2010 was a magical year for the Minnesota Twins. They christened a new outdoor ballpark, took home a second consecutive AL Central title, and produced a number of iconic moments along the way (e.g. Thome vs. Thornton). One of the most unexpected surprises of that campaign ten years ago? A young kid coming up to the bigs and seemingly able to do no wrong.
On June 3, third baseman Danny Valencia made his major league debut as a result of Michael Cuddyer being put on the bereavement list. What could have been a very short stay instead turned into a ticket to ride for the entire season. In 322 PA, Valencia slashed .311/.351/.448 for a 119 OPS+. He stroked 18 doubles, 7 home runs, drove in 40 runs, and seemed to be involved in his share of dramatic moments that summer...
In particular, Danny absolutely raked in front of the home crowds (.979 OPS) and against left-handed pitchers (.967 OPS). He even managed to hit two grand slams (including this bomb in Detroit) in that short time span. Suffice it to say, he was a considerable spark plug to a team that eventually lost fellow slugging corner infielder Justin Morneau to a concussion.
It looked like the Twins had found their third-sacker of the future, and the early goings of the 2011 season seemed to bear that out...
Unfortunately, things didn’t quite play out that way. Frustrations began to mount as the team suffered their first disastrous season in a decade, and Valencia’s offense dipped considerably (608 PA, .677 OPS, 86 OPS+). From a player never exactly noted for stellar (or sometimes even average) defense, this represented a problem—especially on a Ron Gardenhire-coached club.
After posting a dreadful .522 OPS in 132 PA for the ‘12 club, Valencia was traded to the Boston Red Sox in August for Jeremias Pineda (who never made it past A-ball for the Twins).
Over the ensuing years, however, Danny was able to carve out a bit of a niche for himself as a right-handed slugger who destroyed southpaws: career .679 OPS against righties, .864 against lefties. Over nine big-league seasons, he accumulated 5.8 WAR and a 103 OPS+. Though technically not retired, Valencia was last seen in 2018 with the Baltimore Orioles.
Whenever I look back on that decade-ago season, Danny Valencia always stands out as one of the highlights. His star—at least in Minnesota—burned as fast as it did bright, but his cocky attitude (though purportedly rubbing Gardy the wrong way at times) was fun in a season that kept coming up aces.