Recapping the Twins All-Time Best Defender Bracket
Image courtesy of © Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY SportsTorii Hunter Region
Hunter’s defensive prowess was something that followed him through his big-league career, even after he was forced to move to a corner outfield position. He won seven Gold Gloves during his time in Minnesota and added two more after signing with the Angels. He was a clear pick as the number one overall seed, but would he have enough to make it through the entire bracket?
Zoilo Versalles might have provided the biggest challenge to Hunter in the region. The former MVP won multiple Gold Gloves at shortstop. Many reached out on Twitter and wondered how many current fans even remembered Versalles and his slick glove up the middle. Even if he was good for his time, Hunter ended up winning the region and moved on to the Final Four.
Kirby Puckett Region
Kirby Puckett made arguably the most famous catch in team history during Game 6 of the 1991 World Series. He wasn’t a one-catch wonder though as he accumulated six Gold Gloves throughout his Hall of Fame career. Unfortunately for Puckett, his region had a strong number two seed and an upset looked like it could be on the horizon.
First, Puckett had to get by Corey Koskie, one of the team’s best defensive third basemen. From there he matched up in the regional final against Joe Mauer, who had defeated Denard Span in round one. Mauer won multiple Gold Gloves behind the plate and likely should have won one during his time at first. He was a tremendous athlete and his defensive skills beat out Puckett to win the region.
Jim Kaat Region
Younger fans might not be aware, but Jim Kaat lived up to his nickname on the mound as he used cat-like reflexes to pounce on batted balls. He holds the team record for Gold Gloves, and he went on to win 16 for his career. Much like Versalles before him, would a younger crowd on Twitter know enough about Kaat to push him through the region?
Kaat’s region was no breeze as it included some of the biggest names in team history. Tony Oliva, Gary Gaetti, and Greg Gagne had a chance to upset the region’s number one seed. The regional final would be a battle between Gaetti, the team’s outstanding World Series third baseman, and Kaat, the top seed. Cooler heads prevailed and Kaat qualified for the Final Four.
Byron Buxton Region
Recency bias could play a role in making Byron Buxton the number two overall seed in the tournament, but he has made some legendary plays in his big-league career. Unfortunately, his career has been limited because of a variety of injuries. Would fans overlook his injury time and allow him to move out of the region?
Buxton first made quick work of Kent Hrbek, a team legend, but one that played his entire career at first base. The lower part of the bracket pitted two other first basemen as one player took over first base from another in a dramatic trade deadline deal. Buxton faced a Gold Glove winner, Doug Mientkiewicz, in the final, but the first baseman couldn’t pull off the upset and Buxton moved on to face Kaat in the Final Four.
Torii Hunter versus Joe Mauer and Jim Kaat versus Byron Buxton comprised the semi-final matchups in the Best Defender Bracket. Mauer had upset the number one seed, Puckett, to qualify for the Final Four, but he wouldn’t have enough steam to take down Spider-Man. Fans are more familiar with Buxton and it was easy for him to take down Kaat, especially since Buxton’s defense has been other-worldly when he has been healthy.
Hunter facing off against Buxton in the final was certainly an intriguing match-up. Hunter has more Gold Gloves and was able to stay healthy and on the field for most of his Twins tenure. Buxton makes spectacular plays but there have been injury concerns. Overall, Buxton is a better defender and the fans picked him over Hunter’s longevity.
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