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High draft picks in the mix as Twins prepare for Appy opener

Douglas Fritz • Jun 17, 2019 at 4:23 PM

It’s go time for Elizabethton on Tuesday night, and the Twins boast three high draft picks — at least for the time being.

On the roster will be sandwich-pick Matt Wallner, third-round selection Spencer Steer, and fourth-round pick Seth Gray.

The Bluefield Blue Jays will visit Northeast Community Credit Union Ballpark for the Appalachian League baseball season opener. First pitch is set for 6:30 p.m. — which is the scheduled start time for all Appy League games this season.

Twins manager Ray Smith said the high draft picks likely won’t be in town very long.

“They will get acclimated and get their feet wet, and then they will get out of here,” Smith said. “That’s the way it has been for years. You want to win, but it’s all about development.”

Wallner was chosen with the No. 39 pick in the Competitive Balance Round A, sandwiched between the first and second rounds, and was expected to be in Elizabethton on Monday. He batted .323 for Southern Mississippi this season, totaling 23 homers and 60 runs batted in.

Steer comes from Oregon University — where Smith played college baseball back in the day. Steer drove in 57 runs in 56 games this season.

Gray is a 6-foot-4, 215-pound third baseman who was drafted out of Wright State University. The 21-year-old Gray hit .351 with 11 home runs and 70 RBIs in 59 games for the Raiders this season.

Another top pick is seventh rounder Anthony Prato, a shortstop from Brooklyn, New York. He played at the University of Connecticut, and hit over .300 in each of his last three seasons with the Huskies.

Brent Headrick (Joliet, Illinois) tops the pitching staff as a ninth-round selection out of Illinois State University. The 6-foot-6, 227-pound left-hander was the Missouri Valley Conference pitcher of the year (9-3, 3.47 ERA) and helped the Redbirds earn an at-large berth in this year’s NCAA Tournament.

Also, Ben Gross was a 10th-round pick out of Duke University. The 6-2, 210-pounder went 7-4 this spring for the Blue Devils with an ERA of 4.09.

Heading the 2018 draft picks is sixth-round selection Charles Mack of Avondale, Arizona. The 6-foot, 190-pound third baseman hit .216 in 102 at-bats for the Gulf Coast League Twins.

Willie Joe Garry Jr. was a ninth-round pick in 2018. The 6-1, 170-pound right fielder played in the GCL last year, hutting .160 in 81 at-bats while stealing five bases.

Six players return to Elizabethton after previous appearances:

— Ryley Widell (seventh-round pick in 2017)

— J.T. Perez (29th-round selection in 2018)

— Erik Cha (17th-round pick in 2018)

— Prelander Berroa (free agent from the Dominican Republic).

— Albee Weiss (23rd-round pick in 2018)

— Tyler Webb, a 40th-round selection in 2018.

Widell is from Hawaii, Weiss and Cha are from California, Perez is from Ohio, and Webb is from Texas.

Elizabethton will have 16 pitchers on the roster, along with four catchers, six infielders and four outfielders.

The Twins play host to Bluefield on Wednesday and Thursday before a three-game set at Kingsport over the weekend.

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