Burroughs is the most interesting of the three. He was drafted 9th overall by the Padres in 1998 (just three picks after the Twins took Ryan Mills, who is a six time Cy Young winner in an alternative universe). He got to the Majors relatively quickly and enjoyed a solid season in 2003 at the age of 22, hitting .286/.352/.402 for the Friars. But he never became the superstar his draft position would indicate. After a trade to Tampa, Burroughs quit baseball to spend more time with his cocaine, and eventually ended up homeless in Las Vegas. That’s the sad part of the story. The happy part is that he got clean and made a Major League comeback last year with Arizona. Now he’s a Twin.
I don’t think Burroughs has a legitimate shot to challenge Danny Valencia for the starting 3B job, but he’ll be an interesting story to follow in Spring Training. And he inspired me to ask a Twins trivia question:
The 26 year old Walters isn’t a huge splash of a signing. He has a grand total of 51 MLB innings pitched with St. Louis and Toronto. Fangraphs says his fastball clocks in at a meager 88 mph, which is great if you want to travel back in time, but usually not so great if you want to get Major League hitters out. Still, Walters has somehow managed to strike out more than eight batters per nine innings in the upper minors, so perhaps there’s something to his slider or his cutter that makes up for the lack of velocity. I doubt he’ll be a major factor, but there’s no real harm in giving him a shot.
You probably remember Rivera, unless your memory has succesfully blocked out the 2011 baseball season (in which case, I envy you). He was one of several attempts to fill the catcher slot behind the oft-injured Joe Mauer. It’s a testament to how bad the 2011 Twins were that Rivera made it into 45 games despite having a .144/.211/.202 slash line. If the Twins were going to bring back a AAAA catcher from 2011, I wonder why they didn’t choose Steve Holm? Holm can’t hit either, but at least he reminds me of an Arrested Development character. If you dig deep into the annals of Holm’s Baseball Reference page, you will see that he was once a good hitter. He hit .396/.408/.521 in 50 PAs for the Mariners in 2006. I feel 100% confident in saying that he will never, ever, ever reach that level of production again in the Majors. This may be the safest sports prediction anyone has ever made.
Enough of the minor league crap. Let’s talk about Nick Punto! The always-entertaining former Twins infielder has decided to pack up his shiny new World Series ring and join David Ortiz in Boston. Not only that, but he managed to wrangle a multiyear deal out of the Sox, pulling down a cool $3 million over two years ($3.5 million with incentives). Good job, Mr. Punto! The Twins sure could have used your .388 OBP and competent fielding last year, and you’re a player I’ll always root for. I hope you punish the Green Monster on a nightly basis.
By the way, if you’re still wondering about the trivia question, the answer is that all of those players were part of the 2000 USA Olympic team that won the gold medal in Sydney. Roy Oswalt and Ben Sheets were the notable non-Twins on the squad.