Ranking the Top 10 Rookies in Minnesota Twins' History
Not too many people can pull off what I like to call the ‘Ichiro.’ After nine years in Japan, Ichiro Suzuki came over to America to play in the MLB for the Seattle Mariners. In Ichiro’s rookie year in 2001 he won the American League Rookie of the Year award and the AL MVP. That’s impressive. Not many can come into a brand new job and at the end of the year be declared the best at it.
Let’s look at best rookie seasons the Twins have ever had.
10. Kirby Puckett: 1984
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Every Hall of Fame player has to start off somehow and Kirby Puckett started off on the right foot. Kirby only appeared in 128 games in his rookie season and patrolled center field for all of those contests with a fielding percentage of .994, a foresight of the six Gold Gloves he’d win in his career.
Kirby’s rookie campaign wasn’t one of his best seasons at the plate, but it sure wasn’t anything to sneeze at. He put up a .296 average, 31 RBI, 14 stolen bases and five triples. For his efforts, Puckett finished third in Rookie of the Year voting.
9. Doug Corbett: 1980
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For every Ichiro there’s a Bobby Crosby. A guy who peaks in year one and two and kind of fades into oblivion after that. Doug Corbett may be the Twins’ Bobby Crosby.
Corbett converted 23 saves as a rookie which is pretty impressive (the record for a rookie is 46, set by Craig Kimbrel in 2011 for the Atlanta Braves). Corbett also sported a 1.98 ERA and a 1.056 WHIP for the 1980 season.
Corbett went on to huge things… in 1981 when he was an All-Star. During 1982 the Twins shipped Corbett off to California where his stats continued to slip. Corbett does have that 1981 All-Star appearance and a third place finish in Rookie of the Year voting to hang his hat on.
8. Danny Valencia: 2010
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SWAG. SO MUCH SWAG. Well, at least for the 2010 season Danny Valencia had his swag on. I don’t know what’s harder to believe: that it wasn’t really that long ago that the Twins were relevant or that it wasn’t really that long ago that Danny Valencia was the third baseman of the future.
Funny how things change.
Here we sit, basically two offseasons later, and Danny boy is playing in Boston or Pawtucket, and Trevor Plouffe looks to be the future. Danny was really good in his rookie year: .311 average, 40 RBI, seven home runs and that was only in 85 games, resulting in a third place Rookie of the Year finish.
It’s way too early to say what Valencia will make of his career, but he has potential… just as long as his swag doesn’t get in his way.
7. John Castino: 1979
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We have made it to our first Rookie of the Year winner and that is John Castino. Who, as you have probably noticed, is one of the players that have been lost to time.
Castino didn’t have off the chart stats, but he was serviceable. In his rookie year he had a .285 average, 52 RBI, and five home runs.
Castino would go on to play his whole six year career with the Minnesota Twins. He started to have chronic back pain and his career was cut short in 1984 by a fused disk in his back.
6. Francisco Liriano: 2006
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Francisco Liriano’s rookie campaign in 2006 is a prime example of showing so much potential and never really reaching it, granted that may be because he had Tommy John surgery.
In 2006, Liriano was absolutely amazing. Johan Santana and Liriano made up a deadly 1-2 punch for the Minnesota Twins that season, until Liriano got hurt.
Liriano went 12-3, with a 2.16 ERA and 144 strikeouts in his rookie season. That season he finished third in Rookie of the Year voting and he made his only All-Star appearance.
He has never quite been the same ever since. In 2010 he showed some flashes but that’s about it. The Twins finally got sick of it and sent him to the rival Chicago White Sox this past season.
5. Chuck Knoblauch: 1991
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I always find it a little cool when a rookie is a major part of a World Championship team, and Knoblauch was for the Twins. Whether or not he did actually juke Lonnie Smith, Knoblauch had an impressive rookie season with the Twins. He had an average of .281 and 50 RBI, which lead to him winning the AL Rookie of the Year Award.
Down the road, Knoblauch asked for a trade, which made him unpopular with Twins' fans. He was traded away before the 1998 season. In 2001 Knoblauch came back to the Metrodome and while playing left field, he soon found himself dodging objects, including golf balls, hot dogs and beer bottles all series.
4. Rod Carew: 1967
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To put it simply: Rod Carew was just an incredible baseball player. He started off hot his rookie year and he never stopped.
Carew had a .292 average, 51 RBI, eight home runs and seven triples his rookie season. He won the AL Rookie of the Year award and appeared in his first All-Star game.
That All-Star game was the first of 18 consecutive All-Star games Carew was elected to. The only season Carew wasn’t an All-Star was his final season in the bigs with the Angels in 1985 at the age of 39.
Carew won seven AL batting titles, the 1977 AL MVP, had his no. 29 retired by both the Twins and the Angels and to top it all off, he was a first ballot Hall of Famer.
3. Marty Cordova: 1995
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I’m almost certain this is the only list where Marty Cordova will be ranked higher than Rod Carew—Carew even wins alphabetically—but there’s no denying that Cordova ripped it up during his rookie year.
Cordova hit .277, with 84 RBI and 24 home runs, he even swiped 20 bags which resulted in him winning the AL Rookie of the Year award. 1996 was even a bigger year for Cordova, but then the injury bug bit for the rest of his career, which ended in 2003.
2. Kent Hrbek: 1982
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The 1982 season was a season of firsts for the Minnesota Twins. It was the first year the Twins called the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome home. It was also the first year the Twins lost 100-plus games since moving to the Twin Cities from Washington. The team featured a bunch of first year players such as: Gary Gaetti, Tim Laudner, Tom Brunansky and Kent Hrbek.
Hrbek was the most impressive of them all, having one of the best years of his career. He hit .301 with 92 RBI and 23 home runs. Hrbek was the Twins lone All-Star representative in 1982.
He finished second in AL Rookie of the Year voting while teammate Gary Gaetti finished fifth. The hometown hero would have won the Rookie of the Year award if it wasn’t for the little known Baltimore Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken Jr.
1. Tony Oliva: 1964
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There’s not many rookie seasons in the history of baseball that are as good as what Tony Oliva put up in 1964. That season Oliva put up MVP caliber stuff. He didn’t win, but was the AL Rookie of the Year and an All-Star.
Oliva led the league in average as a rookie while hitting .323. He had 94 RBI and 32 home runs.
Oliva played his whole 15 year career with the Minnesota Twins and made eight All-Star games. He finished in the top ten in AL MVP voting five times including his rookie year when he finished fourth.
Who was better than Oliva in 1964? Only two men received first place votes that year: Baltimore’s Brooks Robinson and the Yankees' Mickey Mantle.