One of the Twins breakout minor league pitchers of 2006 was righty reliever Danny Powers. The 24 year old started the season at Beloit. He pitched in just nine games (and went 1-0 with a 0.43 ERA) before he moved up to Ft. Myers. In 30 games at Ft. Myers, he was 6-2 with a 3.10 ERA. In all, he struck out 81 batters in 79 innings.
Following the season, Powers described himself as “a very competitive pitcher. I'm a sinker/slider guy that's not overpowering. I think I make up for that by constantly attacking the hitter and pounding the strike zone with all my pitches.”
Powers was drafted by the Minnesota Twins with their 8th round pick in 2005 out of Central Missouri State University. CMSU, which very recently changed its name to the University of Central Missouri, is a Division II baseball program. The school is located in Warrensberg, Missouri. In 2005, Powers and the Mules went 57-9 and finished in third place in the National Division II tournament.
Coached by Darin Hendrickson, the Mules are a powerhouse at the Division II level. But Powers was not their only great player on that 2005 team. As a matter of fact, there were five players from that team drafted in the first 11 rounds of the draft. That is almost unheard of at the DII level. Hendrickson said that it was a special team, that “they were all as good of teammates and competitors as I could have asked for.”
About Powers, Hendrickson recalls that he “was the best pitcher in CMSU history-hands down and probably one of many in D-II history by the numbers and stuff wise. He was a great athlete, who threw a sinker and tremendously powerful slider, above average for a college pitcher.”
Nick Webber was the highest draft choice off of that team. The 6-7, 210 pound righty was taken in the 2nd round by the St. Louis Cardinals. Last year at Palm Beach (in the Florida State League), he went 6-6 with a 4.21 ERA. In 134.2 innings, he struck out 65 and walked 63.
His former college coach said that Webber was “the best closer in D-II and was very raw upon arrival but each year gained confidence and grew into his body and had a tremendous upside as well with a power sinker and better slider. At 6'7 he was dominant and intimidating to say the least.”
Josh Outman had an excellent 2006 season and flew up the Phillies prospect charts. Pitching for Lakewood (also in the Florida State League), he went 14-6 with a 2.95 ERA in 27 games started. In 155 innings, he struck out 161 hitters. Hendrickson describes Outman as “the biggest mystery of them all pitching conventionally for just one fall before entering the rotation. He is on the fastest track to the majors being named the Phillies #6 prospect, and he was devastating from the left side throwing a slider and change to go with a 90-93 FB.”
Outman was a 10th round pick by the Phillies. Also taken in the 10th round was Jason Schutt, a 6-3, 225 pound right-hander. He was drafted by the Cleveland Indians. In 23 relief appearances split between two Class A levels, Schutt went a combined 2-4.
Mike Phelps was taken by the Chicago Cubs with their 11th round pick. In 2006, he made 22 relief appearances for Daytona (another Florida State League guy). He went 1-2 with a 2.73 ERA. In just 26.1 innings, he struck out 25. Hendickson described Phelps by saying he had “great stuff and a devastating slider that made him a high pick, he was an instrumental pitcher…starting and relieving.”
As valuable as those five pitchers all were to that 2005 team, there were a couple more players worthy of noting. Brent Lacy was not drafted but very instrumental to the team and specifically the pitchers. Hendrickson says that he was a “great defensive catcher and athlete who handled our staff well.” In 2006, he played in 19 games for the Mahoning Valley (Cleveland Indians affiliate) team in the New York Penn League.
Taken in the 22nd round by the Oakland A’s, Shawn Callahan was a vital part of the 2005 Mule team. His coach said that he “did it all for us being named player of the year and playing shortstop and our leader. He had a great World Series and was a great teammate.”
Callahan was out of affiliated ball in 2006, but he was still playing. He played for River City of the Independent Frontier League where he was a teammate of former Twins farmhand Chris Brown. According to Brown, Callahan “was drafted by the A's to be a catcher. Being that he had never caught in his life, I guess it didn't work out too well. When he got to River City he wanted to pitch and play 3rd but they converted him to a pitcher.”
It is unusual for a Division II team to have so many high draft picks. Central Missouri State University, circa 2005, was a very special team. It was a team of very special players who came together to win. Darin Hendrickson is now in his fourth season coaching the Mules. In his first three seasons, he had a record of 158-33. The 2007 version of the now University of Central Missouri Mules is again a Top 10 team in national rankings.