Top 15 Minnesota Twins Players
Image courtesy of Daniel Mick CreativeIn April, Aaron Gleeman’s book The Big 50: Minnesota Twins will become available; (pre-order a copy today). In it, you’ll find stories and information on the best players in Minnesota Twins history as well as some of the great stories in the franchise’s years in Minnesota. Now, I’m looking forward to it to see how his top 50 all-time Twins players rankings end up. And, I want to see how his list compares to mine. And, I want to see how my list compares to yours. Give it some thought and rank your top 10 or 15 Twins players in the comments below.
15 - Torii Hunter - bWAR: 26.2, OPS+: 103
Hunter ranks seventh in Twins history in games played, plate appearances, hits and RBI. His 214 home runs in a Twins uniform rank fifth in team history. And yet, it is his defense that made him a star. With the Twins, he won the first seven of his nine Gold Gloves. He returned to the Twins in 2015 after seven years away and was a big part on a Twins team that finished over .500. Imagine how much higher up this list he’d be if he’d stayed.
14 - Frank Viola - bWAR: , ERA+: 111
Viola debuted with the Twins in 1982 and was a fixture in the team’s rotation until he was traded to the Mets at the deadline in 1989. After going 11-25 in his first two seasons, Viola went 101-67 over the rest of his Twins career. He was an All-Star just once. He was the MVP of the 1987 World Series when he won Games 1 and 7. In 1988, he went 24-7 and won the AL Cy Young Award. He was a given for 35 starts and about 250 innings a season.
13 - Bob Allison - bWAR: 30.5, OPS+: 131
Allison made an incredible catch during the 1965 World Series, but he was best known for his bat and his power. A big, burly power hitter, Allison is currently number six on the Twins home run list with 211, just behind Hunter. Allison was an All-Star at the AL Rookie of the Year in 1959 with the Senators. He played in two All-Star games as a member of the Twins.
12 - Joe Nathan - bWAR: 18.4, OPS+: 204
His WAR may not stack up, but his dominance is unquestioned. He became the Twins closer when he arrived in 2004, and went on to record 260 saves, passing Rick Aguilera for the team’s record. His season ERAs from 2004 through 2009 were 1.62, 2.70, 1.58, 1.88, 1.33 and 2.10. In fact, if not for Mariano Rivera, more people might call Joe Nathan the best closer of the era. He struck out 30.7% of batters faced during his Twins tenure, more than 10% more than Aguilera, Al Worthington and Eddie Guardado, the next three relievers on the list. Recently retired, Nathan was a guest at the Twins Daily Winter Meltdown this year.
11 - Chuck Knoblauch - bWAR: 37.9, OPS+: 114
The Twins #1 pick in 1989, he joined the big league club by Opening Day 1991. He jumped in as the team’s leadoff hitter, won AL Rookie of the Year and helped the Twins to their second World Series championship. In his seven seasons with the Twins, he hit .304 and got on base 39% of the time. He played in four All-Star Games, and he won two Silver Sluggers and a Gold Glove Award in a league that included Roberto Alomar.
10 - Jim Kaat - bWAR: 31.7, ERA+: 112
“Kitty” had pitched in 16 MLB games with the Senators before the team came to Minnesota in 1961. Kaat was an All-Star in 1962 and 1966. He won 12 AL Gold Glove awards as a member of the Twins organization (and the team’s annual award for best defensive player is named after him). After being traded to the White Sox in 1973, he won 20 games for them in 1974 and 1975. Kaat was a key cog in the Twins 1965 World Series appearance. He went 189-152 with the Twins. That’s 40 more wins than the #2 on the list. He is Top 5 in many Twins pitching categories. Recently the Twins named him a Special Assistant.
9 - Brad Radke - bWAR: 45.6, ERA+: 113
Radke quietly was one of the best pitchers/players in Twins history. Always calm and poised, Radke threw a ton of strikes, mixed in a great changeup to go with a low-90s fastball. He is second all-time on the Twins list in number of starts, and he’s number three in number of innings pitched. His 148 wins is third, one behind Bert Blyleven. He won 20 games on a 1997 Twins team that won just 68 games. During a two-month stretch (12 starts), he went 12-0 with a 1.87 ERA. He finished third in Cy Young voting and made the All-Star team the next season. Overlooked because he played on some bad teams, Radke was a stabilizing force in Twins rotations for a dozen years. Shoulder issues caused him to retire after his age-33 season.
8 - Bert Blyleven - bWAR: 49.3, ERA+: 119
Blyleven came up to the Twins as a 19-year-old in 1970 and went 10-9 with a 3.18 ERA. Over his next five seasons, he won 16, 17, 20, 17 and 15 games. In those years, he posted ERAs of 2.81, 2.73, 2.52, 2.66 and 3.00. It was definitely an era for pitching, and Blyleven was one of the best at the time. He was traded in 1976 and returned in 1985. He was a key veteran starter for the Twins in that 1987 World Series championship. He went 148-139 for the Twins in his career with a 3.28 ERA. He was elected to baseball's Hall of Fame.
7 - Johan Santana - bWAR: 35.5, ERA+: 141
Santana came to the Twins in the Rule 5 draft and became one of the best pitchers in baseball. He spent his first couple of years in the Twins bullpen. When he went down to AAA his second year, he worked with Bobby Cuellar on his changeup and the rest is history. He became a starter in 2004, went 20-6 with a 2.61 ERA and won the Cy Young. He should have repeated as Cy Young winner in 2005 when he went 16-7 with a 2.87 ERA. Then in 2006, he won again after posting a 19-7 record and a 2.77 ERA. He led the AL in ERA twice, in WHIP three times, and in strikeouts three times. In his four Twins years as a starter, he averaged 228 innings. He went to three All-Star Games, finished Top 5 in Cy Young voting each year. He was traded to the Mets before the 2008 season. Last month, the Twins announced that he’s been elected into the team’s Hall of Fame.
6 - Kent Hrbek - bWAR: 38.4, OPS+: 128
The kid from Bloomington spent all 14 of his big leagues seasons with the Twins who retired his #14. His 293 home runs are second only to Harmon Killebrew in team history. He is in the Top 5 in most Twins offensive categories. He hit .282 and got on base nearly 37% of the time. He played in just one All-Star Game, and he finished second in Rookie of the Year voting in 1982 and second in the MVP race in 1984. He was a key cog in the two Twins World Series championships.
5 - Tony Oliva - bWAR: 43.0, OPS+: 131
Oliva won the AL Rookie of the Year in 1964. He won the batting title his first two seasons and a third one in 1971. He was an All-Star his first eight seasons and finished second in AL MVP voting twice. He led the league in hits five times and doubles four times. His 220 home runs rank fourth in team history. Unfortunately in 1972, a major knee injury curtailed his career. When he returned, he was the team’s DH, and he still hit well, just not to the level he had before the injury. He was the Twins hitting coach in 1987, and his uniform #6 was retired.
4 - Joe Mauer - bWAR: 53.4, OPS+: 126
As Mauer enters his 15th season with the Twins, the St. Paul native finds himself in the Top 5 in many Twins offensive categories. He has hit .308 and been on base over 39% of the time during his career. Mauer won the AL MVP in 2009 when he led the league in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. He has been an All-Star six times, won five Silver Slugger Awards and three Gold Glove Awards. He was putting together another monster season in 2013 when he suffered a concussion. He has not regained his form, though he had a strong 2017 season.
3 - Kirby Puckett - bWAR: 50.9, OPS+: 124
Puckett emerged on the scene for the Twins in 1984, and he led the Twins to their two World Series championships. A career .318 hitter, he got on base 36% of the time. He made his first All-Star Game in 1986 and then played in each of the next ten. He finished in the Top 10 in MVP voting seven times. He won six Gold Glove Awards, and he also won six Silver Slugger Awards. He is Top 5 in many Twins offensive categories and no Twins player has scored more runs or had more hits or doubles than Puckett. His career came to an abrupt end before the 1996 season and he was inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame in 2001.
2 - Rod Carew - bWAR: 63.7, OPS+: 137
Rod Carew was a hitting machine. He was named the AL Rookie of the Year in 1967. He was also an All-Star that year, and in the remaining 11 seasons of his Twins career. He won the AL MVP in 1977 when he flirted with .400, ending the year at .388 (with a .449 OBP). He won seven batting titles in his 12 years with the Twins and recently the award for winning the American League batting title was named in his honor. He is Top 5 in nearly all statistical categories for the Twins, and his bWAR is just about 10 wins higher than the #2 in that list, Harmon Killebrew. Carew ended his career with over 3,000 hits and earned his induction into Cooperstown.
1 - Harmon Killebrew - bWAR: 53.8, OPS+: 148
The Killer was a feared home run hitter during his career. 475 of his 573 career home runs came in a Twins uniform (and 84 came in a Senators uniform before they came to Minnesota). So, he is the Twins leader in home runs by 182. When he retired, he was in the Top 5 in MLB history in homers. He’s the team’s leader in RBI by about 250. He walked about 430 more times than Joe Mauer has in his career, and Mauer is #2 on the Twins list. It’s hard to believe, but Killebrew actually walked more than he struck out during his Twins career. For some reason, it took him four ballots to get into baseball’s Hall of Fame.
So there you have my ranking of the Top 15 Twins of all-time… Be sure to add your Top 15. Who moves up? Who moves down? Who moves out, and who moves in? It should be a fun discussion as we continue to wait for offseason news.
- lecroy24fan, Cory Engelhardt, slash129 and 3 others like this