In 2016, the Twins drafted Matt Wallner, a high school righthander from just north of Minneapolis, in the 32nd round.
In 2019, they took a power-hitting corner outfielder named Matt Wallner from Southern Mississippi in the supplemental first round.
Here’s the weird part: It’s the same Matt Wallner.
“We always liked him, obviously. He had a lot of potential as a pitcher,” scouting director Sean Johnson said. “But even when he gave it up, it was pretty clear how talented he is at other aspects of the game.”
Aspects like power hitting. Wallner hit 23 homers and drove in 60 runs in 61 games as a junior, and is the Southern Miss career home run king with 58 in three season.
Or aspects like getting on base. Wallner never hit below .323 for the Golden Eagles, had an on-base percentage of .446 as a junior, and reached base in 52 straight games as a sophomore.
Or aspects like throwing from the outfield. Wallner has a pitcher’s arm, remember.
“He’s got a lot of tools, but the power really stands out. He’s got some of the best raw power in the draft,” Johnson said. “And it’s always a nice touch to bring a local kid back and hopefully give him a chance to play right field at Target Field some day.”
It’s a thrill for Wallner, too, right up there with throwing out the first pitch, as Minnesota’s Mr. Baseball, at Target Field. He turned down the Twins after being drafted out of Forest Lake High in order to play for North Dakota—but then the school disbanded its baseball program.
Southern Miss was the only other school that had offered him a scholarship, so he visited campus and decided to move south. That was a good decision, as was his choice to focus on his hitting.
“I definitely wanted to hit, so I was a little torn, and then I had a forearm issue (after my freshman year) and never really got back into it,” said Wallner, the BA College Freshman of the Year in 2017.
“I always wanted to be a position player first, and it all kind of worked out.”
— For the third time in six seasons, the Twins used their first-round pick on a high school shortstop. Keoni Cavaco, a late-bloomer from Eastlake High in Chula Vista, Calif., was taken with the 13th pick, joining 2014 draftee Nick Gordon and 2017 first overall pick Royce Lewis in the system.
— Righthander Brusdar Graterol, the Twins’ top pitching prospect, was shut down after tests discovered an impingement in his throwing shoulder. Graterol owns a 1.89 ERA and 5-0 record in nine starts for Double-A Pensacola and was named to the Southern League all-star team despite the injury.