MINNEAPOLIS - Originally published on TwinsDaily.com
The Minnesota Twins have selected University of North Carolina first basemen Aaron Sabato with their first-round pick. Sabato has about as much power as any player in this draft, short of first overall pick Spencer Torkelson. He fits in nicely with how the Twins have drafted in recent years.
Prior to the MLB Draft, I had Aaron Sabato ranked as the 38th best prospect in the draft. Here is the profile I wrote on Sabato during our pre-draft Top 50 Prospect series.
Hit: 55 Power: 65 Run: 35 Throw: 45 Field: 40 Overall: 50
For a college first baseman, with no real potential to play anywhere but first or DH, you better bring a powerful bat if you want to be considered a potential first-round pick, and that is just what Aaron Sabato does.
As a draft eligible sophomore, Sabato’s time to impress scouts at the college level has been limited, but he has made full use of that time. After blasting 18 home runs in 64 games as a true freshman in 2019, Sabato belted another 7 home runs in just 19 games this spring, before the season was cut short.
Defensively, things aren’t always the smoothest for Sabato at first-base, though they aren’t bad enough to take his glove off the field just yet. Hopefully with some professional coaching, he can bring up his play closer to average at first base.
Aaron Sabato is a young player for a college pick, having just turned 21 last Thursday. After going undrafted coming out of high school in 2018, Sabato tore it up in his freshman season at UNC with an impressive .343/.453/.696 slash line. For his efforts, Sabato won a trophy case full of awards, which includes Co-National Freshman of the Year, first-team All-American, first-team Freshman All-America, NCBWA Freshman Hitter of the Year, first-team All-ACC and ACC Freshman of the Year.
He followed that up with a .292/.478/.708 slash line in 19 games this spring before the season got cut short due to COVID-19. Sabato has put his power bat on full display in his time with the Tar Heels, hitting 25 home runs and 31 doubles in just 83 career games.
Twins Scouting Director Sean Johnson said of the Twins top pick, "We thought he was the best offensive player left on the board from every standpoint possible. Going back to his season last year, if you look at him analytically, he lined up with some of the guys who went at the very top of the board."
This now marks 4-4 on the Twins taking a hitter with their first-round pick, since the current regime took over the team. Personally, I think this strategy makes a lot of sense. Typically, pitchers in the draft come with much more risk than hitters do. The reason being, you never know when a serious injury is going to happen, but they are far more likely to happen with a young pitcher than a young hitter.
I think this strategy also speaks to the overall player development strategy of the Twins front office, and that is take talented hitters with good power potential early, then focus on developing pitchers as they come up through the minor league system. This really makes a lot of sense when you consider the background of some of the Twins front office personnel, especially Derek Falvey, who had a big hand in developing the dominate Cleveland Indians starting rotation they had while he was there.
Ty Dawson is the Twins area scout for the Carolinas. It was his first season in that role and second in the organization. He joined the organization and spent the first year as a junior college specialist/scout.
But Johnson explained that a decision like a first-round draft pick is made by much more than just one person.
Johnson noted, ""We did have an all-hands-on-deck approach for this draft. Under the circumstances, Rocco, Mike Bell, Wes Johnson, and on down, all of our player development people, from Jeremy Zoll and Alex Hassan, all of our coordinators. I would say we had upwards of 50 Twins employees that had some opinion on this group of players, from the scouts, PD (Player Development), front office. We asked for a lot of opinions. We really believe in wisdom of crowds. We tried to look at the player from every direction possible."