One concentrated look at the 2011 Minnesota Twins active roster through April 25 is all that’s required for proof that the organization loves to stock its big-league clubhouse with home-grown talent.
Eleven players on that roster were drafted and signed by the Twins and worked their way up through the organization’s farm system.
They include starting pitchers Nick Blackburn, Scott Baker and Brian Duensing; relievers Jose Mijares and Glen Perkins; center-fielder Danard Span, right-fielder Mike Cuddyer, third baseman Danny Valencia, All-Star first baseman Justin Morneau and All-Star catcher Joe Mauer.
Mike Radcliff has been with the Twins organization since 1987 and has served as its vice president of player personnel since 2007. He was previously the Twins’ scouting director from 1993 through his promotion in ’07.
While the club endured eight straight losing seasons from ‘93 through 2000 – the Twins won the 1991 World Series – Radcliff and his staff of more than 60 full- and part-time scouts began concentrating on the draft. It was hoped they could build the Twins minor league system into one that would keep the Major League roster stocked with talent for years to come.
They were successful. As those top prospects eventually made it to the big club, the Twins won six American League Central Division titles and made seven playoff appearances between 2002 and 2010.
“I don’t think we’ve broken any new ground in trying to build from the draft and signing our own players,” Radcliff said in a recent telephone interview with Perfect Game. “It’s been shown in the past to be the most stable way to get a foundation. Every organization goes through different stages of their development and evolution where different things get emphasized more than others.
“I think every team sees, understands and knows the value of having a strong foundation and having your own players and developing your own players, and getting them ready for the eventual benefit of the Major League team.”
The Twins opened beautiful new $545 million Target Field in downtown Minneapolis last year, and certainly enjoyed an economic windfall when 3,223,640 paying customers walked through the turn styles. It was the highest single season attendance figure for the franchise since it relocated from Washington D.C. to the Twin Cities in 1962.
The influx of additional revenue meant the Twins were able to hike their 2011 payroll to $112.7 million, the ninth largest in MLB.
“In our organization, we’ve gone from a team that could really only withstand a $40 to $60 million payroll, but because of the new stadium … we’re able to move up a little higher, which gives us a chance to do other things,” Radcliff said. “(The other things) would be on top of what we hope is a strong foundation of continual development of our own players.
“We now also have the chance to maybe sign Major League free agents and make different kinds of acquisitions that weren’t possible back in the day.”
The Twins signed their top 10 selections from the 2010 MLB First-Year Player Draft, including right-hander Alex Wimmers, a Perfect Game alum who the Twins took with the 21st pick of the first round.
Shortstop Niko Goodrum (second round), left-hander Pat Dean (third), right fielder Eddie Rosario (fourth) and left-hander Logan Darnell (sixth) were other 2010 early round picks signed by the Twins who were active with Perfect Game while in high school.
Radcliff makes sure the Twins scouting staff is well represented at PG showcases and tournaments.
“We put schedules together over the winter for the upcoming season, both before the draft and right after the draft – that’s when you start up for the following draft,” Radcliff said. “I go to the Perfect Game National (Showcase) every year and it seems like it’s usually within minutes – or at least days – right after the draft process is over this year.”
This year’s MLB draft is June 6-8. The Perfect Game Junior National Showcase and National Showcase run consecutively June 14-19 in Fort Myers, Fla.
Radcliff wants his scouting staff to see the prospects perform in person.
“We’re a team that truly believes in the visual look,” he said. “We like multiple looks and multiple contacts, and the evaluation of each individual player really is a timeline of looks and contacts with each player and each guy changes over time. There are additions and addendums – things occur with injuries, spikes in velocity and changes in bodies.
“We’re very aware of all the showcases,” he continued, “all of the summer tournaments where people can be seen and all of the different ways we can get our (scouting) staff in contact with and watch a player develop over his timeline leading up to whenever a decision has to be made on that individual.”
The focus right now is on the June draft, and the work the Twins’ scouting staff has done over the past few months has been “a culmination of a continual process,” according to Radcliff.
There is still a lot of work to do and a lot of players to see over the next four or five weeks. The Twins have the 30th pick in the first round, have sandwich picks at Nos. 50 and 55, and continue on with selections in the subsequent rounds.
“This is the peak of the season where for the next month the colleges start winding down at the end of May and the high schools, in some areas of the country, even before that,” Radcliff said. “This is the last month when you can get visual looks on watching players play, and plus there is all the supplemental stuff you have to do to define a player.”
That includes what seems like never-ending meetings, psychological testing, physical workouts and talking to all the support people in a player’s life like his coaches and parents.
Twenty-nine of the nation’s top prospects will already be off the board by the time Minnesota makes its first selection. In his mock draft, Perfect Game director of scouting David Rawnsley projects the Twins will snag Pennsylvania high school outfielder Derek Fisher – PG’s No. 14-ranked national prospect (2011) – with that selection.
“We’re like everybody else – always looking for the little advantage or the little separator that allows us to do just a little bit more or a little bit extra to get that extra player in the draft or find that extra guy in the summer,” Radcliff said. “I think we have a respected farm system and scouting department … but it just seems like it’s a daily grind and a daily battle to keep it going.”