The MLB draft starts Monday night and concludes Wednesday. The Minnesota Twins have the first overall pick for the third time in franchise history. In 2001, they selected Joe Mauer; in 1983, they selected Tim Belcher, but failed to sign him. Here are some things to look for on Monday, including who the Twins may select:
Will Hunter Greene become the first high school right-hander selected first overall?
Three prep lefties have gone first overall -- Brady Aiken in 2014, Brien Taylor in 1991 and David Clyde in 1973 -- but Greene, the top player on Keith Law's draft board, could become the first right-hander to go No. 1. In Law's latest mock draft, however, he has the Twins going with Louisville LHP/1B Brendan McKay or possibly Vanderbilt RHP Kyle Wright, with Greene falling second overall to the Cincinnati Reds.
The Twins got a final look at the two college hurlers on Saturday, as both pitched in the super regionals. McKay allowed two runs in 6⅔ innings against Kentucky while Wright, who came on strong in the second half of his season, allowed seven runs on eight hits against No. 1 Oregon State. Greene, also a power-hitting shortstop with a slick glove, worked out for the Twins on Friday and hit 100 mph while hitting four home runs in batting practice.
Who pans out more often, high school or college pitchers?
With the Twins, Cincinnati Reds and San Diego Padres (who have the top three picks) debating the merits of Greene and high school lefty MacKenzie Gore versus the two college pitchers, a little history lesson may help. In the past 20 drafts, 32 college pitchers have been taken in the first five picks against 16 high schoolers. The average WAR per pick so far has been 6.1 for the college guys versus 4.0 for the high schoolers, although a higher percentage of the high school picks were in the past few years and are still in the minors -- Ian Anderson and Riley Pint were taken third and fourth overall last year, for example.
The only big hit among high school pitchers taken in the top five since 1997 was Josh Beckett, drafted second by the Miami Marlins in 1999. Gavin Floyd is second on the high school WAR list at 15.9. College products have included Justin Verlander, David Price, Stephen Strasburg, Mark Mulder and Mark Prior -- but also Mark Appel, Luke Hochevar, Bryan Bullington, Danny Hultzen and Greg Reynolds (all top-two picks).
In other words: History doesn't tell us a whole lot. Pitchers are high-risk no matter what.
What about Greene and McKay, the two-way prospects?
Both are outstanding prospects aside from their pitching abilities. While Law likes McKay better as a pitcher, some scouts believe he's the best pure hitter in the draft. He has hit .343/.464/.657 with 17 home runs for Louisville, with more walks than strikeouts. In comparing top-five pitchers versus top-five position players, it's no contest: position players in a romp. Despite an almost equal numbers of selections (52 position players, 48 pitchers, with Matt Bush counted as a position player), top-five position players since 1997 have included Carlos Correa, Bryce Harper, Justin Upton, Joe Mauer, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Hamilton, Kris Bryant, Alex Gordon, J.D. Drew, Manny Machado, Evan Longoria, Troy Glaus, Ryan Zimmerman, Buster Posey, Matt Wieters, Ryan Braun and Mark Teixeira.
That's the argument for keeping Greene and McKay off the mound if their bats really do grade out as top-five material. In McKay's case, he became the seventh two-way player to win Baseball America's College Player of the Year. Other notables included Posey, Todd Helton and John Olerud, who excelled as position players as pros.
Could the Twins pull a surprise with the first pick?
The Twins have total bonus pool money of $14.15 million for the first 10 rounds. The slot value for the first pick is $7.77 million, so there is minor speculation they could go with Gore for an under-slot value and use the savings elsewhere in the draft (for example, to help persuade a college-bound player to sign with the team instead).
Here are the bonus pool totals for each team. The St. Louis Cardinals -- without a first-round pick after signing Dexter Fowler and after losing its second-round and second-round supplemental pick as punishment for former scouting director Chris Correa hacking into the Houston Astros' computer system -- have the lowest pool money available at $2.17 million. Teams face a fine if they go over their allotment and while they often do -- 23 of 30 teams went over past year -- no team has ever exceeded the total by more than 5 percent.
Any famous bloodlines?
None of Law's top 50 prospects have any big league connections, but here's a list of family ties from MLB.com. The fun name there: Darren Baker, son of the Washington Nationals manager. You remember Darren from the 2002 World Series, when J.T. Snow saved the young kid from possibly getting creamed at home plate:
Darren is now a speedy shortstop/outfielder with a scholarship to Cal, but he would consider turning pro.
Why a player's age can be important
When I attended the SABR Analytics Conference in 2016, one of the more interesting presentations was delivered by Robert Brustad, a professor at Northern Colorado University's School of Sport and Exercise Science. The basic synopsis: Brustad studied the ages of high school kids selected in the first 20 rounds from 2005 to 2012 and found older high school players eventually underachieved based on their draft position while younger high schoolers overachieved. (Brustad's study produced similar results to one by Rany Jazeryli that reviewed drafts from 1965 to 1995.) This is a good sign for Greene, who doesn't turn 18 until August, but a bad one for Law's No. 18 prospect, LHP Trevor Rogers, who turns 20 in November.
A primary reason for this effect can be physical maturity. Older kids may have already maxed out their physical growth; younger kids -- who may not throw as hard or appear as strong -- may have more growth left in them. One example Brustad gave was Chris Sale, who looked about 14 years old when he was drafted out of high school and threw 86 mph. After three years in college, he became a first-round pick. Pete Kozma, by contrast, was a first-round pick who looked 25.
Some "young" players, all not yet 18 when drafted included Mike Trout, Madison Bumgarner, Anthony Rizzo, Correa, Francisco Lindor, Freddie Freeman and Chris Archer. Other young high schoolers who will be 17 on draft day include Puerto Rican OF Heliot Ramos (No. 21 on Law's board), RHP Shane Baz (No. 45 on Law's board), and OF Quentin Holmes (No. 33 on MLB.com's board).
How important is a team's first-round pick?
Well, there's this nugget: In the wild-card era, only the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks have won a World Series without at least one of its own first-round picks on the roster. Last year's Chicago Cubs had four on their World Series roster: Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Kyle Schwarber and Albert Almora. The 2015 Kansas City Royals had five: Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Gordon, Hochevar and Christian Colon. The 2014 San Francisco Giants had Posey, Bumgarner, Joe Panik and Tim Lincecum (Matt Cain wasn't on the World Series roster). And so on.