MINNEAPOLIS -- Although it was difficult to fathom last winter, the loss of relievers Eddie Guardado and LaTroy Hawkins to free agency do have a "good news" side, which will be in clear view on June 7.
The compensation picks provide something of a silver lining.
For the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, Minnesota holds five picks among the top 39. The organization will have the 20th, 22nd and 25th selections in the first round, and the 35th and 39th picks -- considered supplemental "sandwich" choices -- between the first and second rounds.
"This is a big opportunity," said Twins scouting director Mike Radcliff. "We get to add some quality depth to our organization.
"The repercussions for the scouting department are very positive."
General manager Terry Ryan, Radcliff and their team of scouts have a strong track record of both identifying and developing young talent in their system -- 24 players on the current 40-man roster are homegrown, and several others are coming up through the organization's minor league ranks.
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That's what makes draft season a huge time of year.
"This is our lifeblood. It's how we get it done," said Radcliff. "That's why it's exciting and challenging."
The last time the organization had multiple first-round picks was 1997, when Michael Cuddyer and Matthew LeCroy were selected. Both players are contributing at the big league level now.
Current Twins who were first-round picks are Torii Hunter (1993) and Twin Cities native Joe Mauer, who was the overall No. 1 pick in 2001. Mauer made his Major League debut this season.
Recent first-round picks still working their way up are outfielder Denard Span (2002) and third baseman Matt Moses (2003) -- both are with low Class A Quad City. Moses has missed playing time with ailments that included a heart defect, which required surgery, and a sore back.
The overall No. 2 selection in 2000, right-handed pitcher Adam Johnson, has struggled to find his command at Triple-A Rochester and hasn't shown yet that he can pitch in the Majors.
The Twins know that because they will not begin their selections until late in the first round this year, many of the biggest names on the draft board will likely have been taken before it's their turn.
Past five No. 1 picks
2003 Matt Moses, 3B
2002 Denard Span, OF
2001 Joe Mauer, C
2000 Adam Johnson, RHP
1999 B.J. Garbe, OF
Minnesota's board remains under lock and key, but expect a premium to be placed on middle infielders, long an organizational need. Baseball America has identified Oklahoma State third baseman/shortstop Josh Fields and Blake DeWitt, a high school shortstop from Missouri, as potential fits.
A corner infielder with power is something the Twins are always after, and every club always seeks pitching, pitching and more pitching. Though Minnesota considers this draft to be just average talent-wise, it is believed that there are still enough quality players available.
"We should be able to reach some objectives," said Radcliff. "I think our picks should match up. I think there's depth there, if you're willing and able to take high school pitching -- which we are."
The Twins also appear willing and able to do what is necessary to sign their higher picks. In most drafts they will try to sign around 25 to 30 of the approximately 50 draft picks each year. Since first-round money will be sought by five players this year, Radcliff estimates signing between 12 and 16 picks.
Though the club has prepared itself for this enviable scenario, it won't be known for a few years whether having five early selections makes up for losing Guardado and Hawkins.
"Not very often do you get to do something like this," said Radcliff. "It's a challenge for the staff, but I think we've executed our plans for the year well, and we'll restock the system."