As we come up on New Year’s and a few weeks since the Twins made any meaningful moves, what better time than to take a peek back in club history? Today, let’s have a look at the best local boys to have donned Twinstripes, as we unveil the list of the best Minnesota-born Twins in team history.
7. Paul Molitor (St. Paul)
The Ignitor only spent three of his 21 big league seasons with the Twins, and while his overall slash line looks good -- .312/.362/.432 -- there are a couple of things that knock him down a few pegs. First is his position (DH), and that the non-weighted average wOBA of that time frame for designated hitters was .358 (with Molitor checking in at .342).
The second point is similar, and it’s the era in which he played. The offensive environment was nutso back then, meaning Molitor’s .794 OPS over that time frame was only good for a 104 OPS+. For some context, this year Justin Morneau’s OPS+ with the Twins was 104, and he hit only .259/.315/.426. Yet, compared to their peers, he and Molitor were offensively similar. Baseball is weird sometimes.
6. Jerry Koosman (Appleton)
Koosman already had 140 career wins under his belt from his tenure with the Mets before joining the Twins for parts of three years (1979-Aug. 1981). Koosman would add nearly 40 more with the Twins before moving on to win 43 more with the White Sox and Phillies to round out a 222-win career. In fact, at +65.8 career fWAR, one could almost take up Koosman’s case as at least a member of the Hall of Very good. It’s too bad he didn’t spend more of those prime years with the Twins, though.
5. Glen Perkins (St. Paul)
Perkins gets a bit of a pass in the sense that he’s still building his resume, so while he’s been much less valuable than Koosman’s years as a starter, it’s pretty likely that he’ll get the chance to accrue enough time -- whether you value WAR or just good old time served -- to securely notch his place in Twins annals. Perkins’ years as a starter were largely forgettable, but he’s already on the fast-track up the list of best closers in Twins history. Perkins already has two of the ten highest K/9 seasons in club history among relievers (50-plus IP), and a third season in the top-20. It may be hard for him to move too much higher on the list, but for now his place seems safe.
4. Jack Morris (St. Paul)
Morris gets the nod here because not only did he have the epic game seven in the World Series, but he really did have nice regular season, too. Morris’ 1991 season was worth +4.8 fWAR, which is right around the 35th best single season in club history for a starter. That’s not as bad as it sounds; it’s in Brad Radke ceiling territory -- and Radke was actually pretty dang good. And while a lot of people lament that Morris left when -- and how -- he did, he only really had one more strong year left in the tank after departing.
3. Dave Goltz (Pelican Rapids)
The Twins took Goltz in the fifth round of the 1967 amateur draft, and the beginning of his career, and quite frankly his entire effective run as a big leaguer took place in a Twins uniform. In fact, from 1975-1979, Goltz averaged +4.7 fWAR in that span and never won fewer than 14 games in any of those seasons, including a 20-win season in 1977. Goltz threw 303 innings in 1977, the last of three 300-plus inning seasons in club history. Goltz was a free agent for all of two weeks after the 1979 season before signing with the Dodgers, where he’d go 17-21 over two-plus seasons before wrapping it up by going 0-6 with the California Angels in 1983.
2. Kent Hrbek (Minneapolis)
Almost all of Hrbek’s career was played in the shadow of Kirby Puckett, but the lumbering first baseman was quite impressive in his own right. Fangraphs doesn’t display Hrbek’s defense as a flattering part of his game, but he was silky smooth around the bag and even had a play called the ‘couch potato play’ that he was known for. Offensively, Hrbek was rock solid, hitting .282/.367/.481 even with a three-year late-career slide which dropped his career OPS from .860 to under .850. He also walked more than he whiffed, and also hit 20-plus home runs in eight straight years, and 10 of 12. Hrbek’s an easy choice at No. 2, but that has as much to do with the others on the list than it does him.
1. Joe Mauer (St. Paul)
Mauer only passed Hrbek in career WAR within the last year or so, but even now he’s six-plus wins ahead of Hrbie in over 2000 fewer plate appearances. Like it or not, Mauer’s got a very good chance to be a Hall of Famer. At the end of the day, Mauer has been in the conversation as the best catcher in the game for a decade, and he’s going to be among the very best first basemen in the game as well. He has a good chance to be one of the better first basemen in the league, especially considering Paul Goldschmidt and Joey Votto are both in the senior circuit. Nevertheless, this was an easy choice at number one.
Others Considered: Dick Stigman, Terry Steinbach, Dave Winfield, Pat Neshek, Tom Kelly