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Twins 2015 rookie class among best in franchise history

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The 2015 Twins rookie class is admittedly very talented, but any measure. Will they stand the test of time?

Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Generations ago, knowledge of a team's minor league system wasn't nearly as common knowledge as it is today. The Internet has given those of us who obsess over any given subject a community with which we can share our passions, and that obviously extends to baseball. If you wanted to look into an organization's best prospects in 1972, you had your work cut out for you.

Looking back at the best rookie classes in Twins history, three eras stand out: the teams from the 1960s, the teams from 1987 and 1991, and the teams that led the American League central division for the better part of a decade in the 2000s. Each of these teams had one massive thing in common, which was that in the seasons surrounding those winning years the clubs debuted a large number of very good players who became core members of teams that would make competitive runs at the post-season.

Have a look at those three eras, and the players that made those teams so good, below. I've included debut and rookie seasons so that you can make your own case for what a rookie class really is, but I've chosen to use the season a player's rookie status expired in order to avoid lumping guys into a group just because they had a cup of coffee in a prior season. Players who had any Major League time prior to going to Minnesota aren't included, even if they were a prospect with the Twins.

1960s

Player Debut Rookie Season
Camilo Pascual 1954 1954
Harmon Killebrew 1954 1956
Bob Allison 1958 1959
Jim Kaat 1959 1960
Don Mincher 1960 1961
Zoilo Versalles 1959 1961
Rich Rollins 1961 1962
Jimmie Hall 1963 1963
Tony Oliva 1962 1964
Dave Boswell 1964 1965
Cesar Tovar 1965 1966
Rod Carew 1967 1967
Rich Reese 1964 1968

1987 & 1991

Player Debut Rookie Season
Kent Hrbek 1981 1982
Gary Gaetti 1981 1982
Tim Laudner 1981 1982
Tom Brunanski 1981 1982
Frank Viola 1982 1982
Randy Bush 1982 1983
Kirby Puckett 1984 1984
Greg Gagne 1983 1985
Steve Lombardozzi 1985 1986
Al Newman 1985 1986
Gene Larkin 1987 1987
Mark Guthrie 1989 1989
Scott Erickson 1990 1990
Chuck Knoblauch 1991 1991

2000s

Player - Wave 1 Debut Rookie Season Player - Wave 2 Debut Rookie Season
David Ortiz 1997 1998 Justin Morneau 2003 2004
Eric Milton 1998 1998 Joe Mauer 2004 2004
Torii Hunter 1997 1999 Jason Barltett 2004 2005
Jacque Jones 1999 1999 Jesse Crain 2004 2005
Doug Mientkiewicz 1998 1999 Scott Baker 2005 2005
Cristian Guzman 1999 1999 Matt Guerrier 2004 2005
Corey Koskie 1998 1999 Francisco Liriano 2005 2006
Joe Mays 1999 1999 Jason Kubel 2004 2006
Johan Santana 2000 2000
J.C. Romero 1999 2000
Kyle Lohse 2001 2001
A.J. Pierzynski 1998 2001
Luis Rivas 2000 2001
Michael Cuddyer 2001 2003
Juan Rincon 2001 2003

Look at some of those rookie classes. Going by the years in which a player's rookie status was exceeded, the 1982 Twins rookie class featured Hrbek, Gaetti, Laudner, Brunanski, and Viola. The 1999 rookie class featured Hunter, Jones, Mientkiewicz, Guzman, Koskie, and Mays. That's all pretty incredible. Mauer and Morneau in 2004 isn't a half-bad class on their own.

I've included debut and rookie seasons so that you can make your own case for what a rookie class really is. I've chosen to use the season a player's rookie status expired in order to avoid lumping guys into a group just because they had a cup of coffee in a prior season.

Can the 2015 class live up to any of those standards? Certainly the Twins are debuting a great number of really talented players, but we're also judging success at opposite ends of the spectrum. We're looking at the 2015 class as a set of prospects, each with an impressive ceiling and lots of potential. Those three eras above aren't being judged by their statuses as prospects; they're judged by their careers and the winning seasons they brought to Minnesota.

It's interesting if you break down the '87 and '91 list, because only three players were on the '91 team: Scott Erickson, Mark Guthrie, and Chuck Knoblauch. But if you go back to 1990, the very first season that Baseball America put together a Top 100 list, can you guess which Twins were on the list?

Willie Banks (13), Johnny Ard (46), Kevin Tapani (88, played with the Mets in '89 and so wasn't eligible for my list), and Paul Sorrento (91). Apart from Tapani, none of them made an impact on the '91 squad...much less the squad of any other winning Twins team. We can only hope that this year's crop has a better rate of success for contributing to success than did that foursome from BA's top 100 in 1990.

Regardless of how you want to order your rookie classes, each of the most successful eras in Minnesota Twins history was a direct result of a massive influx of talent from the minor league system. This year we've seen Byron Buxton, Alex Meyer, Trevor May, Danny Santana, Kennys Vargas, Michael Tonkin, Alex Meyer, Eddie Rosario, Oswaldo Arcia, Jorge Polanco, Josmil Pinto could be in the cards at some point, as could Jose Berrios, and we're just about to see the debut of Miguel Sano.

There's no guarantee that these players will lead the Twins to another run of division titles (or something greater), but the quality and the quantity is there as the groundwork for what could become a very, very good team for a very, very long time. Who knows, maybe in twenty years we'll be looking at the mid 2010s in the same light as the three groups above.