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Twins Geography: Puerto Rico

The Twins clearly have made a concerted, focused effort in Puerto Rico in recent years. It's a good thing as the island with about 3.6 million people has really produced a lot of baseball talent.

Hiram Bithorn became the first Puerto Rican-born player in Major League Baseball when he debuted for the Chicago Cubs in 1942. He went 27-26 with a 3.04 ERA over those two seasons before spending two years fighting in the Navy in World War II. He returned and spent parts of two more seasons in the big leagues. The stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico's capital, is named in his honor.

Here is a look at history of players from Puerto Rico in MLB since then with a focus on those in the Twins organization.
Image courtesy of Rick Osentoski, USA Today
Since Bithorn joined the ranks of big leaguer in 1942, a total of 257 players from Puerto Rico have spent time in Major League Baseball. The Twins have had quite a few players from there as well.

A list of players from Puerto Rico is quite impressive. There are been three players from Puerto Rico who are currently in baseball's Hall of Fame with a couple more who either will be shortly or at least deserve strong consideration.

The most recent inductee is the great Roberto Alomar. Orlando Cepeda had a tremendous playing career. But if you talk to people from Puerto Rico, Roberto Clemente is the greatest player from the island.

Clemente passed away in a plane crash delivering relief goods to Nicaragua on New Year's Eve of 1972. He was just 38-years-old and had a couple of years remaining in a career. He had reached the 3,000 hit club in his final game. Players from the country have frequently made attempts to get Clemente's Number 21 retired.

Ivan Rodriguez is one of the greatest catchers of all-time and should join those three in the Hall soon. 2017 is his first year of eligibility. Sandy Alomar, Jr., and Benito Santiago were a couple more catchers who had great careers. Speaking of catchers, Bengie, Jose and Yadier Molina are all from Puerto Rico too.

Carlos Delgado is the all-time leader in home runs for a player from Puerto Rico. He hit 473 in his career and drove in 1,512 runs. Juan Gonzalez hit .295 with 434 home runs and 1,404 RBI in his career. Bernie Williams and Jorge Posada were huge parts of those strong Yankees teams in the 1990s. Ruben Sierra had a terrific career, hitting over 300 home runs and playing 20 years.

Javier Vazquez's 165 wins is most in MLB history by a player from Puerto Rico. Juan Pizarro won 131 games over his 19 season MLB career. Willie Hernandez won a Cy Young and MVP for the Tigers in 1984.

Jose Cruz (and Jose Cruz, Jr.). Danny Tartabull. Jose Vidro. Mike Lowell. Jose Oquendo. Juan Beniquez. Carlos "Boom Boom" Baerga.

Carlos Beltran just completed his 19th season in the big leagues. He has hit .281/.354/.492 (.845) with 536 doubles, 78 triples, 421 home runs, 1,536 RBI and 1,522 runs scored. He won the Rookie of the Year award as a Royals outfielder in 1999, has played in nine All-Star games, won three Gold Gloves and two Silver Slugger awards.

After two years of construction, the Carlos Beltran Academy, a high school for kids in Florida, Puerto Rico. The academy accepts kids ages 14 to 18, and kids get instruction from MLB players. Its first graduating class was in 2013, and since then, several players have been drafted by MLB teams.

Some of today's brightest young stars are from Puerto Rico. Carlos Correa, Javier Baez and Francisco Lindor grew up in Puerto Rico. Two of the top pitching prospects in baseball, Jose Berrios and Jose De Leon, are also from the island country.

TWINS IN PUERTO RICO

The Twins have had many players from Puerto Rico. Some of been good. Others, maybe not so much.

THE PAST

For instance, lefty reliever Juan Agosto posted an 8.86 ERA in 17 games for the Twins in 1986, but it was just a blip in his 13 seasons in MLB. Here are more players from Puerto Rico who spent time in a Twins uniform:
  • Orlando Merced - 13-year career, signed with Twins before 1998 season. Traded at July deadline for Matt Kinney and more.
  • Jose Morales - Catcher who spent parts of three seasons with the Twins, mostly as a backup.
  • Vic Power - Already had four All-Star appearances and won some Gold Gloves before coming to the Twins in 1962. Spent the next three seasons with the Twins and won Gold Gloves all three seasons.
  • Rene Rivera - Played 53 games for Seattle from 2004 to 2006. Resurfaced in the big leagues as Twins backup catcher in 2011. Still just 33, he is a well-respected backstop who has caught over 100 games two of the last three years.
  • JC Romero - Came up with the Twins as a starter in 1999. Shifted to bullpen in 2002 and went 9-2 with a 1.89 ERA in 81 innings. Seven of his 14 seasons were with the Twins.
  • Javier Valentin - Debuted in September of 1997 before backing up Terry Steinbach for the Twins the next two seasons. Then didn't play for the Twins (four games) three years later. Went on to play six more seasons in the big leagues. He is now a coach for the GCL Twins.
  • Junior Ortiz - He wore the number zero. Just two of his 13 MLB seasons were with the Twins, but he was Scott Erickson's personal catcher in 1990 and 1991.
  • Jesus Vega - Had 41 at bats in 16 games for the Twins in 1979 and 1980. He hit five homer runs in 71 games for the Twins in 1982.
THE PRESENT

The present also looks a lot like the future.
  • Kennys Vargas burst on the scene with a strong power display the last two months of 2014. He struggled in 2015. In 2016, he got another chance and had a very strong July. He's out of options, so he'll likely make the Twins roster in 2017.
  • Eddie Rosario was a surprise April call up in 2015, but he stayed, and he played very well. He filled out the stat line with double figures in doubles, triples, home runs, and he led the league in outfield assists. 2016 was a struggle for the free swinger.
  • Juan Centeno came to the Twins as a minor league free agent before the 2016 season. He spent most of the season as the Twins backup catcher.
  • Jose Berrios is a big part of the Twins future. He debuted in 2016 to mixed results. We saw glimpses of what could be through a lot of thestruggles.
THE FUTURE

There are several minor leaguers in the Twins system from Puerto Rico.
  • OF Edgar Corcino split 2016 between Ft. Myers and Chattanooga.
  • JJ Fernandez was drafted as a catcher, but he has transitioned to the outfield in Cedar Rapids.
  • Lean Marrero was drafted as a 17-year-old outfielder in 2015. He's spent these two seasons in the Gulf Coast League.
  • IF Nelson Molina started 2016 in extended spring training, but he came up to Cedar Rapids and had a very nice full-season debut.
  • Jose Miranda was one of two Twins supplemental 2nd round pick this year. The shortstop debuted in the GCL.
  • Dereck Rodriguez is the son of Ivan Rodriguez. He was drafted by the Twins and spent three seasons as an outfielder before moving ot the mound. He struggled early in 2016 with the Kernels, but the light appears to have switched on. He ended the season pitching well in Ft. Myers.
The players from Puerto Rico that I have talked to are all so proud of their country and their countrymen. Jose Berrios takes pride in what his friends Javier Baez and Francisco Lindor are doing this postseason. Nelson Molina and JJ Fernandez talked about how much it meant to them when Kennys Vargas, Eddie Rosario and Jose Berrios were called up to the big leagues. That kind of pride is infectious!

Residents of Puerto Rico are US citizens. It has been a territory of the United States since 1898, the Spanish-American War. It's a small island. In fact, the widest spot across the island is approximately 40 miles wide.

In addition to tourism, he island exports many products, but may be best known for its rum.

And its baseball players. Great baseball players.


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5 Comments

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theBOMisthebomb
Nov 01 2016 01:34 PM
Too bad they don't play wth the USA in the WBC.

Great stuff!Here is the complete list of the MLB players who were born in PR.Some of them, like Jorge Posada and JC Romero were drafted after they came to the US to go to College, so the circumstances are a bit different for all of them because they were picked by US-scouts (both Posada and Romero went to College in AL, btw, of all places) and not PR-based scouts.It is the same argument one can use for Chili Davis and Devon White (both born in Jamaica but went to High School in CA and NY, respectively...)

 

Should probably add Carlos Baerga, Javy Lopez, Danny Tartabull to the list of theimpressive PR-born players.And as far as Twins' go, I know that it was forgettable, but Ruben Sierra finished his career as a Twin.Lester Oliveros was also born in PR.

 

Great stuff!Here is the complete list of the MLB players who were born in PR.Some of them, like Jorge Posada and JC Romero were drafted after they came to the US to go to College, so the circumstances are a bit different for all of them because they were picked by US-scouts (both Posada and Romero went to College in AL, btw, of all places) and not PR-based scouts.It is the same argument one can use for Chili Davis and Devon White (both born in Jamaica but went to High School in CA and NY, respectively...)

 

Should probably add Carlos Baerga, Javy Lopez, Danny Tartabull to the list of theimpressive PR-born players.And as far as Twins' go, I know that it was forgettable, but Ruben Sierra finished his career as a Twin.Lester Oliveros was also born in PR.

 

Pretty sure I referenced Baerga (as Boom Boom) and Tartabull.

 

Missed Oliveros.

 

Also missed Brian Navarreto who is from Puerto Rico but was drafted out of high school in Florida. 

    • Thrylos likes this

Nice piece, Seth.  The Twins have been taking a few PR guys in most of their recent drafts too.  

Photo
ShouldaCouldaWoulda
Nov 02 2016 03:30 PM

Being that my baby momma is Puerto Rican, and my two boys 1/2 PR, I have been excited for the PR injection of young prospects.


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