The Five Most Underrated Players in Twins History
Image courtesy of © Brad Rempel-USA TODAY SportsWhen teasing this piece on Twitter recently I found myself inundated with names that all fill this bill. From Kevin Tapani to Jason Kubel, there were dozens of replies reflective of compelling cases. Many of them I found myself nodding in agreement. While this is obviously opinion, I tried to create some objective parameters.
To truly be underrated there was a need for a sustained level of greatness. No player below a career fWAR mark of 20.0 would be included. That’s a modest bar to clear for the established veteran, but one that generally comes with some substantial highlights along the way (for the sake of comparison, Justin Morneau produced exactly 20.0 fWAR as a Twin).
That numerator was the only hard and fast rule. If I was going to blueprint another, it was that the player needed to be given a higher level of appreciation than I felt they’d been shown. There’s nothing more subjective than that, but again, opinion.
Honorable Mention: Shane Mack 17.9 fWAR
He doesn’t meet the numerical parameters and therefore could never have been fully under consideration. However, for a guy that played in just north of 600 games for the Twins after being out of the big leagues the year prior to joining the club, he made his presence felt. After two seasons with the Padres, Mack showed up and posted an .854 OPS across parts of five seasons. He batted .309, had some pop, and played all three outfield positions. A 130 OPS+ is nothing to make light of.
4. Cesar Tovar 21.6 fWAR
Of all players in Minnesota history, Tovar owns the 13th highest fWAR. Despite playing in fewer games, he’s ahead of guys like Roy Smalley, Justin Morneau, and Greg Gagne. Often brought up during the yearly debate regarding the Twins Hall of Fame inductions, Tovar gave the Twins eight seasons of a good average and great plate discipline. He played all over the diamond and earned MVP votes in five straight seasons. Not often considered among the best in franchise history, this is a guy too often forgotten in those discussions.
3. Corey Koskie 23.2 fWAR
Maybe the most impressive on this list given the games played, Koskie compiled the 10th best fWAR in franchise history despite playing in the 25th most games. He tallied better totals than both Torii Hunter and Brian Dozier, all while being a relative footnote on those early 2000’s teams. He earned MVP votes one time, but never drew any other accolades. His .836 OPS with the Twins matches Eddie Rosario’s best year, and is nearly 50 points above Rosario's career average.
2. Brad Radke 38.7 fWAR
Arguably the most overlooked member on this list, Radke was the reliable anchor on some clubs that faced significant uphill battles. His contributions trump those of Frank Viola and Jim Perry while getting only a smaller amount of runway. An All- Star just once in his career, Radke earned a top-3 Cy Young finish in 1997, starting 35 games. He pitched 200 innings in nine of his twelve major league seasons, and it was because of his efforts that Tom Kelly and Ron Gardenhire had a go-to arm they could count on. Nothing was flashy about Brad, but he never was going to beat himself, and he gave Minnesota that luxury for 377 career starts.
1. Joe Mauer 52.5 fWAR
We can argue all day long about whether Joe was better than Kirby Puckett, Rod Carew, or Harmon Killebrew but I don’t see any questions around which one struggles to get his due. Minnesota’s top trio are all enshrined in Cooperstown while the generational catcher is often questioned about his inclusion by a hometown fan base. One-third of Mauer’s career was dragged through a period in which injury altered his trajectory (though he became one of the best defensive first basemen in the game). Poor press releases and an out-of-position contract further complicated his narrative. There’s no reason for a future Hall of Fame catcher to have a questioned legacy.
Because of the subjective nature here, let’s see your list. Who do you agree with and what would you change?
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