Denard Span in Centerfield: The Way It Was Meant To Be for Twins

Zeke Fuhrman@@mellamoelzekeAnalyst IIINovember 12, 2009

ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 26:  Denard Span #2 of the Minnesota Twins runs the bases after hitting a home run in the eighth inning against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angels Stadium on July 26, 2009 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

When the Minnesota Twins drafted Torii Hunter in the 1993 MLB Draft, there was no question that he would become Kirby Puckett's replacement in center field for the Twins.

Hunter was selected with the 20th overall pick out of Pine Bluff (AR) High School.

When Puckett retired in 1995, the Twins filled center field with Rich Becker and Otis Nixon until Hunter played his first full year in 1999.

Hunter was a staple for the Twins during the 2000s, winning seven of his nine Gold Gloves, making two of his three All-Star appearances, and leading the Twins to four of their five division titles.

When the Minnesota Twins drafted Denard Span in the 2002 MLB Draft, there was no question that he would become Hunter's replacement in center field for the Twins.

Span was selected with the 20th overall pick out of Tampa Catholic High School.

When Hunter departed the Twins via free agency after 2007, the Twins took a hard look at Span to be the starting center fielder, who had been waiting for Hunter to depart to take his spot.

But then the unexpected happened: Carlos Gomez.

Gomez was acquired in the Johan Santana trade from the Mets and competed with Span for the starting job.

And won.

Gomez started the season in center field against Hunter's Los Angeles Angels, and Span began the season at AAA-Rochester.

Too bad that Span became everything that Twins management hoped Gomez would become.

During their two seasons with the Twins, Span had a better batting average (.305 vs. .246), more hits (282 vs. 221), more runs scored (167 vs. 130), and finished better in every other major offensive statistic than Gomez.

Gomez began the year at the leadoff spot but finished at the bottom of the order. Span took over the leadoff spot.

Span also finished sixth in Rookie of the Year voting in 2008 (the season he started in the minors) and led the league in triples in 2009.

But thankfully, the Carlos Gomez experiment is over. Gomez was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers, leaving center field open for its rightful owner.

Just as Puckett mentored Hunter and worked out with him in the offseason, Hunter did that for Span.

Span is next in the line of proteges that will roam center field for the Twins...the way it should have been to begin with.