From Chuck Knoblauch to Torii Hunter, from Joe Mauer to Alex Kirilloff, the Twins have found some of their most impactful players in club history through the amateur Draft — along with a fair share of misses, too, as is the case with any team around the league.
In advance of the upcoming 2021 MLB Draft from July 11-13, in which the Twins hold the No. 26 pick in the first round, let’s take a look at every top Draft selection in club history, dating back to the first event in 1965. Only the Rule 4 Draft was considered from years in which multiple Drafts were held, highlighting only the top overall pick (even if the Twins held multiple first-round selections that season).
2020: Aaron Sabato, 1B, North Carolina (No. 27)
The burly slugger immediately drew comparisons to Mets first baseman Pete Alonso due to both his considerable stature and track record of hitting in college. Even as a North Carolina Tar Heel, he didn’t seem too upset that his new farm director, Alex Hassan, had been a Duke Blue Devil.
2019: Keoni Cavaco, SS, Eastlake (Calif.) HS (No. 13)
Cavaco was a fast riser on boards in the months leading into the Draft, and the Twins selected the young infielder with the hopes that his advanced bat speed, power and defensive ability will give him a high ceiling as a professional.
2018: Trevor Larnach, OF, Oregon State (No. 20)
Already making an impact in the big leagues for the Twins despite being accelerated in his promotion schedule, the patient and powerful Larnach should be a fixture in the heart of Minnesota’s lineup for years to come. He was teammates with White Sox infielder Nick Madrigal and 2019 No. 1 overall pick Adley Rutschman on the 2018 Oregon State team that won the College World Series.
2017: Royce Lewis, SS, JSerra Catholic (Calif.) HS (No. 1)
As lauded as he is for his charisma, natural leadership ability and curiosity for the world as he is for his extreme raw physical tools, Lewis hasn’t put it all together as a professional yet, but he has shown flashes of his immense potential, as he did when he was named the MVP of the Arizona Fall League in 2019.
2016: Alex Kirilloff, OF, Plum (Pa.) HS (No. 15)
Being the son of a hitting instructor certainly helped Kirilloff hone a hitting ability far beyond his years despite being from a cold-weather state in Pennsylvania, and that power to all fields is already making a big league impact for the Twins.
2015: Tyler Jay, LHP, Illinois (No. 6)
The one-time closer for the Fighting Illini couldn’t make things work as either a starter or reliever in pro ball, and the Twins essentially let him walk to the Reds organization in 2019 before Cincinnati released the left-hander in ’20 without a Major League appearance to his name.
2014: Nick Gordon, SS, Olympia (Fla.) HS (No. 5)
The son of longtime big league reliever Tom “Flash” Gordon and half-brother of Dee Strange-Gordon, Nick persevered through serious health hurdles, including years-long management of gastritis and an extended bout of COVID-19, to finally make his big league debut in 2021.
2013: Kohl Stewart, RHP, St. Pius X (Tex.) HS (No. 4)
Stewart was also a top quarterback prospect and was committed at one point to Texas A&M, but he forwent that opportunity to pursue baseball, surfacing in the big leagues with the Twins for the first time in 2018. He has since bounced to the Orioles’ and Cubs’ organizations.
2012: Byron Buxton, CF, Appling County (Ga.) HS (No. 2)
It took a while for Buxton to put together all of his exemplary tools on a consistent basis on the baseball diamond, but his hit tool and power eventually caught up in a big way to his elite speed, arm and fielding ability — though his awful injury luck has held him back from a truly special season.
2011: Levi Michael, SS, North Carolina (No. 30)
The productive bat that posted gaudy numbers at the University of North Carolina just didn’t translate to pro ball, as the infielder never found much pop until late in his Minor League career. He caught on in the Mets’ and Giants’ systems for a while and even returned to the Twins in 2020, but he hung up the spikes following the COVID-19 pandemic having never played in the Majors.
2010: Alex Wimmers, RHP, Ohio State (No. 21)
The Ohio State standout underwent Tommy John surgery in 2012 and ended up converting to relief on the other side of the procedure, but he only appeared in 22 games across two seasons for the Twins and hasn’t played affiliated ball since 2018.
2009: Kyle Gibson, RHP, Missouri (No. 22)
Gibson carved out a seven-year career of solid-but-not-spectacular consistency as he anchored the Twins’ rotation through some lean years before he addressed his ulcerative colitis and appears to have taken the next step with the Rangers. Until recently, he was the all-time wins leader at Target Field.
2008: Aaron Hicks, OF, Woodrow Wilson (Calif.) HS (No. 14)
Prospect development often takes time — and the Twins saw an example of that in Hicks. They traded him to the Yankees in November 2015 following three tough seasons in Minnesota and saw him break out with the Bronx Bombers, while trade acquisition John Ryan Murphy never came close to panning out for the Twins.
2007: Ben Revere, OF, Lexington Catholic (Ky.) HS (No. 28)
At the tail end of the era of Twins baseball marked by speedsters — regardless of their overall hitting ability — placed atop the lineup, Revere exemplified that mold. He stole 74 bases without a homer in parts of three seasons with the Twins and enjoyed an eight-year career.
2006: Chris Parmelee, OF, Chino Hills (Calif.) HS (No. 20)
Parmelee was a solid Minor Leaguer, but he never quite got a consistent foothold in the Majors despite a handful of opportunities with the Twins. He bounced around to several organizations — most recently, the Dodgers’ system in 2019.
2005: Matt Garza, RHP, Fresno State (No. 25)
The right-hander enjoyed a lengthy, consistent and reasonably productive career — but only two of his 12 seasons came for the Twins despite rocketing through the Minors with plenty of hype. He was traded away following the ’07 season in the deal that brought Brendan Harris, Jason Pridie and Delmon Young to Minnesota.
2004: Trevor Plouffe, SS, Crespi Carmelite (Calif.) HS (No. 20)
Before he became a member of the Jomboy media machine, Plouffe spent seven seasons providing some pop out of the hot corner through some rough seasons for the Twins and enjoyed a nine-year career.
2003: Matt Moses, 3B, Mills E. Godwin (Va.) HS (No. 21)
Moses’ bat just never translated to the high Minors, with his OPS ending up at .657 through his lengthy stints in Double-A and .549 in a brief tenure in Triple-A. He never played in the Majors.
2002: Denard Span, OF, Tampa Catholic (Fla.) HS (No. 20)
At one point a corner outfielder jostling for playing time, Span soon established himself as the Twins’ consistent center fielder and leadoff hitter following Torii Hunter’s departure, and he reached 1,498 hits in a very solid career spanning 11 seasons with five teams.
2001: Joe Mauer, C, Cretin-Derham Hall (Minn.) HS (No. 1)
Once in a long while, the stars will align in a way that changes the course of a franchise’s history. The hometown kid from St. Paul, Minn., fell into the Twins’ lap in the year they had the No. 1 pick, and a 15-year career spanning 2,123 hits, three batting titles, three Gold Glove Awards and an MVP Award later, his number was retired by the Twins.
2000: Adam Johnson, RHP, Cal State Fullerton (No. 2)
The top of the 2000 Draft actually ended up being relatively bare aside from No. 1 overall pick Adrián González and future Twins skipper Rocco Baldelli at No. 6. Johnson, considered a lower-upside pick at No. 2, flamed out early after a 10.25 ERA across nine MLB appearances.
1999: B.J. Garbe, OF, Moses Lake (Wash.) HS (No. 5)
Now the CEO of a brewery in Washington state, Garbe has achieved considerably more success in the business world than he did in baseball, as he posted a .638 OPS across eight seasons in the Minors and never played a big league game.
1998: Ryan Mills, LHP, Arizona State (No. 6)
The only player among the top 10 picks in the ’98 Draft to fail to make the Majors, the 6-foot-5 left-hander never did find any control — either as a starter or reliever — and posted a 5.79 ERA in seven years as a Minor Leaguer.
1997: Michael Cuddyer, SS, Great Bridge (Va.) HS (No. 9)
Cuddyer’s only batting title came after he left the Twins, but for most of his 15-year career, his versatility and the pop he eventually found in his bat made him a fixture on those late Metrodome-era Twins teams, with which he was part of six division-winning clubs. Plus, he did magic tricks.
1996: Travis Lee, 1B, San Diego State (No. 2)
Plenty of players on this list never made the Majors, but there might not be a more controversial pick on here than Lee, who was declared a free agent in the weeks following the Draft due to a technicality in the rules. He became the first free agent ever signed by the expansion D-backs and ended up hitting 115 homers in nine MLB seasons.
1995: Mark Redman, LHP, Oklahoma (No. 13)
A one-time national champion as an Oklahoma Sooner, the left-hander made the Majors despite struggling in the Minor Leagues and posted a 4.86 ERA in parts of three seasons for the Twins before he was traded to Detroit for Todd Jones. He ended up carving out a 10-year MLB career that ended in 2008.
1994: Todd Walker, 2B, LSU (No. 8)
Though Walker broke through as the Twins’ starting second baseman for two seasons, he was traded to Colorado amid a rougher season in 2000 and bounced back to post consistently solid numbers through a 12-year, 1,288-game career.
1993: Torii Hunter, CF, Pine Bluff (Ark.) HS (No. 20)
One of the most beloved players in the recent history of the Twins, the electric center fielder won nine Gold Glove Awards throughout his 19-year career and announced his arrival on the national stage with a home run robbery of Barry Bonds in the 2002 All-Star Game. The owner of 2,452 hits finished his career in 2015 with one final season for the Twins at age 39.
1992: Dan Serafini, LHP, Junipero Serra (Calif.) HS (No. 26)
The southpaw played 22 professional seasons in a career that took him to Taiwan, Japan, Mexico and Venezuela, but he only posted a 5.88 ERA — mostly in relief — in parts of three seasons for the Twins.
1991: Dave McCarty, 1B, Stanford (No. 3)
McCarty hit .420 with 24 homers in 62 games for Stanford in 1991, but that bat came nowhere close to translating to pro ball, though he managed an 11-year MLB career as a utility player with a career .676 OPS.
1990: Todd Ritchie, RHP, Duncanville (Texas) HS (No. 12)
The right-hander had a decent rookie season for the Twins in 1997, but he was released after posting a 5.63 ERA the following year and stuck around for six more seasons with the Pirates, White Sox, Brewers, Devil Rays and Rockies before retiring in 2008.
1989: Chuck Knoblauch, SS, Texas A&M (No. 25)
On the one hand, he was the 1991 American League Rookie of the Year, batted second for the club that won the World Series and quietly had some of the most valuable batting seasons in club history with his underappreciated combination of power, speed and hitting ability. On the other hand, fans at the Metrodome pelted him with dollar hot dogs when he returned as a member of the Yankees in 2001, years after a strained departure from Minnesota.
1988: Johnny Ard, RHP, State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota (No. 20)
Ard spent parts of three solid seasons in the Twins organization before he was traded to the Giants in 1990 for Steve Bedrosian, who was part of the bullpen for the ’91 World Series champions.
1987: Willie Banks, RHP, St. Anthony (N.J.) HS (No. 3)
Banks remains the highest draftee ever out of New Jersey and pitched the first three seasons of a nine-year MLB career in Minnesota before he was traded to the Cubs in 1993.
1986: Derek Parks, C, Montclair (Calif.) HS (No. 10)
Parks made it to the Majors for 45 games from 1992-94, but his career came to a halt when the strike halted the ’94 season — and he never made it back.
1985: Jeff Bumgarner, RHP, Hanford (Wash.) HS (No. 13)
The right-hander posted solid but unspectacular numbers in the Minors for four seasons before the Twins packaged him in a trade to the Mets that brought second baseman Wally Backman to Minnesota.
1984: Jay Bell, SS, Gonzalez Tate (Fla.) HS (No. 8)
Bell, currently a Minor League manager in the Angels organization, collected 1,963 hits in an 18-year big league career — but none came for the Twins. It still worked out for Minnesota, which had traded Bell to Cleveland in ’85 as part of the package for Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven, who would help pitch the Twins to their first World Series title in 1987.
1983: Tim Belcher, RHP, Mount Vernon Nazarene University (No. 1)
It’s not the greatest track record to have with the first No. 1 pick in club history when Belcher, the fruit of that pick, did not sign with the Twins and opted instead to wait for the January supplemental draft. He eventually collected 1,519 strikeouts across 14 big league seasons.
1982: Bryan Oelkers, LHP, Wichita State (No. 4)
With the fourth pick in the Draft, the Twins selected Oelkers, who posted an 8.65 ERA across 10 games with Minnesota. With the very next pick, the Mets selected a guy named Dwight Gooden. You might have heard of him.
1981: Mike Sodders, 3B, Arizona State (No. 11)
Despite the success that Sodders had at Arizona State, he never found the ability to translate that hitting to professional baseball, starting with a .179 average in Class A following the Draft and ending only three years later with a .712 OPS at Double-A. He never made the Majors.
1980: Jeff Reed, C, Joliet West (Ill.) HS (No. 12)
Here’s another longtime big leaguer whose place in Twins history is more notable for a trade in which he was involved. Reed played 17 MLB seasons, and he was involved in the 1987 trade that brought Jeff Reardon to the Twins ahead of their World Series run. Reed served as a coach for the former Rookie-level Elizabethton Twins for nearly two decades following his playing career.
1979: Kevin Brandt, OF, Nekoosa (Wis.) HS (No. 11)
Brandt lasted 47 games of Rookie-level ball before his professional career was over, with a meager .470 OPS in that time to his name.
1978: Lenny Faedo, SS, Jefferson (Fla.) HS (No. 16)
Faedo quickly made the Majors at age 20, but he didn’t have the hitting ability to stick — not even at shortstop — with a .600 career OPS across parts of five big league seasons with the Twins.
1977: Paul Croft, OF, Morristown (N.J.) HS (No. 15)
Another player who never made the Majors, Croft never played above A ball in four seasons with the Twins organization before he unsuccessfully tried to catch on with Atlanta and Baltimore.
1976: Jamie Allen, 3B, A.C. Davis (Wash.) HS (No. 10)
Allen didn’t sign with the Twins, instead choosing to attend college at Arizona State. He later got a shot with the Mariners and played 86 big league games in 1983.
1975: Rick Sofield, SS, Morristown (N.J.) HS (No. 13)
Sofield’s .301 average and .736 OPS in a 35-game sample as a rookie in 1979 marked the best he’d perform in a brief, three-year big league career with the Twins.
1974: Ted Shipley, SS, Vanderbilt (No. 14)
Shipley never made it beyond Double-A in three Minor League seasons in the Twins organization.
1973: Eddie Bane, LHP, Arizona State (No. 11)
After he posted a 4.66 ERA in three seasons with the Twins, Bane eventually joined the scouting ranks, all the way up to becoming scouting director of the Angels in the 2000s. He was most recently a special assignment scout for the Red Sox until 2019. Bane’s brother, Dan, is the chairman and CEO of Trader Joe’s.
1972: Dick Ruthven, RHP, Fresno State (No. 8)
Ruthven was another case of the Twins being unable to sign their first-round selection. Philadelphia eventually took him with the first pick of the January Draft and he went on to pitch 2,109 innings over 14 big league seasons with the Phillies, Cubs and Braves.
1971: Dale Soderholm, SS, Coral Park (Fla.) HS (No. 21)
Soderholm hung around for 743 professional games across nine seasons, but he never played in the Majors.
1970: Bob Gorinski, SS, Mount Pleasant (Pa.) HS (No. 22)
Gorinski played 54 games for the Twins in 1977, but he hit .195 with a .548 OPS and never returned to the Majors.
1969: Paul Ray Powell, OF, Arizona State (No. 7)
Powell collected only seven big league hits over parts of three seasons with the Twins and Dodgers.
1968: Alex Rowell, OF, Luther College (No. 16)
One of only four players ever drafted out of the small college in Decorah, Iowa, Rowell never made it above Double-A in three seasons with the Twins organization.
1967: Steve Brye, OF, St. Elizabeth (Calif.) HS (No. 17)
Brye collected 515 hits over nine seasons with the Twins, Pirates and Brewers and enjoyed career highs in games (135), doubles (32) and average (.283) in 1974.
1966: Bob Jones, 3B, Terrell County (Ga.) HS (No. 20)
Jones never played above A ball in four Minor League seasons with the Twins and Astros.
1965: Eddie Leon, SS, Arizona (No. 9)
The Twins’ first-ever selection in the Draft chose not to sign with them. Instead, Leon eventually signed with Cleveland two years later and collected 440 hits during an eight-year big league career.