Twins pick to fill weaknesses
Uncharacteristically low number of pitchers chosen
MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins scouting director Mike Radcliff looked down at his team's 19 picks on Day 1 of the First-Year Player Draft and noticed that there were only five pitchers of that bunch.It was something that seemed quite uncharacteristic for the Twins organization, taking everyone by surprise. "We're shocked," Radcliff said. "We've never done that before. But pitching is our strength -- that's what our Minor League people tell us and that's what our evaluations tell us. So this year, we selected to our weakness and tried to get some bats." Instead, the club focused on power and defensive needs in the outfield. By taking 14 position players, the Twins are trying to fill in the gaps that may have been left by picking up so much quality pitching in the past. "If there is a need in our organization, it is offense," Radcliff said. "So we feel pretty good about meeting that objective today." The Twins got started right away in their search for power with first-round selection Chris Parmelee of Chino Hills (Calif.) High School. Parmelee, 18, batted .407 with 11 home runs, 26 RBIs, 34 walks and a .614 on-base percentage during his senior year. The club also felt they got another big bat with their draft pick in the second round, Joe Benson. A high school outfielder from Joliet, Ill., Benson was selected to the Chicago Sun-Times 2006 All-State Team and is considered the best hitting prospect in the state of Illinois. Overall in the draft, the Twins selected a total of eight outfielders as they tried to address an area that has been overlooked in the past few drafts. "No doubt, that's our weakest position in the Minor Leagues," Radcliff said. "We've addressed so many things over the past few years, mainly pitching and infielders, the last several drafts. We lack ceiling and impact to our outfield, so now we've got some guys that we feel have some high ceiling defensively and with the bat." The Twins may have had the best news of the day with a bit of a steal by landing outfielder Jared Mitchell with their 10th-round selection. Mitchell, a two-sport star, has been offered a scholarship to play football at LSU in the fall and could be a challenge to sign. But even with the possibility of the player not signing, the Twins felt he was worth the risk. "We've kind of taken a chance here, picking him 10th, but we really like this guy's ceiling a lot," Radcliff said. The Twins were almost split in their choices of high school vs. college talent, as they drafted nine college players and 10 high schoolers. Two of the team's selections were also Minnesota natives -- Aaron Senne (13th round) and Mark Dolenc (15th round). And while there wasn't much pitching selected, the Twins did still use their third-round pick on a left-handed arm. The Twins selected high schooler Tyler Robertson with their No. 64 pick overall. "Even with our other needs, you can't lose track of pitching and you have to keep drafting left-handed pitchers," Radcliff said. It seems that some things never change. Round 2: William (Joe) Benson, LF, Joliet Catholic Academy, Joliet, Ill.
Considered the best hitting prospect in the state of Illinois, Benson also brings speed and an aggressive approach into the equation. His power wowed the Twins as he also joined Parmelee in a workout for the club this past Friday. Radcliff said that Benson might have the best package of physical tools of all the club's selections. With an ability to run, throw, display power and an excellent body makeup, Benson appears to fit the corner outfield perfectly. Round 3: Tyler Robertson, LHP, Bella Vista HS, Citrus Heights, Calif.
Some unique mechanics may have deterred some from this left-hander, but the Twins like his ability to strike batters out with the breaking ball. He's a big pitcher at 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, and the son of a former Twins scout, Jay Robertson. His velocity is not quite there yet, but there are many who believe it's on the way. Round 4: Whitney (Whit) Robbins, 1B, Georgia Tech
The Twins will likely use Robbins -- player who has tools to play both first and third -- at first base. The best college bat left in the draft, the Twins feel that he's another potential middle-of-the-line bat. Known for having a good eye at the plate, Robbins hit .358 this season with 12 homers and 63 RBIs for the Yellow Jackets. Round 4: Garrett Olson, 3B, Franklin Pierce College
A Division II college player, Olson was an easy target for scouts as he plays in a conference that uses wooden bats. An average power guy who can play positions all over the field, Olson should give the Twins some diversity in this pick. Round 5: Devin Shepherd, RF, Oxnard (Calif.) H.S.
At 6-foor-3 and 225 pounds, Shepherd's size and strength are one of his biggest assets for the outfield. A former USA Baseball Junior Olympic team member, Shepherd provides plenty of power with his bat to battle as a hitting prospect in the Minors. Round 6: Jeffrey Christy, C, University of Nebraska - Lincoln
The only catcher selected by the Twins, Christy has shown some defensive prowess behind the plate. The 6-foot, 205 pound catcher hit .284 with 8 home runs, 32 RBIs and 45 assists from behind the plate this season for the Huskers. Round 7: Jonathan Waltenbury, 1B, Henry Street HS, Bowmanville, Ontario
Waltenbury was another player who hit for the Twins during a workout and displayed impressive power. A member of the Canadian Junior National team, Waltenbury is another one of the many bats that were taken as a potential home run hitter in this draft. Round 8: Brian Dinkelman, 2B, McKendree College
Another bat that the Twins liked, it's unsure where Dinkelman will play defensively. A shortstop in college, the 5-foot-11 infielder could move to second or third base if he has enough arm. He's a line-drive hitter who has set multiple records in the NAIA. Round 9: Sean Land, LHP, University of Kansas
A big-bodied pitcher at 6-foot-5, 225 pounds, Land has a fastball that the Twins are very fond of. He was a starter for Kansas during his career, but his lack of a complementary pitch will likely relegate him to the bullpen. Round 10: Jared Mitchell, CF, Westgate HS, New Iberia, La. A multi-sport star in football, some look at Mitchell as a little too raw in baseball talent. The Twins believe he's a premium athlete who has a quick bat and can drive the ball to all fields. A pick that the Twins had been looking at higher in the draft, Mitchell fell into the Twins' hands later and is described as the best athlete in the draft. Round 11: Steven Singleton, SS, University of San Diego
The 5-foot-11 switch-hitter batted .362 with five home runs and 38 RBIs during his junior season of college and helped lead the Toreros to the NCAA tournament. Round 12: Kevin Harrington, CF, Royal HS, Simi Valley, Calif.
A quarterback in high school, Harrington displayed plenty of potential on the mound as a 6-foot-6 pitcher. Harrington was named honorable mention in the So Cal Cup 3 that pitted the best high school players in Southern California against each other. Round 13: Aaron Senne, RF, Rochester Mayo (Minn.) HS
A player who has been in Twins' tryout since sophomore year, Senne has attracted the Twins due to his raw power ability. His signability is a question though, with a scholarship to play baseball at Missouri. Round 14: Jeffrey Manship, RHP, University of Notre Dame
Manship underwent Tommy John surgery before ever throwing a pitch for the Irish, but came back to lead the rotation as a junior this season. The 6-foot-2 pitcher relies on a plus, plus curve to get players out. Round 15: Mark Dolenc, RF, Minnesota State University - Mankato
Also a pitcher in college, Dolenc impressed more at the plate. The outfielder hit .368 with six home runs and 30 RBIs. He also stole a team-high 16 bases. Round 16: Shayne Willson, RF, Earl Marriott SS, Surrey, British Columbia
Willson was an invitee the past two years to the Canadian Junior National team. The 6-foot-3, 195 pound outfielder also possess some power in his bat. Round 17: Andrew Oliver, LHP, Vermilion (Ohio) HS
Capable of hitting the low-90s with his fastball, Oliver has shown some inconsistency with his velocity, overall. Oliver was named a preseason Louisville Slugger All-American in 2006. Round 18: Chris Anderson, LHP, Northern Essex CC
Ranked fourth in the nation in strikeouts per inning in Division III, Anderson is another pitching prospect who will get the chance to work in a system designed for pitchers.
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.