Minnesota Twins: The Top Eight Starting Pitchers in Franchise History

Johan Santana of the Minnesota Twins got his first win of the year against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri on April 27, 2006. The Twins won 7-3. (Photo by G. N. Lowrance/Getty Images)
Johan Santana of the Minnesota Twins got his first win of the year against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri on April 27, 2006. The Twins won 7-3. (Photo by G. N. Lowrance/Getty Images) /
3 of 4
Minnesota Twins
Minnesota Twins’ former pitcher Jim Kaat (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /

No. 5: Minnesota Twins’ Jim “Kitty” Kaat

Years with the Minnesota Twins: 1959-1973 (15 Seasons)

Key Stats with the Minnesota Twins: 484 G, 3,014.1 IP, 190-159 W-L, 3.34 ERA, 1,851-729 K-BB, 133 CG, 23 Shutouts, 30.6 WAR, 2-Time All-Star, 12 Gold Gloves, Two Top-25 MVP Finishes, 1965 AL Pennant

Only one other pitcher has started more games and played with the team for longer than Jim Kaat in Twins history. Kaat was a star for the Twins alongside Grant, Perry, and Pascual to help the team win the 1965 AL Pennant

Jim Kaat pitched at an elite level for the Twins for a long time, as he played with the organization for fifteen of his twenty-five seasons. He worked his way to 190 wins (second in team history) with a 3.34 ERA (twentieth) and a dominant 1,851 strikeouts (fourth).

His 133 complete games rank fifth, and his twenty-three shutouts are fourth, but his strongest talent was his defense. Kaat won a team record twelve Gold Gloves and his sixteen career Gold Gloves are tied for second-most all-time.

Kaat is an icon with the franchise, having helped the 1965 team make the World Series and encouraging Minnesota fans to start rooting for the Twins. He is definitely a top five pitcher in team history.

Minnesota Twins
Minnesota Twins’ Frank Viola (Photo by: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

No. 4: Minnesota Twins’ Frank “Sweet Music” Viola

Years with the Minnesota Twins: 1982-1989 (8 Seasons)

Key Stats with the Minnesota Twins: 260 G, 1,772.2 IP, 112-93 W-L, 3.86 ERA, 1,214-521 K-BB, 54 CG, 10 Shutouts, 27.0 WAR, One-time All-Star, 1988 Cy Young, Three Top-10 Cy Young Finishes, One Top-25 MVP Finish, 1987 World Series

One of only three players on this list that won a World Series with the Twins, Frank Viola was an absolute star during his time in Minnesota. Few pitchers took Minnesota by storm quite like Frankie V did, and he goes down as one of the Twins All-Time greats.

Viola struggled in his first two seasons, losing fourteen of twenty-five games and posting an ERA over 5.20 both seasons. But the Twins were patient with the former second-round pick, and were rewarded with one of the best starters in the majors.

Viola won sixteen games or more in the next five straight seasons, with his best season coming in 1988, when he went 24-7 with a 2.64 ERA, 193 strikeouts and a Cy Young award. He would leave Minnesota with Three Top-10 Cy Young finishes and One Top-25 MVP finish.

His greatest contribution to the Twins was his pitching in 1987. He went 17-10 with a 2.90 ERA and 197 strikeouts in the regular season before going 3-1 over the playoffs and winning World Series MVP as the the Twins won their first World Series in Minnesota. That victory combined with a strong eight seasons lands him fourth in team history.

Minnesota Twins
Minnesota Twins’ Johan Santana (Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /

No. 3: Minnesota Twins’ Johan Santana

Years with the Minnesota Twins: 2000-2007 (8 Seasons)

Key Stats with the Minnesota Twins: 251 G, 1,308.2 IP, 93-44 W-L, 3.22 ERA, 1,381-364 K-BB, 6 CG, 4 Shutouts, 35.8 WAR, 3-Time All-Star, 2004 and 2006 Cy Young, One Gold Glove, Five Top-10 Cy Young Finishes, Two Top-25 MVP Finishes

No Minnesota Twins pitcher in the last twenty-five years has been close to as good as Johan Santana was over his eight seasons with the Twins. Jose Berrios has been good, and Radke was solid, but neither touches Santana’s brilliance.

Santana started pitching for the Twins in 2000 as a reliever, and it wasn’t clear if he would make it with the team. He struggled with control and wouldn’t become a full time starter until his breakout in 2003 when he went in 12-3 with a 3.07 ERA. Over the next three seasons, no pitcher was better. Here were Santana’s stat lines over the next three years:

  • 2004: 20-6,  2.61 ERA, 265 K, Cy Young Award, Sixth in MVP Voting
  • 2005: 16-7, 2.87 ERA, 238 K, All Star, Third in Cy Young Voting
  • 2006: 19-62.77 ERA, 245 K, All Star, Cy Young, Pitching Triple Crown, Third in MVP Voting, lead the league in games started, innings, FIP, WHIP, and strikeouts per nine.

No pitcher had a better three year stretch or a better season than Santana’s 2006. Though the team couldn’t past the ALCS during his time with the team, Santana racked up a 35.8 WAR, fourth best in team history.

Over just eight years, Santana set the franchise record for winning percentage, is sixth in strikeouts, and made three All-Star teams (and won a Gold Glove). Johan Santana was a true ace for a team that hasn’t had too many.