The next inductees to the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame should be
Johan Alexander Santana was originally signed by the Houston Astros out of Venezuela in July of 1995. He made his pro debut in the Gulf Coast League and got in one start with the New York-Penn League by the end of the 1997. Santana opened 1998 in the NYPL before moving up to the Midwest League. Repeating the Midwest League in 1999, Santana posted a 4.66 ERA with 150 strikeouts in 160 1/3 innings.
Santana was selected in the rule 5 draft after the 1999 season by the Marlins. He was then immediately traded along with cash to the Twins for minor leaguer Jared Camp.
The Twins used Santana sparingly in 2000, as he made 30 appearances, 5 of them starts, throwing 86 innings with a 54/64 BB/K ratio and a 6.49 ERA. He worked through injury in 2001 and then opened 2002 with AAA Edmonton, working as a starter, getting a call up by Memorial Day. He initially worked out of the bullpen, but he finished the season out of the rotation as one of the most dominant pitchers in the American League with 108 1/3 innings on a 2.99 ERA and 1.23 WHIP, with a 49/137 BB/K ratio.
Santana returned to the “split” role in 2003, throwing in 45 games, 18 of them starts, throwing 158 1/3 innings, with a 3.07 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and a 47/169 BB/K. He closed out the season from August 1st through the end of the year with 11 starts, going 8-0 in those starts, with a 2.51 ERA and striking out 70 as the Twins steamrolled to a division title. He even received enough votes to finish 7th in the Cy Young award voting.
Santana moved into the rotation for good in 2004, and he began one of the most dominant four-year stretches for a starting pitcher in recent memory. From 2004-2007, Santana averaged 18 wins per season with a 2.89 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, and averaged 228 innings and 246 strikeouts per season as he won the 2004 and 2006 Cy Young awards (and should have won the 2005 award). He was selected to three All-Star games in that time.
With funds tight and free agency impending, the Minnesota Twins traded away Santana after the 2008 season to the New York Mets where he signed a lucrative contract but found himself injured much of that contract, leaving him short of the game’s all-time greats, in spite of his amazing run to open his career.
In spite of leaving to finish his career, Santana had one of the most amazing runs of pitching one has ever seen in a Minnesota Twins uniform. He deserves his place in the team’s place of honor.
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