The Best Third Baseman in Minnesota Twins History
Posted by mikelink45 , 20 February 2019 · 1,134 views
Our best third baseman is another challenge. This completes the infield reviews it is not an easy task to find the best. I might choose Harmon for both first and third and he played so long that he has as many games at both positions as the others that he is competing with.
In 1961 Bill Tuttle played 3B 85 games and batted 5th behind Zoilo. He played one more full time year at 3B before leaving MLB. Bill suffered from cancer that was the result of chewing tobacco and from his playing days until he died in Anoka at age 35. This was the only year he played 3B, otherwise he was an outfielder. There was a lot of action at 3B that year with Harmon getting 45 games and Ted Lepcio, Reno Bertoia, and Jose Valdivielso dividing up the many opportunities.
Harmon Killebrew is often thought of as our third baseman, but in 1962 Rich Rollins played the bag and Harmon was in LF. George Banks is the other person who got on 3rd, but only for six games. 1963 was the same two with Johnny Goryl (future manager) getting a handful. In 1964 Goryl backed up Rollins and Frank Kostro got a few games in at the hot corner. Rollins held third again in 1965 with Harmon Killebrew getting 43 games there, but mostly playing at first.
In 1966 Harmon started at 3rd base 107 times and Rich Rollins got in 63. In 1967 Harmon went back to first and Rollins and Cesar Tovar split the most games at third. Ron Clark, Jackie Hernandez, Frank Quilici, Harmon Killebrew 3, and Frank Kostro were all there at times.
Reversing the previous year, in 1968 Tovar and Rollins again split third, but Tovar was in the most games of the two. The same backups with one addition, Craig Nettles, 23 years old got in 5 games! Considering Nettles career, he might have been our best if we had kept him. Rich Rollins was left available in the Expansion draft and went to the Seattle Pilots.
Rich Rollins played 8 years for the Twins .272/.333/.394/.727 Not considered a great glove man he still accumulated 11.9 WAR and appeared in 2 all star games.
1969 had a long menu of players – Killebrew 105 games, Quilici 84 (lots of defensive replacements), Rick Renick 31, Cesar Tovar – now an outfielder 23 and Craig Nettles 21. In 1970 Killebrew 139 was backed up by Danny Thompson, Rick Renick, and Quilici.
Harmon Killebrew 21 years a Twin, 258/.378/.514/.892 – 573 HRs (pre Peds) 60.4 WAR. In a total of 2435 games Harmon played 970 at first, 791 at third and 471 in the OF. He was HOF and much more versatile than many assume. It is hard to take Harmon out of the conversation – Rich Rollins had 828 games at third – Harmon had almost as many.
A new name entered the listing in 1971 when Steve Braun played in 73 games, Killebrew 64, Eric Soderholm 20, Danny Thompson 17. Soderholm and Braun split 1972. Craig Nettles was gone. He would win numerous gold gloves and is considered one of the top 3 defensive 3B of all time, plus he set the AL record for HRs by a third baseman. He was traded to the Indians along with Dean Chance and Ted Uhlaender for Luis Tiant and Stan Williams.
1973 Braun was in 101 games, Soderholm 33, Terrell 30, Dan Monzon 14. Then in 1974 Soderholm was in 130, Terrell 21 and Braun 17 with most of his time in Left Field. In 1975 it was still Soderholm with Dave McKay and Terrell in support. And that was the end of the Soderholm era.
Soderholm was with us 5 years and played 760 games at third. .257/.336/.389/.725 10.5 WAR
Mike Cubbage took over at third after the Twins acquired him in a trade in 1976. He kept the lead at third in 1977 with Jerry Terrell continuing to be the bench man. In 1978 with Cubbage still holding third a new name – Larry Wolfe appeared and was in 81 games at third. In 1979 John Castino grabbed third = 143 games and Cubbage was in 62 and was Rookie of the Year. The same ratio in 1980.
In 1981 Cubbage was gone, Castino was in 98 games and starting to have back pains. Gary Gaetti got in 8 games, Pete Mackanin 4.
Mike Cubbage played in 452 games at third in five years with the Twins. .266/.336/.378/.715 6.8 WAR
In 1982 Gaetti took over for Castino with 142 games while Castino got in to only 22. 1983 Castino played 2B and Gaetti had third. It would be the last full year for Castino.
Castino was with the Twins for six years - .278/.329/.398/.727 15.2 WAR 416 appearance at third, 232 at second.
Now it was Gaetti’s world. 154 games in 1984, 156 – 1985, 156 – 1986, 150 in 1987. Smalley and Newman were backups to third in the WS year. 1988 – 115 games and Al Newman got in 60. The same two dominated 1989, 1990, but by the WS year 1991 Gaetti was gone. After hitting just 229 he was allowed to leave as a free agent and went to the Angels.
Gary Gaetti played 10 years for the Twins. .256/.307.437/.744 and 27.2 WAR In 19 seasons he played 2282 games out of 2507 at third base.
Mike Pagliarulo was the third baseman for the WS run in 1991 and Scott Leius and Al Newman backed him up. Then in 1992 Leius took over 125 games, Pagliarulo 37 and Jeff Reboulet 22. 1993 had Pags back on third 79 games, Terry Jorgenson 45, Jeff Reboulet 34, Chip Hale 19. After the Auditions in 1994 Leius was back at third, Chip Hale played 21 games. In 1995 Leius was the starter and Reboulet, Stahoviak and Coomer were in line behind him. Then in 1996 Dave Hollins took over the bag with Reboulet, Todd Walker, and Coomer behind him.
Scott Leius was with us 6 years. .244/.316/.353/.669 4.8 WAR In his career he was 445 games at third and 557 total.
1997 Ron Coomer now had the bag with Todd Walker and Dennis Hocking in support. In 1998 Cooomer and Brent Gates shared the bag with Hocking and Jon Shave next in line. A guy named Corey Koskie showed up for 10 games. As you probably expected Corey Koskie was in the lead in 1999 with 79 games, Brent Gates had 61, Ron Coomer 57. Finally in 2000 the corner belonged to Koski with Jason Maxwell next in line ahead of Hocking. 2001 was the same. 2002 was the end of Maxwell and it was Hocking and Cuddyer behind Koskie. 2003 Koskie, Hocking and Chris Comez. 2004 still Koskie and a shifting line behind him – Cuddyer, Terry Tiffee and Alex Prieto. Punto made the list this year too.
Koskie in seven years out of nine he played for the Twins and had a line of 280/.373/.463/.836 He played 3B 908/928 games. WAR 22.2. Third was probably the right spot for the former hockey player and Canadian. Like Mauer and Morneau he suffered a concussion and this really ended his career.
Ron Coomer played 391 games at third and played 6 years for MN. 278/315/.431/.746 WAR 2.5
2005 things were in transition again – this time Michael Cuddyer held the hot corner with Luis Rodriguez, Tiffee, Castro and Punto in line behind him. In 2006 Nick Punto was at third 89 games, Tony Batista 50, Luis Rodrigues 29 and Terry Tiffee and Scott Baker had a few games. 2007 Punto was at third 108 games, Luis Rodriguez, Brian Buscher and Jeff Cirillo had games there as well as Tommy Watkins – soon to be our minor league manager.
Brian Bushcher with 64 games, Mike Lamb 55, Brendan Harris 34, Matt Tolbert, Nick Punto and Matt Macri had substantial games in this audition year – 2008. The auditions continued in 2009 with Joe Crede, Brendan Harris, Tolbert, Buscher, Punto all showing their skills. Since that did not work we held another audition year – 2010 with Danny Valencia 81 games, Nick Punto 48, Brendan Harris 27, Michael Cuddyer 14, Matt Tolbert 14, Alexi Casilla 14, and Luke Hughes 2.
They liked what they saw and finally settled on Danny Valencia in 2011 with Luke Hughes number 2. But that did not work out and in 2012 Danny was third on the list behind Trevor Plouffe and Jamey Carroll. Plouffe settled in with 120 games in 2013 and Jamey Carroll and Eduardo Escobar were behind him. In 2014 Carroll was gone, Plouffe was backed by Escobar and Nunez. 2015 Plouffe and Nunez held the bag. Then the auditions began again – 2016 Plouffe 63, Sano 42, Nunez 33, Ecobar 23, Polanco 9, Beresford 3, and Danny Santana 1. Then in 2017 we began the Sano era, but Escobar started almost as many games.
Nick Punto had seven of his 14 years with Minnesota. .248/.323/.324/.648 10.3 WAR He played 360 games at third, 408 at second and 337 at short.
Trevor Plouffe seven years in Minnesota. .247/.308/.420/.727 8.6 WAR.
There are the choices: Which do you want?
1. Harmon Killebrew 21 years, 258/.378/.514/.892 – 573 HRs 60.4 WAR. 791 games at third
2. Castino six years - .278/.329/.398/.727 15.2 WAR 416 appearance at third
3. Gary Gaetti 10 years .256/.307.437/.744 and 27.2 WAR 19 seasons 2282/2507 at third base.
4. Koskie seven years. 280/.373/.463/.836 WAR 22.2 3B 908/928 games.
5. Rich Rollins played 8 years.272/.333/.394/.727. 11.9 WAR 828 games at third.
6. Soderholm 5 years. .257/.336/.389/.725. 10.5 WAR 760 games at third
7. Trevor Plouffe seven years. .247/.308/.420/.727 8.6 WAR. 611 games at 3B.
8. Nick Punto seven years with. .248/.323/.324/.648 10.3 WAR 360 games at third.
9. Mike Cubbage five years. .266/.336/.378/.715 6.8 WAR 452 games at third
10. Scott Leius 6 years. .244/.316/.353/.669 4.8 WAR 445 games at third.
11. Ron Coomer 6 years .278/315/.431/.746 WAR 2.5 391 games at third
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