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Draft : : State Preview
State Preview: Minnesota
David Rawnsley        
Published: Monday, May 30, 2011

In the weeks leading up to the draft, Perfect Game will be providing a detailed overview of each state in the U.S., including the District of Columbia, as well as Canada and Puerto Rico. These overviews will list the state's strengths, weaknesses and the players with the best tools, as well as providing mini-scouting reports on all Group 1 and 2 players.

Minnesota State-by-State List

Minnesota Overview:
Metrodome Roof Collapse Mars Spring Baseball in Minnesota, Upper Midwest

The entire 2011 baseball season in Minnesota—and indeed much of the Upper Midwest—changed in a flash last Dec. 12, when the Teflon roof at the Metrodome in Minneapolis collapsed under the weight of a gigantic snowstorm.

Not only was the Metrodome home to the University of Minnesota baseball team, but dozens of regional schools, as well. The facility received especially heavy use in the cold-weather months of February and March, until outdoor fields became playable.

Without the Metrodome, teams were left scrambling to re-schedule games, while playing many of them in less-than-ideal conditions. It was particularly disconcerting for scouts, whose assigned territories in the Upper Midwest tend to be vast. Having the Metrodome as the focal point of their early-season coverage enabled them to see far more players than they would typically be able to see over the course of a normal spring season. In the final analysis, a lot of players didn’t get scouted as thoroughly as desired this spring, and some players at more remote schools never got seen at all.

As the highest-profile baseball program in the state, the plight of the Golden Gophers’ 2011 season illustrates the issues that stemmed from the Metrodome roof collapse.

The team finished their regular-season schedule with a 22-22 record, playing only 44 games of the standard 56-game schedule. Only 13 of the games were at home, with a couple played at their former home, antiquated Siebert Field, and the balance at the Minnesota Twins new home park, Target Field. The Gophers scheduled 13 games in California in March (along with three in Arizona), but the extremely wet spring in that state, ironically, forced cancelation of six of those games. Another four home games in April and May fell victim to the elements.

Another victim of the Metrodome roof collapse was Perfect Game, which was scheduled to hold its annual National Showcase at the facility in mid-June, but was forced to reschedule the event in Fort Myers, Fla.

Once play began across the state, it was evident that 2011 was not going to be a banner year for prospects in Minnesota—regardless of the number of looks scouts got at the top players.

Until late in the spring, there was no guarantee that a single player from Minnesota would be picked in the top 10 rounds, something that hadn’t happened since 2007.

A pair of 6-foot-5 righthanders, T.J. Oakes of the University of Minnesota and Ben Hughes of Division III St. Olaf College, emerged, though. Oakes gained the attention of scouts early in the year on the strength of his 88-91 mph hard sinker and superior pitchability, something he undoubtedly developed from his father Todd, the Gophers pitching coach for the past 13 years.

The concern all along with Oakes was that while his slider was a workable second offering, he lacked the swing-and-miss pitch needed to make hitters uncomfortable. But Oakes’ velocity steadily improved over the course of the spring and by late in the season was up to 91-94 mph with heavy movement, causing scouts to re-evaluate their opinion of him.

Hughes threw relatively hard for a Division III pitcher as a sophomore, but went just 5-6, 5.51. He began a significant turnaround last summer in the Northwoods League, repeating his mechanics more consistently while touching 93-94 mph, and continued his strong showing this spring. Scouts are concerned about Hughes’ extremely long arm action, but he throws five pitches for strikes, including a split-finger changeup that can be a plus pitch at times.

A second small college player, sophomore third baseman Jordan Smith of Division II St. Cloud State, could also factor into the picture in the early rounds. He is a fundamentally-sound hitter, capable of spraying line drives to all fields, and hit .382-7-57 with 22 doubles on the season.

Centennial High lefthander Austin Malinowski is easily the state’s top high-school prospect and was cross-checked enough that there might be a team willing to buy him out of a scholarship to Arizona. He is still raw mechanically in his 6-foot-4, 200-pound frame, but has a loose, fast arm and should gain velocity on a fastball that already touches 91 mph.

Minnesota in a Nutshell:

STRENGTH:
Pitching.
WEAKNESS: High-school position players.
OVERALL RATING (1-to-5 scale): 2.

BEST COLLEGE TEAM:
Minnesota.
BEST HIGH-SCHOOL TEAM: Maple Grove.

PROSPECT ON THE RISE:
T.J. Oakes, rhp, University of Minnesota. The son of Gophers pitching coach Todd Oakes, T.J. had an outside chance of going in the top 10 rounds when he was throwing 88-91 mph early in the year. He was throwing a 91-94 mph power sinker late in the year, forcing scouts to re-evaluate his draft status.

PROSPECT ON THE DECLINE:
Pat Kelly, 2b, Red Wing HS. Kelly participated in the Area Code Games after his sophomore year at Red Wing High on the basis of his advanced bat and mature infield actions, but hasn’t improved much since. He may not even be drafted and in all likelihood will attend college at Nebraska this fall.

WILD CARD: Justin Gominsky, of, University of, Minnesota.
Gominsky is by far the best athlete playing baseball in the state, and looks the part of a top prospect at 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds. He missed almost all of the 2010 season with a knee injury, though, and was clearly rusty this season. Scouts say his missed time impacted his swing more than his speed or defensive ability.

BEST OUT-OF-STATE PROSPECT, Minnesota Connection:
Madison Boer, rhp, University of Oregon (attended high school in Eden Prairie).
TOP 2012 PROSPECT: Billy Soule, rhp, University of Minnesota.
TOP 2013 PROSPECT: Tom Windle, lhp, University of Minnesota.

HIGHEST DRAFT PICKS
Draft History: Joe Mauer, c, Cretin-Derham Hall, St. Paul (2001, Twins/1st round, 1st pick).
2006 Draft: Aaron Senne, of, Mayo HS, Rochester (Twins/13th round).
2007 Draft: Dan Lyons, ss, U. of Minnesota (Nationals/14th round).
2008 Draft: Brad Hand, lhp, Chaska HS (Marlins/2nd round).
2009 Draft: Derek McCallum, 2b, U. of Minnesota (Twins/4th round).
2010 Draft: Mike Kvasnicka, c/3b, U. of Minnesota (Astros/1st round, 33rd pick).

TOP PROSPECTS, GROUPS ONE and TWO

GROUP TWO
(Projected HIGH-Round Draft / Rounds 4-10)

1. T.J. OAKES, rhp, University of Minnesota (So.)
Age-eligible SO; + velo increase late, now T-94, + hard sink, good SL; + competitor, lacks swing/miss pitch.
2. BEN HUGHES, rhp, St. Olaf University (Jr.)
6-5/210 RHP, dominated D-3 level (7-1, 57IP/83 SO), 5 pitches, FB tops at 94, + split CH, improving CU/SL.
3. AUSTIN MALINOWSKI, lhp, Centennial HS, Lino Lakes
Lots of cross-check looks, 6-4/205, FB upper 80s/T-92, good CU, raw mechanics, 5-0, 0.34, Arizona recruit.
4. JUSTIN GOMINSKY, of, University of Minnesota (Jr.)
R/S SO, still on mend; + athlete at 6-4/200, + speed/arm, plays CF, RH bat, long swing, lacks power for size.
5. JORDAN SMITH, 3b, St. Cloud State (So.)
Fundamentally-sound bat, sprays L-D to all fields; + year in D-2 (.382-7-57), 3B in 2011, profiles as 1B/OF.



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