San Francisco • In one of their craziest scouting experiences, the Minnesota Twins have reached a deal with a 24-year-old pitching prospect who has thrown 100 mph fastballs but never has been drafted.
Brandon Poulson was pitching earlier this month for the Healdsburg Prune Packers in a collegiate summer league. His manager was Joey Gomes, the brother of big leaguer Jonny Gomes.
Now the Twins are about to give him $250,000.
"It’s a great story," Twins West Coast scouting supervisor Sean Johnson said Tuesday. "This kid came out of nowhere."
The Twins knew about Poulson from his recent season with Academy of Art University, where he had an 8.38 ERA for the San Francisco school.
Poulson played there after taking a couple of years off to work in his father’s business — John’s Excavating — with the thought he’d take it over someday and leave athletics behind for good.
The 6-foot-6 right-hander previously played baseball, but he chose football at Santa Rosa Junior College. The Twins think Poulson’s story could make a great movie.
"I played for the Prune Packers summer of ’13 but missed nearly three-fourths of the games because I was busy working," said Poulson, who didn’t make his high school baseball team as a freshman.
The Twins are giving him about 10 times more than an undrafted player typically would receive as a bonus. Poulson will begin as a reliever.
Poulson traveled to Minneapolis last week to undergo a physical at Target Field before returning to Northern California, then he was cleared Tuesday. He is set to travel Wednesday to the Twins’ rookie club in the Appalachian League in Elizabethton, Tennessee.
Poulson will sign his contract once he reports. He could pitch in a game as soon as this weekend.
Until last fall, Poulson was operating heavy machinery — driving 18-wheelers, front-loaders and backhoes. All the while, he played baseball in a Sunday night men’s league, fittingly called the Wine Country league.
"I went to work with my father and didn’t want to gamble with sports anymore," Poulson said.
He later changed his mind and decided to give baseball one last chance, spending months retooling his delivery with Prune Packers pitching coach Caleb Balbuena.
Poulson’s stats this summer: 31 strikeouts and six hits in 12 1/3 innings with four saves in 12 appearances.
The Twins consider him among the best athletes they have pursued. Poulson, a health nut, weighs 240 pounds and ran a 6.6-second 60-yard dash. He has a 40-inch vertical leap.
The San Francisco Giants wanted to sign Poulson, who also drew interest from the Oakland Athletics, Seattle Mariners and Philadelphia Phillies. Those teams didn’t have enough money remaining in their draft pool to match Minnesota.
"He’s a physical specimen. He’s got the best pure arm strength I’ve ever seen," Twins scout Elliott Strankman said.
Strankman is the only member of the organization who watched Poulson pitch. It took all of 18 throws to convince him.Next Page >
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