Twins land top-ranked high school OF Jenkins at No. 5

Minnesota rounds out Day 1 of Draft with RHP Soto (No. 34) and INF Keaschall (49)

July 10th, 2023

MINNEAPOLIS -- The inaugural Draft Lottery gave the Twins an unexpected opportunity to access the highest tier of players in the Draft class -- and they took advantage by bringing the nation’s top-ranked high school prospect into the organization.

After moving up to the No. 5 pick in the 2023 MLB Draft, the Twins selected outfielder Walker Jenkins from South Brunswick High School in North Carolina, who projects as a slugging left-handed hitter with five tools and makeup that is lauded as highly as his considerable talent. Minnesota added another high schooler in Florida right-hander Charlee Soto at No. 34 and Arizona State infielder Luke Keaschall with No. 49 to conclude its Day 1 picks.

The Twins had familiarity with Jenkins since his sophomore year, but they knew he’d be a very high pick one day and were conflicted, because from a team success standpoint, they’d need to be a losing team to select that high. But the lottery took care of that part.

“You’re thinking, ‘He’s going to go towards the top,’ and we never want to be picking this high,” Twins vice president of amateur scouting Sean Johnson said. “You just really admired it more, then thought about, ‘Well, hopefully we don’t have a chance to select him, because if we do, that means something’s not gone well.’

“In this case, moving up in the lottery and having a chance to select a player like Walker with his talent level is obviously amazing.”

It was a great season for the Twins to move up from No. 13 to No. 5 through the lottery, because this Draft class was widely viewed as having a clear top five that stood a tier above the rest, all of whom are said to be the caliber of player that could have gone No. 1 in many Drafts.

The jump up guaranteed that the Twins would be able to access one of those players, and after LSU’s Paul Skenes and Dylan Crews, Indiana high schooler Max Clark and Florida’s Wyatt Langford went in the top four, the Twins stuck with Jenkins despite some outside chatter that they might opt for a college hitter instead.

It helped that the Twins also had familiarity with Jenkins through Michael Cuddyer, who coached Jenkins on the youth national circuit.

“I think Cuddy and anyone else from the USA group would call him Captain America,” Johnson said. “He's just an All-American kid. When you think about All-American kids, he's probably what you want your son to grow up to be like. Academically smart. Great human being, great teammate. Anyone that played with Walker Jenkins over the last few years, if you ask them their favorite teammates, he's one of the first names they mention.”

In sticking with Jenkins, the Twins landed the two-time reigning Gatorade Player of the Year in North Carolina, described as the best high school position player from the state since Josh Hamilton went No. 1 overall in 1999. Also a swimmer who stands at 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, Jenkins rates at least a 55 in all tools on the 20-80 scouting scale, with pop to all fields and consistent hard contact.

“He’s a five-tool player,” Johnson said. “We love his swing. We think he’s going to have a chance for real power. He’s a big kid but he moves pretty well, so he can really throw, and we think he can really defend, so you can’t ask for much more than that when you’re looking for a high school prospect. He’s just a well-rounded player and a phenomenal person off the field.”

Jenkins missed some time last summer with a hamate injury, and there is some question as to where Jenkins will eventually play, as his plus speed has slowed a bit as he has grown stronger, but even if he doesn’t stick in center field, he has more than enough raw power and arm to stick in a corner outfield spot.

And as for the makeup and natural leadership ability? Just ask Soto, selected 29 picks later, who has already seen it firsthand.

“I met him last summer at [the MLB Prospect Development Pipeline],” Soto said. “Unfortunately, he got injured there, so he couldn't finish it. But he got injured, went to the hospital, and the next day, he was back at the field to support us. He was always a leader. He was always getting us up in the dugout. He's just a very, very humble kid. I can't wait to get to work with him.”