks surround the best pitchers available.

MLB Pipeline's new Draft Top 50 Prospects list reflects this dichotomy, starting with six straight hitters at the top. A lot will change before the Orioles exercise the No. 1 overall pick on June 3, but only once has a Draft started with as many as five consecutive position players. Justin Upton (D-backs), Alex Gordon (Royals), Jeff Clement (Mariners), Ryan Zimmerman (Nationals) and Ryan Braun (Brewers) were the first five selections in the 2005 Draft, which coincidentally is considered the strongest so far this millennium.

The crop of talent for the 2019 Draft appears to be one of the most imbalanced in recent memory. Quality position prospects abound all over the diamond, while question marks surround the best pitchers available.

MLB Pipeline's new Draft Top 50 Prospects list reflects this dichotomy, starting with six straight hitters at the top. A lot will change before the Orioles exercise the No. 1 overall pick on June 3, but only once has a Draft started with as many as five consecutive position players. Justin Upton (D-backs), Alex Gordon (Royals), Jeff Clement (Mariners), Ryan Zimmerman (Nationals) and Ryan Braun (Brewers) were the first five selections in the 2005 Draft, which coincidentally is considered the strongest so far this millennium.

2019 Draft order | All-time Draft picks

Top Draft Prospects

"If you're in the hunt for pitching up top, this might not be the best year for it, especially with the college arms," an American League scouting director said. "It's definitely a position-player Draft from what I've seen over the summer. It's better than what it's been the last couple of years. It's almost a little scary how good the hitters are compared to the pitchers."

The consensus among clubs is that the top tier of 2019 prospects includes as few as one and no more than three position players: Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman, Colleyville (Texas) Heritage High shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. and California first baseman Andrew Vaughn. They're also the three most highly decorated prospects in the '19 class.

Rutschman won Most Outstanding Player honors at the College World Series, where he helped the Beavers capture a national title to cap a breakout sophomore season in which he batted .408/.505/.628 and set school records with 102 hits and 83 RBIs. He's a switch-hitting catcher who's just starting to harness what could be plus power, and he's also a quality receiver with a strong arm.

Video: Adley Rutschman on being top-ranked Draft prospect

The son of Bobby Witt, the No. 3 overall pick in 1985 en route to a 16-year pitching career in the big leagues, Witt Jr. won the High School Home Run Derby at the All-Star Game and also Most Valuable Player Award honors at the Under Armour All-America Game, the States Play Series and the 18-and-under Pan American Championships in Panama. He's a potential five-tool shortstop who comes with some mild hittability concerns, but also plus raw power, speed, arm strength and defense.

"In 1999, we had the two Joshes [Hamilton and Beckett] and then everybody else," a National League scouting official said. "It could be a similar situation this year with Rutschman and Witt. Bobby Witt's kid is certainly one of the most exciting kids I've seen in a long time. You have to go back a long way to see a shortstop with those tools."

Video: Draft Report: Bobby Witt Jr., high school shortstop

Some teams would group Vaughn, the reigning Golden Spikes Award winner, with Rutschman and Witt. He's the best offensive player available, a .402/.531/.819 hitter as a sophomore who draws raves for his ability to barrel balls, hit for power and control the strike zone.

There's plenty of depth beyond that trio. On the college side, there's another catcher ticketed for the top of the draft in Baylor's Shea Langeliers, a five-tool sleeper in Missouri outfielder Kameron Misner and potential impact bats such as Texas Tech third baseman Josh Jung, Vanderbilt outfielder J.J. Bleday and North Carolina first baseman Michael Busch. Scouts usually bemoan the lack of college shortstops, but this year, there are five who could factor into the first round (even if they might not all stay at the position): UNLV's Bryson Stott, Texas A&M's Braden Shewmake, Auburn's Will Holland, N.C. State's Will Wilson and Clemson's Logan Davidson.

Along with Witt, shortstop C.J. Abrams (Blessed Trinity Catholic High, Roswell, Ga.) and outfielders Jerrion Ealy (Jackson Prep, Flowood, Miss.) and Maurice Hampton (University High, Memphis, Tenn.) headline an impressive group of premium high school athletes. Ealy and Hampton are also four-star football recruits, with the former a running back committed to Mississippi and the latter a cornerback earmarked for Louisiana State. Outfielder Corbin Carroll (Lakeside School, Seattle) is one of the best pure hitters in the Draft, third baseman Rece Hinds (IMG Academy) may have the most raw power available and third basemen Brett Baty (Lake Travis High, Austin, Texas) and Tyler Callihan (Providence School, Jacksonville, Fla.) combine the ability to hit for average and power.

"You'll see position players, and especially the college bats, move up into the top half of the first round," an NL scouting director said. "You could see 18-20 bats in the first round, because it's just not a great class of pitching."

Video: Draft Report: Carter Stewart, college pitcher

MLB Pipeline's top-rated pitcher is right-hander Carter Stewart, who went No. 8 overall to the Braves in the 2018 Draft but didn't sign after a disagreement over the severity of a wrist injury that hampered him at the end of his senior season at Eau Gallie High (Melbourne, Fla.). Stewart, who had the best curveball in the '18 class as well as a fastball that reached 98 mph, is expected to enroll at Eastern Florida State Junior College for the spring semester.

There's also uncertainty with the top arms at four-year colleges, all of whom are left-handers: Duke's Graeme Stinson, Kentucky's Zack Thompson and Texas Christian's Nick Lodolo. Stinson has to prove he can succeed and hold up as a starter after relieving for most of his college career, and Thompson missed two months last spring with an elbow injury that didn't require surgery. Lodolo was the highest unsigned pick in the 2016 Draft (No. 41 overall, Pirates) but has been more respectable than dominant with the Horned Frogs.

Clubs consider high school pitching to the be the riskiest Draft demographic, and prep righties often seem to last longer than they should. Brennan Malone (IMG Academy, Bradenton, Fla.), Daniel Espino (Georgia Premier Academy, Statesboro, Ga.) and Matthew Allan (Seminole, Fla., High) are the premier power arms among prepsters. Former All-Star Al Leiter's son, Jack (Delbarton School, Morristown, N.J.), is the most polished high school hurler, while two-way star Spencer Jones (La Costa Canyon High, Carlsbad, Calif.) is the best left-hander.

"This is a good Draft. I like it," a second NL scouting official said. "There's not a lot of pitching at the top, but there are a lot of bats to go get."

Video: Callis breaks down Jack Leiter's draft stock

BREAKDOWN

College: 27
HS: 22
JC: 1

RHP: 12
OF: 10
SS: 10
LHP: 6
3B: 5
1B: 4
C: 2
2B: 1

Top tools

All players, as always, are given grades on the 20-to-80 scouting scale for all tools or pitches. These are future grades, a reflection of what the scouting industry thinks each of these amateur players can become in the future. Here are the top grades for each tool and pitch.

Position players
Hit: 60 -- Adley Rutschman, C, Oregon State; Andrew Vaughn, 1B, California; Riley Greene, Hagerty (Fla.) HS; Corbin Carroll, Lakeside (Wash.) HS
Power: 60 -- Andrew Vaughn, 1B, California; Rece Hinds, 3B, IMG Academy (Fla.)
Run: 75 -- CJ Abrams, SS, Blessed Trinity Catholic (Ga.) HS; Jerrion Ealy, OF, Jackson Prep (Miss.)
Arm: 70 -- Shea Langeliers, C, Baylor
Field: 60 -- Adley Rutschman, C, Oregon State; Bobby Witt Jr., SS, Colleyville Heritage (Texas) HS; Shea Langeliers, C, Baylor; Mike Toglia, 1B/OF, UCLA; Nasim Nunez, SS, Collins Hill (Ga.) HS

Pitchers
Fastball: 70 -- Brennan Malone, RHP, IMG Academy (Fla.); Daniel Espino, RHP, Georgia Premier Academy; Ryne Nelson, RHP, Oregon
Curveball: 65 -- Carter Stewart, RHP, None
Slider: 65 -- Graeme Stinson, LHP, Duke
Changeup: 55 -- Nick Lodolo, LHP, TCU
Control: 55 -- Jack Leiter, RHP, Delbarton (N.J.) HS

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

Free-agent closers who could be a fit for Twins

MLB.com @RhettBollinger