Longest-Tenured Minnesota Twins
Image courtesy of Seth Stohs, Twins DailySo, here you have it, a look at the 12 longest-tenured players in the Minnesota Twins organization but first, a few honorable mentions.
- November 2011 - Fernando Romero
- September 2011 - Rafael Valera, Engelb Vielma
- June 2011 Draft - Levi Michael (1st), Travis Harrison (1st supp), Dereck Rodriguez (6th), Jason Wheeler (8th), David Hurlbut (28th)
- February 2011 - Felix Jorge
- August 2010 - Randy Rosario
#9a, b, c, d - June, 2010, the Twins signed four of their draft picks that remain in the organization. Alex Wimmers was their first-round pick. Niko Goodrum was their second-round pick. Eddie Rosario was their fourth-round pick ,and Ryan O’Rourke was their 12th-round pick. Rosario has become a regular. He and O’Rourke were helpful in the 2015 Twins playoff chase. O’Rourke recently had Tommy John surgery. Wimmers debuted last August and remained with the team this offseason. Goodrum also could have been a free agent, but he also chose to re-sign with the Twins with an invite to spring training. Wimmers and Goodrum are in Rochester.
#8 – 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, and in 2016 he was moved out to the outfield (which didn’t go well) and he struggled with the bat too. He seems to have figured some things out in 2017. He’s back at third base and he’s been a force with the bat also.
#7 – 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. 2016 was injury-plagued for Gibson, and after a rough start in 2017 he is now at Rochester again pitching for the Red Wings.
#6 – On July 11th, 2009, 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 began 2016 in Rochester and was called up quickly. He played little. He went back down but when he came up in late May, he played nearly every day and held his own. In fact, we all remember the series in Cleveland where he hit four homers, including three in one game. He went to spring training this year as the Twins everyday right fielder, and after a slow start for a week, he’s been solid with the bat too.
#5 – 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. He moved up and down between AAA and the big leagues in 2016 until the July trade of Eduardo Nunez when he came up and played shortstop most days the rest of the season. He’s played the position nearly every day so far this season.
#4 – The Twins drafted and signed shortstop Brian Dozier in the 8th 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. In 2015, he made the All-Star team and homered in the game. In 2016, he had one of the most impressive seasons in Twins history. He became the first Twins player not named Harmon Killebrew to hit 40 home runs and ended with 42 homers. He was the subject of rumors throughout the whole offseason, but he remains the team’s leadoff hitter.
#3 – I bet this one will surprise many readers. 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 split his 2016 between the Red Wings and Twins. He got a fourth option season, so the Twins started him in Rochester (in large part because of his time spent with Team Puerto Rico in the WBC). However, he was called up a couple weeks ago and already has four homers.
#2 – 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 was an All-Star three straight seasons and twice he closed out American League wins. His 2016 season ended before the first week of the season was over. He had surgery, reattaching his labrum. He’s been working to return, but the process has been very slow. He is signed through this year, though he does have an option for 2018.
#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 three years. Last year, had the Twins shut him down (or Mauer was willing to sit out), he could have ended the season with an OPS over .800. Instead, his numbers dropped tremendously in the final six weeks. He’s off to a slow start in 2017, despite a strong average exit velocity and a very low BABIP. He’s signed through the 2018 season.
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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