Twins snag Missouri righty in first round
Gibson's upside lures Minnesota at 22nd overall pick
OAKLAND -- The Twins were looking for a top-of-the-line starting pitcher heading into the 2009 First-Year Player Draft. So when injury concerns allowed University of Missouri right-hander Kyle Gibson to still be available with the No. 22 pick on Tuesday night, the club jumped at the opportunity to select him.
"We kind of got a sense, I would say midway through the first round, that he was starting to slide," said Deron Johnson, the Twins' director of scouting. "We had some guys in mind, and we ended up going for the ceiling. When he's healthy, he's one of the top pitchers in the Draft."Gibson, 6-foot-6 and 208 pounds, was ranked the fourth overall prospect in this year's Draft by Baseball America and was originally expected to be taken in the top 10. The right-hander went 11-3 with a 3.21 ERA in his junior year this season, helping the Tigers to their seventh consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. He earned first-team All-Big 12 Conference honors and struck out 131 batters, tying the school record, in 106 2/3 innings. But his Draft stock fell after he complained of forearm tightness following a postseason start on May 30 and was later diagnosed with a stress fracture. It's an injury that's expected to sideline Gibson up to six weeks. "All of the doctors I've talked to -- which includes a couple of Major League doctors and then the doctors around town that work for the [Indianapolis] Colts -- said that by six weeks for sure I'll be 100 percent healthy and it will be healed," said Gibson, whose hometown is near Indianapolis. Questions were first raised about Gibson's health when the velocity on his fastball dropped from the low-90s to the low-80s in his final two starts for Missouri. Gibson said that he'd been experiencing some pain in his arm over the final four weeks of his season, but it was the decrease in velocity that told him something wasn't quite right. When word of Gibson's injury broke in recent days, there was speculation that it might be related to Gibson's elbow. So his advisor called numerous teams and offered to get them a copy of Gibson's MRI. The reaction was greater than expected, as Gibson said there weren't enough copies of the MRI to go to all of the teams interested in seeing it. The Twins were one of the clubs to get a copy of the MRI. Johnson said the club had team orthopedist John Steubs look over Gibson's medical records and no red flags were raised, allowing them to take the pitcher with their first-round pick. "[Steubs] said the elbow is structurally fine and all he needed was rest," Johnson said. "No surgery is needed from what we know. So everything should be a go." Even though the injury caused him not to be near the top of the first round, Gibson said that he was OK with how he landed in the Draft. "I'm happy I fell to the Twins," Gibson said. "I think it's a really good organization for me to be in. It's just a blessing." While the injury is expected to be healed in six weeks, Gibson said that he's been given some advice that perhaps it would be best for him to take the rest of the summer off to make sure that the injury heals fully. When asked if he wants to do that, Gibson said it wouldn't be his first choice. "I don't think that I want to take the summer off completely, but I think that will depend on what the Minnesota doctors say and what the coaches and the front office say," Gibson said. "Maybe that's the best decision for me, even though it might take somebody else making that decision for me. I want to get as much experience as I can. I said from the get-go that I want to get out there and play. That wasn't a front. I want to go out and play and get a deal done that's fair for everybody." Gibson is said to have above-average command of three pitches -- fastball, changeup and slider -- and that is a definite plus for the Twins, who promote the idea of throwing the ball over the plate throughout their Minor League system. He's not quite a power arm, as he relies more on his two-seam fastball that is between 89-92 mph, but it's his poise and mix of other pitches that attracted the Twins to Gibson. "He has a good chance to be a front-line starter," Johnson said. "Maybe he's not a No. 1, but maybe a two or three in the rotation." Heading into this year's Draft, the Twins had a long list of areas that they wanted to address and one of them was pitching. It seemed to be the theme for the Twins on Day 1 of the Draft as all four of their picks were used to select college pitchers. The club took left-hander Matthew Bashore out of Indiana University in the compensation round with the 46th overall pick. They then selected right-hander William Bullock from the University of Florida in the second round and right-hander Benjamin Tootle from Jacksonville State University in the third round. "As I said before, this is honestly a pretty deep year pitching-wise in the Draft, and we tapped into it and liked our picks," Johnson said. "I think we addressed starting pitching and hard-throwing relievers. So I think we addressed some areas we were shooting for prior to the Draft." Round 1 (No. 22) -- RHP Kyle Gibson -- University of Missouri The Twins feel like they got a steal of sorts with Gibson dropping down to this pick. Gibson relies mostly on sinkers for his fastballs, but it's his 82-85 mph slider and a deceptive changeup that can fool hitters. Even when his velocity dropped due to the injury, Gibson was able to get plenty of outs based on the movement of his pitches. He's projected to be a starter, particularly one that could pitch at the front end of a rotation. Compensation Round A: (No. 46) -- LHP Matthew Bashore -- Indiana University One of three pitchers that the Twins scouted in the Cape Cod League last summer, Bashore impressed the Twins with the second half of the season that he put up for Indiana as he improved his control and his ability to pitch deeper into game. A 6-foot-2, 200-pound southpaw, Bashore's size and velocity -- a fastball that peaked in the mid-90s -- also made him an attractive pick. The Twins project him to be a starter, similar perhaps to Glen Perkins but physically bigger. Round 2 (No. 70) -- RHP William Bullock -- University of Florida Bullock is one of two hard-throwing relievers that the Twins picked up with their final two picks on Tuesday. Another big pitcher -- 6-foot-6 and 225 pounds -- Bullock began the year in the rotation for Florida but ended up being their closer. He can throw up to 98 mph with his fastball. He's a guy that the Twins could see in an eighth inning or other late-inning-relief role. Round 3 (No. 101) -- RHP Benjamin Tootle, Jacksonville State University Not as physically big as Bullock, Tootle is considered to be of a similar mode. Johnson said that Tootle was one of the hardest throwers they saw in the Cape Cod League last summer, as his fastball touched 99 mph. He also began the season in college as a starter, but he'll likely use his curveball and hard fastball in a relief role.
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.