What is your favorite memory of the 1970 baseball season?
According to data from the U.S. 2010 Census, about 163 million people – more than half the U.S. population – wasn’t even born in 1970. So there’s a good chance you don’t have a favorite memory from the 1970 season. But if you do, it may very well involve a Harmon Killebrew home run. The Killer hit 41 that season, the eighth time he eclipsed the 40 mark. By 1970, Minnesota baseball fans were pretty much taking the big 4-0 for granted.
They shouldn’t have. Because the Twins haven’t had a 40 homer season since. I know I have complained about this before, but I’m going to keep doing it from time to time because it completely amazes me. Richard Nixon was president the last time a Twin hit 40 homers. A gallon of gas cost 36 cents. The moon landing was still news. Okay, you get the picture.
Having a 40 HR guy isn’t a requirement for a good baseball team, of course. The last three World Series winners didn’t have any. And neither did the 1987 or 1991 Twins. But a good power hitter sure is fun to watch.
Will the Twins ever have a 40 homer guy again? I’m sure they will. I mean, over time, the odds are that it will happen. Yes, Target Field is tough on power hitters, but we’ve seen that it’s possible to put a ball out, especially for a right handed pull hitter. Besides, true power hitters don’t let a pitcher’s park spoil their fun. Just look at Adrian Gonzalez at Petco or Barry Bonds at AT&T (yes, I know Bonds had a little chemical assistance, but still).
So, do the Twins have anyone in their organization who could one day break the 40 mark at Target Field? Let’s check.
For a long time I was pretty sure Morneau would be the guy to hit #40. He’s the one who broke the 30 barrier in 2006, and a couple times he has been on pace for 40 by the middle of the season. But after a couple years of injuries, I’m not sure Morneau will ever reach 40. Hey, I’ll be happy if he can just play a full season at this point. Odds of ever hitting 40 for the Twins: 1 in 20.
No. Mauer teased us with 28 homers in five months in 2009, but we’ve since learned that year was the exception, not the rule. He may hit 20 again some day, but never 40. Odds of ever hitting 40 for the Twins: 1 in 1,000.
Benson hit 27 between High A ball and AA in 123 games in 2010. So he does have some raw power potential. But he dropped to only 16 homers this year, and that seems more like his normal level of production. He’ll be good for 15 to 25 homers a season in the Majors, not 40. Odds of ever hitting 40 for the Twins: 1 in 200.
Okay, now we’re talking. Sano isn’t a 5 tool guy like Benson, but he can hit the ball out of a park. He hit 20 in 66 games at Elizabethton this year. That’s on pace for 49 in a 162 game season. Of course, there’s a big difference between hitting homers in a Rookie League and hitting them in the Majors. If he doesn’t fizzle out in the upper minors, though, I think Sano has a great shot. Odds of ever hitting 40 for the Twins: 1 in 3.
Rosario hit one more homers (21) than Sano did for Elizabethton this year. But from what I’ve heard, Rosario is more of a line drive hitter, which will eventually translate into more doubles than homers. He may be almost as good a prospect as Sano overall, but he won’t match that power stroke in the Majors. Odds of ever hitting 40 for the Twins: 1 in 15.
Harrison is a wild card. The Twins picked him with the #50 selection in the 2011 draft, and everything I’ve read about him is that he has a massive bat. But he’s incredibly raw, and at least four to five years from the Major Leagues (if he ever makes it). He didn’t even play in the Gulf Coast League in 2011, so we really have no pro experience to judge him on. I see him as an all or nothing prospect. Either he’ll be a superstar who blasts tape-measure shots and leads the AL in home runs, or he’ll be out of baseball before he gets to AAA. Odds of ever hitting 40 for the Twins: 1 in 5.
There’s my take on it. Feel free to criticize my odds or nominate your own players who might make it to 40. Let’s start a lively discussion about this completely meaningless number!