With the NFL Draft kicking off tonight (albeit virtually) it seemed only appropriate to stick with a similar theme here at Twins Daily. Selecting unproven talent is hard, and in baseball when dealing with high school kids, it gets even more complicated. What does the all-time success look like in the later rounds though?
Drafting in baseball is a ridiculously nuanced practice. Not only are you trying to project future ability, but you’re doing so with athletes that have not yet even began to experience body maturation. On top of that you have the split between scouting acumen and analytical importance, and then add in a pool that spans 40 rounds. To say the practice is hard is putting it lightly.
When looking back over the course of Twins history, there are certainly some gems that have stuck out, however. Excluding anyone taking before a double-digit round, and focusing entirely on hitters, here’re the top five gems ever uncovered by the Minnesota Twins:
5. Marty Cordova 4.8 fWAR (1989 10th round)
Cordova was taken by the San Diego Padres in the eighth round out of high school but did not sign. After going to college and being eligible two years later, he fell to Minnesota in the 10th round. Cordova reached the big leagues in 1995 at the age of 25. Posting an .839 OPS in 137 games, he went on to win the American League Rookie of the Year edging out names like Garret Anderson, Andy Pettitte, and Troy Percival.
Despite an even higher .849 OPS in 1996, Cordova’s 3.6 fWAR in his debut season was easily a career high. He went on to play for another eight seasons and compiled just 1.2 fWAR in that stretch. What began so promising eventually led to Cordova leaving Minnesota in 2000 after five relatively mediocre years. Kicking this list off with one of Minnesota's one-hit wonders should only highlight how hard drafting truly is.
4. Lyman Bostock 9.3 fWAR (1972 26th round)
Taken in the 26th round Bostock burst onto the scene as an incredibly special talent. He debuted for the Twins at the age of 24 in 1975 and put up a .282 average. Although not a power hitter, he established himself as a very talented outfielder and earned MVP votes in 1977 thanks to an .897 OPS. Playing just three years for Minnesota, he became one of the first players to cash in on the new free agency opportunity and signed with the Angels for a cool $2 million.
Sadly, he played just one season in California as his life was tragically ended at the age of 27. On a trip home to Gary Indiana he was in a car that was fired upon and the bullet damage ended up taking his life within a few hours. A few years ago, Twinkie Town did a nice story on the former Minnesota outfielder.
3. Matt Lawton 9.3 fWAR (1991 13th round)
Taken by the Twins in the 13th round out of Community College, Lawton would make his big-league debut four years later. It was just a 21-game sample in 1995, but he posted a .317/.414/.467 slash line to kick off his major league career. Lawton wound up playing parts of seven seasons with the Twins and made his first All-Star appearance in 2000 as he posted a strong .865 OPS.
Following the departure from Minnesota, Lawton went on to play for another six organizations. It was in Cleveland that he found another stable home, being there for three years from 2002-2004, and eventually made his second All-Star team. He posted 138 career long balls and tallied a .785 OPS over a 12-year Major League resume.
2. Corey Koskie 23.2 fWAR (1994 26th round)
Taken in the 26th round out of Canada, Koskie went on to have a nine-year career that placed him 10th all-time among fWAR for Twins hitters. He spent his first seven seasons in Minnesota and is one of the most under-recognized stars in franchise history. In six full seasons he averaged an .840 OPS and never once posted a mark in the .700 range. Koskie earned MVP votes in 2001 and ripped 25 dingers in a season twice.
For the early part of the 2000’s Koskie was among the most stable things in baseball. He was a staple at the hot corner for the Twins and was a big part of teams that ripped off three-straight AL Central Division titles. Still plenty active in the Minnesota baseball scene, Koskie is a strong contender as one of the best draft gem selections in baseball history.
1. Kent Hrbek 37.6 fWAR (1978 17th round)
Just missing the top five in fWAR among hitters in Twins history, Kent Hrbek was the local kid that stayed home to make good. From Minneapolis and drafted out of Bloomington Kennedy High School, Hrbek was in The Show just three years after his pro debut. He was an All-Star during his rookie season and finished runner up in the Rookie of the Year voting to some guy named Cal.
Kent finished just seven dingers shy of 300 for his career. He owned an .848 OPS and should have won the American League MVP in 1984 (Willie Hernandez grabbed both the Cy Young and MVP award that year). Hrbek is a two-time World Series champion, and there’s no doubt that he’ll tell you Ron Gant was out.
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