The Twins selected A.J. Pierzynski in the third round of the 1994 MLB Draft out of high school in Florida. He spent the next seven seasons working his way through the Twins system by hitting .288/.324/.415 (.739). His minor league batting line was almost identical to what he produced in his 19-year big–league career.
In 1998, he spent time at Double- and Triple-A when he was only 21 years old. He was over five and a half years younger than the average age of the competition at Triple-A. Pierzynski got on base over 30% of the time and posted a .709 OPS. He got a brief September call-up that season and went 3-for-10 in 13 plate appearances. He got another brief taste of the MLB level in 1999, but he was limited to fewer than 80 games that season.
The 2000 season became Pierzynski’s rookie campaign after posting an .819 OPS at Double- and Triple-A. He was called up in mid-August and took over the full-time catching duties. In 33 games, he hit .307/.354/.455 with eight extra-base hits. Minnesota had a solid young core, and Pierzynski looked to be part of the long-term solution.
Over the next three seasons, Pierzynski played 114 games or more as the Twins returned to relevance from the brink of contraction. In his 430 games with the Twins, he hit .301/.341/.447, and he was named an All-Star in 2002. During the 2002 ALDS, he went 4-for-16 with a home run and a triple to help the Twins upset the Moneyball Oakland A’s. That series was the last time the Twins won a postseason series.
His Giants tenure didn’t last long as he posted a .729 OPS in 131 games, but he became a distraction to the team. San Francisco released him following the season, and the White Sox were happy to pick him up. He’d play eight seasons in Chicago as he helped the club win the 2005 World Series in his first year on the team. His lone Silver Slugger and his second All-Star selection came with Chicago.
For his career, Pierzynski hit .300 or higher in four different seasons, and he appeared in the ninth most games as a catcher. He is one of 10 players in baseball history who has played a minimum of 50 percent of his games at catcher while reaching at least 2,000 hits. Defensively, he led his league in fielding percentage in three different seasons. In October, he was part of eight Postseason series and hit .292 with 18 RBI and 11 walks in 32 games.
Pierzynski’s Cooperstown case is tied significantly to his longevity. According to JAWS, Pierzynski is the 71st ranked catcher in baseball history, putting him behind names like Benito Santiago, Jason Varitek, and Carlos Ruiz. According to Baseball-Reference Similarity Scores, Yadier Molina is the most similar batter to Pierzynski and Molina is on pace for the Hall of Fame. However, Molina is one of the all-time best defensive catchers.
Pierzynski was a durable player at one of baseball’s most demanding positions, but his credentials likely fall short of induction. Do you think Pierzynski deserves to be more than a one-and-done on the ballot? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
OTHER POSTS IN THE SERIES
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