Top Ten Longest-Tenured Twins Players
Image courtesy of Brad Rempel, USA TodaySo, here you have it, a look at the 10 longest-tenured players in the Minnesota Twins organization but first, a few honorable mentions.
#13 – On October 9, 2009, the Twins were playing (another) playoff series against the Yankees, but the big news of the day came off the field. The Twins had signed the #1 ranked international free agent, Miguel Sano, to a $3.15 million signing bonus. Since then, he has been one of the top power hitting prospects in baseball. He looked ready to debut with the Twins in 2014. Unfortunately, he needed Tommy John surgery and missed the entire season. He returned to action in 2015. He struggled for the first month of the season but started hitting soon after. He made his MLB debut in July and played so well he was named the Twins MVP and Rookie of the Year. He finished third in AL Rookie of the Year voting. He mostly DHd as a rookie, but he will move out to right field for at least the start of the 2016 season.
#12 – Within the final hour of the the final day that teams could sign their 2009 draft picks (August 15), the Twins and pitcher Kyle Gibson reached an agreement. He began his professional career with the Miracle in 2010 and got to AAA that season. He returned to Rochester but by midseason, he wasn’t pitching like himself. He had an elbow problem and months later, he had Tommy John surgery. He missed the entire 2012 season. He returned in 2013 and had a ten-start call up with the Twins. He has been in the Twins starting rotation the last two years, making at least 33 starts each season. In 2015, he was named the Twins pitcher of the year. He continues to look to improve in 2016.
#11 – On July 11th, the Twins signed highly-regarded German outfielder Max Kepler. Though Kepler was always blessed with great tools, it wasn’t until 2015 that everything came together for him. He has worked slowly up the system. He repeated Elizabethton and has moved up one level each year since. He was named the Southern League MVP and led the Chattanooga Lookouts to the league title. While his team was celebrating, Kepler learned that he was heading to the big leagues. On the season’s final day, he got his first MLB hit off of Johnny Cueto. He comes to spring training for the third time, but this year he has a legitimate shot at an Opening Day roster. It’s probably a long shot. He’ll start in Rochester, most likely, but he could be the first guy called up as an outfield replacement.
The Top Ten Longest-Tenured Twins
#10 – On July 2nd, the Twins signed highly-regarded defensive shortstop Jorge Polanco from the Dominican Republic. He was brought along slowly, spending two seasons in the GCL. He started hitting in 2012 in Elizabethton. He has been a good batting average and on-base hitter since. He even shows doubles power. It’s on defense now where there are question marks. He received a couple of cups of coffee with the Twins in 2014 becoming the youngest player to debut with the Twins since Joe Mauer in 2004. Polanco played in Chattanooga and Rochester in 2015 with a couple more very short stints in the big leagues. At this point, he’s still just 22 years old. He’ll spend most of the season in Rochester awaiting an opportunity for consistent at-bats with the Twins.
#9 – The Twins drafted and signed shortstop Brian Dozier in the eighth round of the 2009 draft after four seasons at Southern Mississippi. He was the Twins Minor League Hitter of the Year in 2011 at AA. Days before his 25th birthday he debuted for the Twins in 2012. He really struggled. In 2013, he moved to second base and has been a power hitter since. He participated in the Home Run Derby at Target Field in 2014. Last year, he made the All-Star team and homered in the game. He begins the 2016 season at 28 and looks to put together a good full season.
#8 – Kennys Vargas went undrafted out of high school in Puerto Rico in 2008. In February of 2009, the Twins signed him as an undrafted free agent. He had a 50-game suspension before reaching a full-season team. He worked his way up the system. He was the Twins choice for Minor League Hitter of the Year in 2014 when he played primarily at AA. However on August 1st, his 24th birthday, he was promoted directly to the Twins. He had a nice 53-game showing in 2014. In 2015, he really struggled and was sent down a couple of times. He will likely spend a lot of time in AAA in 2016, ready to be a backup at 1B and DH when needed.
#7 – The Twins signed pitcher Michael Tonkin after drafting him in the 33rd round of the 2008 draft. The Twins were patient with him, but once he figured out things in the bullpen, he flew up the ladder. He debuted with the Twins in 2013. Since then, he’s been splitting time between the Twins and Rochester. Over the last two years, he has pitched 43.1 innings in 51 appearances. He is now out of options and will need to earn a roster spot.
#6 – In December of 2007, the Twins signed shortstop Danny Santana from the Dominican Republic. He moved up a level each year. In 2014, it was a surprise when he was promoted to the Twins after just 24 games, but he put together a strong rookie campaign while playing a new position, center field. In 2015, Santana was handed the shortstop position - his natural position - and struggled mightily offensively and defensively. He is also out of options. He is being moved to the outfield and will likely make the team as a utility player. He could also be the short-term center fielder.
#5 – On July 4, 2007, the Twins signed a left-handed hitting outfielder named Oswaldo Arcia. Arcia debuted as a 21-year-old in April of 2013 and has certainly shown signs of being a power hitter. In 2014 he hit 20 home runs for the Twins. 2015 was a mess for him. He got off to a slow start for the Twins and then got hurt. He went to AAA and hit just .199. 2016 is obviously a big year for Arcia. He’s out of options and needs to show some ability to adjust to stick with the Twins, or to have other teams go after him if the Twins let him go. That said, he’s not 25 yet.
#4 – James Beresford, from Australia, signed with the Twins in August of 2005 as a really skinny kid. His missed a season due to injury and has gradually worked his way up the system since. He had the opportunity to become a minor league free agent each of the last couple of offseasons and each time came back to the Twins. He got to AAA in the second half of 2013 and put together a solid 2014. In 2015, he was an International League All-Star. Last week, he helped Team Australia qualify for next spring’s WBC. He will again be at big league spring training this year and hope that 2016, his 12th in the organization, is the year that he finally gets a call. .
#2b – With the 22nd overall pick in '04, the Twins drafted local lefty Glen Perkins from the University of Minnesota. He came through the organization as a starter. In fact, he won 12 games as a rookie in 2008. He moved to the bullpen in 2011 and was the Twins closer by the middle of 2012. He has been an All-Star the last three seasons. In fact, he has closed out American League wins the last two years. He is signed through 2017 with an option for 2018.
#2a –With the 20th overall pick, the Twins selected shortstop Trevor Plouffe. To many, myself included, it is somewhat surprising that Plouffe remains in the organization in 2016, but he is. He has greatly improved his defense at the hot corner and can be relied upon for 20 home runs a season.
#1 – Joe Mauer remains the longest-tenured Twins player, having signed in 2001 after being the #1 overall pick in the draft. That makes 2016 his 16th with the organization. It will be his 13th in the big leagues. No need to get into all of his accolades, like his AL MVP, the three batting titles, the Gold Glove Awards, the Silver Sluggers, etc. He moved to first base in 2014 after his Hall of Fame-caliber first decade in a Twins uniform at catcher. He’s struggled offensively the last two years and hopes to bounce back in 2015. Still gets on base at a good clip.
So there it is, the players in the Twins organization who have been in the system the longest, consecutively. I’ll guess that at least a couple of the names may not surprise you. I’m certain that you wouldn’t have guessed everyone on this list.
Feel free to leave your thoughts, or let me know if I forgot anyone.
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