The Best Switch-Hitters in Minnesota Twins' History
Being a switch-hitter requires a great amount of determination, skill, and hand-eye coordination. Some of the all-time greats are considered greater still because of their ability to effectively hit the ball from both sides of the plate.
Mickey Mantle, Pete Rose, Eddie Murray, Chipper Jones. The list goes on and on. Who are the best switch-hitters to ever put on a Twins' uniform, though?
Here are the best switch-hitters in Twins' history, ordered by preferred position. To be fair, the prerequisite will be at least 100 games with Minnesota.
Catcher - Butch Wynegar
A 2nd-round draft pick in 1974, Butch Wynegar was highly-touted from the start. Following two quick years in the minor leagues, Wynegar made his major-league debut in 1976 as a 20-year old.
Wynegar hit .260/.356/.363 with a 719 OPS during his rookie season, good enough for second place in Rookie of the Year voting.
In all, Wynegar spent seven seasons with the Twins, before he was included in a package sent to the New York Yankees. Wyangar hit .254/.340/.342 with a 682 OPS during his career with the Twins.
Wynegar is now the hitting coach for the Yankees' minor league affiliate, Scranton/Wilkes Barre.
First Base - Gene Larkin
Gene Larkin was with the Twins for both the 1987 and 1991 World Series championships. He wasn't a power hitter by any stretch of the imagination, but he was a very consistent league-average batter.
Larkin graduated from Columbia University and became the first Columbia alumnus to play in the major-leagues since Lou Gehrig.
Drafted in the 20th round of the 1984 draft, Larkin spent four years in the minor leagues before making his debut in 1987.
Larkin spent seven seasons in the major-leagues, every one with Minnesota. His career line was 266/.348/.374 with a 723 OPS. His strikeout/walk ratio was just 1.04.
Second Base - Luis Castillo
Luis Castillo spent just two seasons with the Twins, but provided excellent defense at second base. His offense wasn't found worthy of an award, but his consistency brought accolades of its own.
Castillo was signed by the Florida Marlins as a 16-year old out of the Dominican Republic, and was a key member of both of the 1997 and 2003 World Championships.
The sure-footed Castillo spent the entire 2006 season with Minnesota, as well as half of the 2007 campaign. During that quick stint Castillo hit .299/.357/.363 with a 720 OPS. He also stole 34 bases during those 227 games.
Castillo is currently the second-baseman for the New York Mets.
Shortstop - Roy Smalley, III
Roy Smalley's last season in baseball, 1987, brought him his first postseason experience as well as his first World Series title.
Smalley was the first overall selection of the 1974 draft of the Texas Rangers. After spending just a season and a half with Texas, however, Smalley was part of a package that was shipped to Minnesota in return for Bert Blyleven.
Smalley spent ten seasons with the Twins before he was traded to the Yankees for three players, including Greg Gagne. In those ten seasons Smalley hit 262/.350/..401with a 750 OPS.
After retiring in 1987, Smalley now works for FSN North and the broadcast of Twins games.
Third Base - Dennis Hocking
Dennis Hocking was a 52nd-round selection of the Twins in 1989. During his 13-year career, Hocking played every position except pitcher and catcher, but 121 games were spent at the hot corner.
Hocking spent eleven years with Minnesota, serving in a role reminiscent of what Nick Punto is doing now. Over his career with the Twins, Hocking hit .252/.310/.351 with a 661 OPS. He never had an OPS+ over 100.
The 39-year old is now working as an analyst and reporter for MLB.com.
Outfield - Bobby Kielty
Bobby Kielty spent just three seasons with the Twins, but during his short stint finished fourth in Rookie of the Year voting. He was signed as a free agent by Minnesota in 1999, and hit .269/.375/.444 with a 818 OPS. He hit 23 home runs.
Kielty was traded to Toronto in 2003 for Shannon Stewart.
Kielty spent portions of his career with the Blue Jays, Athletics, and 2007 Championship-winning Red Sox, but is currently a free agent. He made a come-back with the Twins a few years ago, but wasn't among the September call-ups and was granted free agency.
Most recently, Kielty was a 2009 non-roster Spring Training invite of the New York Mets.
Designated Hitter - Chili Davis
Chili Davis is the biggest name of this group, and one of the top 20 switch hitters in baseball history. Although he spent just two years with the Twins, he was a key member of the 1991 World Championship team.
During those two years Davis hit .282/.385/.476 with a 862 OPS. He also totaled 41 home runs. In 1991 Davis finished 14th in MVP voting, and is a three-time All-Star.
Davis spent 19 seasons in the major leagues before retiring with the New York Yankees after the 1999 season. He is currently 49 years old.