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Plethora of picks puts Twins in Draft spotlight

MINNEAPOLIS -- It's not a stretch to say this year's First-Year Player Draft will be one of the most important in Twins history.

Minnesota has five of the top 72 picks in the Draft, including the No. 2 overall selection, and has the chance to replenish a farm system that lacks top-flight talent in the upper levels.

The Twins have the No. 2 pick by virtue of finishing with the second-worst record in the Majors last season, while they received three picks in the compensation rounds following the departures of Michael Cuddyer (No. 32 and No. 72) and Jason Kubel (No. 42) via free agency. They also have the No. 63 pick, in the second round.

It's been quite some time since the Twins have had such a high pick. The last time they had a top-10 selection was in 2001, when they took Joe Mauer at No. 1 overall.

"Every Draft is important, but we have a really high pick and you can't mess those up," said Twins vice president of player personnel Mike Radcliff. "Everyone has, and we have in the past, but the objective is to get an impact player there. And then we have those extra picks, and the real significance that you're not going to get extra picks under the new rules. So we have an opportunity to add some depth."

Live coverage of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft begins with a one-hour preview show on Monday, at 5 p.m. CT on and MLB Network, followed by the first round and supplemental compensation round. will provide exclusive coverage of Day 2 and 3, featuring a live pick-by-pick stream, expert commentary and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. You can also keep up to date at Draft Central and by following @MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.

As Radcliff pointed out, under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, there are changes in the way clubs are compensated for losing free agents that makes it less likely to receive such a high number of compensatory picks.

Instead of simply offering arbitration to Type A or Type B free agents -- as determined by the Elias Sports Bureau -- clubs must now offer their free agents the average of the top 125 contracts to be eligible for compensation. That figure is currently at about $12.4 million.

So the Twins are ready to take advantage of their current situation, as they know they might not get another chance to stock their system with so many early picks.

"I don't think anybody will ever have five picks in the first 72 again," Radcliff said. "There are ways to get extra picks, but not that many. This is a great opportunity to add some depth that's not going to be possible over the course of this new CBA."

But Radcliff added that this year's Draft isn't as highly regarded as recent ones, as it lacks a can't-miss-type player such as Stephen Strasburg or Bryce Harper.

"I don't think it's elite," Radcliff said. "Right now, I would say that most people would say it's not a very good Draft. It's not very good at the top with high-impact players, and it's not very good depth-wise at any position. So it's probably a bad Draft when you call it mediocre. But that's today. But 10 years from now, there are going to be good players. So the objective is to try to find them."

Here's a glance at what the Twins have in store as the Draft approaches:

In about 50 words
With five of the top 72 picks, including the No. 2 overall selection, the Twins know this is their chance to add top-flight talent and depth to a farm system that ranks in the middle of the pack and lacks elite talent in the upper levels.

The scoop
"We have to take the best player available, as does every team, as the foundation. We're certainly not oblivious to what our pluses and minuses are as an organization. We have to take that into consideration as well. We absolutely need pitching. So that'll be in the equation for sure, and something we'll factor in.

"But we can't just take a college pitcher because that's our biggest need in the Major Leagues, because if that guy doesn't make it at all and the high school guy we passed on ends up playing in All-Star Games for several years, then it's a bad Draft. So we have to keep that in mind, and that's it about down the road." -- Radcliffe

First-round buzz
The Twins have been linked to several players with their No. 2 overall pick, as top prospects include college pitchers such as Stanford's Mark Appel, Louisiana State's Kevin Gausman, San Francisco's Kyle Zimmer, high school outfielder Byron Buxton, Florida catcher Mike Zunino and Puerto Rican shortstop Carlos Correa. Minnesota is expected to select the best player available after the Astros' No. 1 pick, as the Twins are not committed to taking a pitcher despite their lack of pitching depth in the Minors.

Money matters
Under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, each team has an allotted bonus pool equal to the sum of the values of that club's selections in the first 10 rounds of the Draft. The more picks a team has, and the earlier it picks, the larger the pool. The signing bonuses for a team's selections in the first 10 rounds, plus any bonus greater than $100,000 for a player taken after the 10th round, will apply toward the bonus-pool total.

Any team going up to 5 percent over its allotted pool will be taxed at a 75-percent rate on the overage. A team that overspends by 5-10 percent gets a 75-percent tax plus the loss of a first-round pick. A team that goes 10-15 percent over its pool amount will be hit with a 100-percent penalty on the overage and the loss of a first- and second-round pick. Any overage of 15 percent or more gets a 100-percent tax plus the loss of first-round picks in the next two Drafts.

Shopping list
The Twins would like to add high-impact arms to their system as they lack depth in that area, especially after injuries to recent first-round picks Kyle Gibson (Tommy John surgery) and Alex Wimmers (torn ulnar collateral ligament). They're also always on the lookout for power bats and could look to add depth up the middle.

Trend watch
The Twins generally don't take college position players in the first round, but they bucked that trend last year when they drafted shortstop Levi Michael from the University of North Carolina. He became the first college position player drafted by the Twins since they took Travis Lee in the 1996 Draft. They've been more apt to go with college arms such as Wimmers ('10), Gibson ('09) and Carlos Gutierrez ('08) or athletic high school outfielders such as Aaron Hicks ('08) and Ben Revere ('07).

Recent Draft History
Rising fast
Eddie Rosario, Minnesota's fourth-round Draft pick in 2009, has established himself as one of the club's top prospects as a power-hitting second baseman after a breakout year at rookie-level Elizabethton. The 20-year-old is at Class A Beloit but could see a promotion to Class A Advanced Advanced Fort Myers soon.

Twins' recent top picks
Year Player Position Current team
2011 Levi Michael SS Class A+ Fort Myers
2010 Alex Wimmers RHP Double-A New Britain
2009 Kyle Gibson RHP Injured (Tommy John surgery)
2008 Aaron Hicks OF Double-A New Britain
2007 Ben Revere OF Twins
Cinderella story
Right-hander Anthony Slama was a 39th-round Draft pick in '06 and has been lights out at Triple-A Rochester this season. The reliever saw limited action with the Twins last season but could be called up again if he continues to impress.

In The Show
Brian Dozier, selected in the eighth round of the 2009 Draft, made his debut with the Twins in early May and looks to be the club's long-term solution at shortstop. He made a quick rise through the system, starting last season in Class A Advanced Fort Myers before being named the organization's Minor League Player of the Year.

Minnesota Twins