The goal with the Short Season Hitter of the Year award is to put a focus on both the GCL and Elizabethton clubs. While promotions are great for players, only their exploits in those respective leagues are to be considered. The seasons are shorter and the stats obviously have less ability to accumulate, but these bats all made an immediate and powerful impact.
2016: Lewin Diaz
2017: Akil Baddoo
2018: Chris Williams
Stay tuned to Twins Daily for the announcements of the rest of the minor league awards in the coming days. Before we profile the top five, here’re the guys that rounded out the Short Season Hitter of the Year ballots.
Others Receiving Votes:
- Jeferson Morales, GCL Twins: 26-110, .236/.373/.436, 7 2B, 3 3B, 3 HR, 16 RBI
- Seth Gray, Elizabethton Twins: 49-218, .225/.336/.445, 15 2B, 11 HR, 36 RBI
- Parker Phillips, GCL Twins/Elizabethton Twins: 54-204, .265/.367/.407, 9 2B, 3B, 6 HR, 26 RBI
Here are the top five players for the Twins Daily Short Season Hitter of the Year
5. Albee Weiss, Elizabethton Twins: 25-96, .260/.295/.604, 4 2B, 3B, 9 HR, 25 RBI
Weiss was selected in the 23rd round of the 2018 MLB draft. He played the entire season last year at Elizabethton and mustered just a .610 OPS in 36 games. Repeating the level this year, his power played significantly higher and he parlayed that in to opportunities with both Cedar Rapids and Fort Myers. He’s split time between left field and first base during his professional career.
4. Max Smith, Elizabethton Twins: 61-213, .286/.353/.451, 12 2B, 3B, 7 HR, 28 RBI
The Twins took Smith in the 31st round of the 2019 MLB draft out of UNLV. The Tucson, Arizona native was a senior sign and turned in a respectable debut season in pro ball. Power isn’t really his game, but seeing seven long balls show up in his first year is a nice development. A left-handed bat, he played primarily in left field for Elizabethton, but can man all three outfield spots.
3. Spencer Steer, Elizabethton Twins: 25-77, .325/.442/.506, 6 2B, 3B, 2 HR, 13 RBI
Minnesota made the former Oregon Ducks shortstop their third-round pick in the most recent amateur draft. It’s not surprising that a talent taken that high would be better than the rookie ball level, but Steer proved it quickly. He hit on a nightly basis and left Elizabethton with a .949 OPS. Moving up to Cedar Rapids, he was an important cog for a team with postseason aspirations. This is definitely a player to watch in the Twins system going forward.
2. Wander Valdez, GCL Twins: 30-93, .323/.382/.516, 6 2B, 4 HR, 13 RBI
Signed on the July 2 International Free Agent date back in 2016 as a 16-year-old, Valdez spent the past two seasons playing in the Dominican Summer League. In his first season on US soil the Twins got to see plenty of excitement from a talent they doled out a half-million to. Still young, power should be a developing aspect of the corner infielder’s game, but the impressive output during 29 games of GCL action is something to build off of.
1. Matt Wallner, Elizabethton Twins: 56-208, .269/.361/.451, 18 2B, 3B, 6 HR, 28 RBI
A hometown star from Forest Lake, Minnesota, Wallner was grabbed by the Twins with their 39th overall selection in the most recent MLB draft. After three great seasons for Southern Mississippi, and a handful of shattered Conference USA records, it was time to go pro. Wallner has an electric arm, but was drafted as a hitter for Minnesota. The power stroke is something of a calling card for him, and putting him in the same system as 2017 draftee Brent Rooker gives Minnesota two of the most accomplished Division I ballplayers of recent memory.
For the Golden Eagles Wallner hit at least 16 homers in each of his collegiate seasons, and topped out with 23 as a junior in 2019. He owned a career 1.113 OPS across 189 games in Conference USA and left his mark all over the program.
Talking with Wallner after the draft in June, he mentioned the level of excitement being taken by his hometown team saying, “It’s a dream come true and can’t wait to get started with the Twins organization.” Wallner was actually selected by the Twins out of high school in the 32nd round, but the intention then was always to go to school. He mentioned comparisons of his power-lefty style to Justin Morneau, and Minnesota fans would be elated to see that replicate itself at the highest level.
Wallner earned a late season promotion to Cedar Rapids, and has been involved in a postseason run that will no doubt help development and growth down the line through valuable experience. Matt has operated entirely as a right fielder for Minnesota, and continuing to see his power play from that role as he helps teams at different levels throughout his journey to the big leagues will be must-watch excitement.
In an attempt to be transparent, here are the votes from our Twins Daily minor league writers:
- Seth Stohs- 1) Matt Wallner 2) Max Smith 3) Seth Gray 4) Parker Phillips 5) Wander Valdez
- Tom Froemming- 1) Matt Wallner 2) Albee Weiss 3) Seth Gray 4) Jeferson Morales 5) Wander Valdez
- Cody Christie- 1) Wander Valdez 2) Matt Wallner 3) Max Smith 4) Spencer Steer 5) Jeferson Morales
- Matt Braun- 1) Spencer Steer 2) Wander Valdez 3) Jeferson Morales 4) Albee Weiss 5) Matt Wallner
- Ted Schwerzler- 1) Spencer Steer 2) Albee Weiss 3) Wander Valdez 4) Matt Wallner 5) Jeferson Morales
- Steve Lein- 1) Matt Wallner 2) Max Smith 3) Wander Valdez 4) Seth Gray 5) Jeferson Morales
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