Mississippi State

Twins hoping for more Mauer magic with No. 1 pick

Mississippi State first baseman Brent Rooker is expected to get picked high in the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft, which starts Monday.
Mississippi State first baseman Brent Rooker is expected to get picked high in the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft, which starts Monday. jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com

The last time the Minnesota Twins had the No. 1 pick in Major League Baseball’s draft, they were trying to decide between a can’t-miss pitching prospect and a hometown hero they hoped would one day help them dig out of a decade of futility.

It was an excruciating decision between USC ace Mark Prior and St. Paul prep catcher Joe Mauer, one that had team executives flip-flopping until the moment the clock started on that June afternoon.

Sixteen years later, the Twins have the first overall pick again. If they connect Monday night, as they did in 2001, another renaissance could be around the corner.

“It’s a rare opportunity that you get this chance and you want to get it right as best you can,” manager Paul Molitor said.

It’s the first major decision for new chief baseball officer Derek Falvey, the fresh-faced, 34-year-old who was brought in from Cleveland this winter to energize a Twins front office that was well-respected, but has endured a six-year playoff drought that bottomed out with last season’s 103 losses.

Falvey and GM Thad Levine have said they do not believe this year’s class has a Bryce Harper-type prospect, the kind of surefire star that can become the face of the franchise. Options for them included California high school standout Hunter Greene, Vanderbilt right-hander Kyle Wright and Louisville first baseman and left-hander Brendan McKay.

Mississippi State first baseman Brent Rooker, the SEC player of the year and Boo Ferriss winner, also expects to go high. Baseball America’s John Manuel projects the Twins picking Rooker with the 35th overall selection in the Supplemental First Round Monday.

“I don’t know that there’s one that stands out from the rest,” Falvey said. “It may come to pass that over the next couple of weeks during the meetings we feel there really is separation. But as it stands right now, as we go into it, we think there are a lot of good players to be talking about, and we'll go from there.”

Ever the pragmatist, though, Falvey sees opportunities throughout the draft to bolster a farm system that has been picked clean with the promotions of promising youngsters Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, Jose Berrios, Max Kepler and Jorge Polanco.

“I recognize there’s focus on pick 1, and I get why,” Falvey said. “But it’s important for us to focus on scouting the entire draft, because that’s the life blood of building a championship-caliber organization: scouting and player development.”

The situation they find themselves in now is eerily similar to where they were in 2001, coming off of a 69-93 finish that was their eighth straight losing season. But a young core was coming into its own, and the Twins won 85 games the same season they chose Mauer No. 1 overall, a bounce-back that paved the way for a run of six AL Central titles in nine seasons.

2017 MLB Draft

When: Monday (6 p.m.); Tuesday (Noon), Wednesday (11 a.m.)

Note: MLB Network will televise draft, also available at MLB.com