What's next for the Minnesota Twins and undrafted players?

DETROIT, MICHIGAN - SEPTEMBER 26: Manager Rocco Baldelli of the Minnesota Twins looks on from the dugout during the second inning while playing the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on September 26, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/G ((Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images))

Originally published on TwinsDaily.com

It has been an unprecedented year in so many ways already. That includes the sports world, and obviously it affected the 2020 MLB Draft this week. Instead of 40 rounds, there were just five rounds, and now things will get really interesting as teams can sign undrafted players.

The Twins had just four draft picks in the 2020 draft, as you know.

1st round - Aaron Sabato, 1B North Carolina
Comp Balance Pick - Traded to Dodgers in Kenta Maeda trade
2nd round - Alerick Soularie, OF/2B Tennessee
3rd round - pick forfeited due to the signing of Josh Donalson
4th round - Marco Raya, RHP (HS pitcher from Texas)
5th round - Kala’i Rosario, OF (HS outfielder from Hawaii)

Presumably, these four players will sign in the next few weeks, becoming professional ballplayers.

What about the undrafted players?

The draft ended on Thursday night and there was a 48-hour quiet period where teams could not contact those undrafted players. During that time, the players can “opt-out” of the process, essentially saying that they are not willing to sign at that time and would be going to school.

For those willing to sign, on Sunday, that changes and teams will start their recruiting process.

Two questions come to mind:

  • How active do we anticipate the Twins being in signing undrafted players for up to $20,000?
  • For those players they would like to sign, how will they go about recruiting them?

So let’s start with the first question. How active will the Twins be in the post-draft, undrafted player process? Like all teams, there is no question that the Twins will be quite involved. How nice would it be to add a player on your draft board for just $20,000?! They would like to add several players.

(Seth Prediction, I think they may sign a handful of players to $20K bonuses, but that's just a guess. It is going to be a very competitive market, to be sure.)

However, several other factors have to come into play. For instance, the Twins didn’t release any minor league players this year. Several will become free agents at season’s end, but the team will have to make decisions on those players as well. Also remember that it is highly likely that at least one affiliate will be eliminated in 2021. That is potentially another 30 to 35 players that will find themselves out of jobs by next summer. So, it is possible that the overall pool available may not be real large. And there will be a lot of competition for jobs next spring (which isn’t the worst thing, in many cases).

Following the draft, Twins scouting director Sean Johnson said the team has a plan for this unprecedented process. “We are certainly hopeful (to sign some players). We have a lot of the things in the works to approach and recruit these players. We have the next two days to see what that pool looks like.”

So the first step is determining which players will be available and which ones they will target. Despite the 48-hour timeline between the draft and being able to sign players, the scouts did not get a day off on Friday. Instead, several spent time putting together their board of the best available players.

Johnson said, “There are guys on the board we’d love to have and bring into our organization. Now, whether we’re the right fit for the player or that player actually wants to take $20,000 starting on Sunday is to be determined. I’d be guessing if I knew how it’d play out. We are ready to put our best foot forward.”

Fair enough. It’s impossible to know the motivation for each individual eligible player. But for those that opt-in and make themselves eligible, the Twins can plan their full-court press to try to sign them.

So what are the areas that the Twins will focus their recruitment of players?

Johnson highlighted some of their plans, and the areas in which they feel they may have a competitive advantage. But the first one is probably the most important. ““I think at the heart of it, we want to show the player that we want them in the system.”

He continued, “And (secondly), here are the things we see with your swing or your pitches or your body that we can do to advance you, to optimize you and to give you a chance to be a major-league prospect.”

A player should be excited about that. We all want to know we are truly wanted, but I think that constructive criticism and willingness to accept it are huge in any career. For a player to hear that the Twins not only want them in their organization, but have already had their scouting and player development staff spend time looking at video of them and coming up with a plan of action to make them the best possible player is exciting.

As we have seen and touted over the last few spring trainings and seasons, the Twins have invested in their player development in so many ways on the field (with more coaches, coordinators) and off the field (training and education).

Johnson and his team of scouts draft and sign players, but then those players get turned over to the capable hands of Jeremy Zoll, Alex Hassan and the coaches and coordinators in Player Development. The nice thing is that the Derek Falvey regime has encouraged having the player development group get a glimpse at potential draft picks and voice thoughts and opinions.

“Our player development has incredible staff. They have plentiful tools to educate and show the player the path toward becoming a prospect one day. We feel like our player development is at the top of the industry from a staffing perspective, from a technology perspective, facilities, our academy is unmatched. It’s an incredible place for players. We have players that want to be there year-round. We think that is a separator for us, from a facilities standpoint. We’re hoping that gets us a few wins in that column.

So on Sunday morning at 8:00 am Central Time, it will primarily be the team’s area scouts around the country that will be relied upon to attract key targets. They have likely been in contact with the player over the years, especially leading up to the draft. They are the people doing background and talking to parents and coaches and teammates and school administrators and neighbors and, who knows, maybe even pets. The area scouts are the unsung heroes in any organization.

In addition, the Twins front office is relying on other relationships that have been built over time. “We’re hoping that the right agents that know what we bring to the table may guide players in our direction.”

For the players, they will all have legitimate reasons to sign and not to sign. Maybe they just think they can go to college and develop and eventually make more than $20,000. Maybe a college senior knows that he won’t make $20,000 now or in a year, so they want to take advantage of colleges allowing them an additional year to play. There are also non-economic factors.

There will be factors out of the Twins control. Another may be location and geography. A kid from Georgia with a $20,000 offer from the Braves may just want to take that. Or, if you’re a Minnesota kid, maybe the idea of signing with the Twins for $10,000 might be very appealing.

The Twins have a loaded offense and lots of great hitting prospects. They have begun to develop more pitchers as well. A player may look at the team’s organizational depth chart and believe they could be blocked or slowed, or simply have a better opportunity elsewhere.

Ultimately, the decision is with the players. Some will want to sign, take some money, be done with school and start playing professionally (when possible). Many may decide to bet on themselves, thinking that in a year, they can end up with more money if things return closer to normal. Injuries certainly can factor into their decisions. For some, academics may be a factor. Family. Background. There are many factors that the players could consider.

And, for those players willing to sign, the Twins scouts will try to counter any narrative and let them know the benefits of developing in the Twins organization as opposed to other organizations.

Ultimately, Sean Johnson says, they will make their pitch and see what happens.

“We’re basically going to show the player, here’s what we have to offer you, and we hope that you want to be a part of it.