Minnesota Twins: 6 First Round Picks that turned into Stars
By Otto Johnson
The Minnesota Twins have made several really good first round picks over the last sixty years, so we rank the six best.
The Minnesota Twins have made a lot of draft picks over the past sixty years, including making seventy-four first round picks. There have been a lot of mistakes in the past, as Puckett’s Pond took a look at the six biggest Twins busts from the draft.
However, the team has also made some really strong picks that turned into stellar players. Today, we’ll rank the six best first round picks the team made. We’ll look at stats, career length, and meaning to the Twins.
We’ll also be excluding any players that were drafted after 2012, as their careers are a little too fresh to rank (looking at you Byron Buxton, Jose Berrios, Alex Kirilloff, and Royce Lewis). With that in mind, let’s get into it.
No. 6 Denard Span
Up until very recently, the Twins have struggled to develop their first round picks. From 1961 until 1988, only Steve Brye and Lenny Faedo were the only players to make it through four seasons with the Twins, and neither had a career WAR of more than 5.6.
This opens the door for Denard Span, the number 20 overall selection in 2002. Span beat out Kyle Gibson and Trevor Plouffe for this spot, though it wasn’t a simple call. Span was a very good center fielder for the Twins and one of the faces of some bad teams.
Span was easily a fan favorite for his great defense and fun to watch speed. His career WAR of 17.2 is the fourth highest among all Minnesota Twins first round picks, and he comes in at No. 53 on our top fifty players list, making him an easy call at No. 6.
No. 5: Glen Perkins
The only pitcher to make the list, Glen Perkins is one of only four Twins first round picks to become an All-Star in multiple years. The No. 22 pick in 2004, Perkins pitched 12 seasons for the teams, the most of any first round pitcher for the Twins.
The Minnesota Native and former Gopher is also one of only nine first round picks to play at least seven seasons with the team, and only Gibson, Plouffe, Travis Miller, and Matt LeCroy missed the list. Though he was drafted to be a starter, he ended up becoming one of the best closers in team history.
Perkins is third in twins history in saves, and earned two All-Star trips for his work. For a late first round pick, an excellent closer is a good get, especially when so few first round picks (especially for the Minnesota Twins) pan out.
No. 4: Michael Cuddyer
The No. 9 overall pick in 1997, Michael Cuddyer would go on to become one of the cornerstones of the Twins in the early 2000s. Though Cuddyer only made one All-Star team, Cuddy was a fan favorite and one of the most likable players in franchise history.
Cuddyer may have taken until 2004 to become a full-time starter, but when he did, he was excellent, hitting for decent average and good power, and being a solid player for a fantastic eleven year span.
Cuddyer would eventually go on to make the Twins Hall of Fame and become one of the top fifty Twins of all time, coming in at number 47 on our list. I’d say that’s a pretty good return for a top ten pick, and I think most Twins fans agree.
No. 3: Chuck Knoblauch
The No. 25 pick in 1989 was not expected to be one of the best players in franchise history, but here Chuck Knoblauch is, one of the best second basemen the team has ever had. He was undersized at 5′ 9″, but that didn’t matter one bit.
Knoblauch spent just two seasons in the minors before becoming the starting second baseman, winning Rookie of the Year, and being the starting second baseman on the team that won the World Series.
He would go on to become a four-time All-Star in seven seasons and produce a 38.0 WAR (twelfth in team history) before his career derailed in New York. He ranks as the twentieth best player in team history, impressive for just a late first rounder.
No. 2: Torii Hunter
The No. 20 pick in 1993 out of Pine Bluff High School, Torii Hunter took his time moving through the minors, taking six seasons in the minors to move into a full-time role in the majors, and when he did, he wasn’t immediately impressive.
He grew into it though, and became a nine-time Gold Glove Winner and five time All-Star, taking over center field as one of the most popular Twins ever. He hit 214 homers and 792 RBI while offering a great sense of humor and smile.
He was inducted into the Twins Hall of Fame almost as soon as he was eligible and is No. 10 on our list of Top 50 Twins. He is without a doubt, the Twins best late first round pick, blowing by all expectations.
No. 1: Joe Mauer
The No. 1 pick in the draft always comes with a lot of hype, and the No. 1 pick in 2001 was no different. Joe Mauer, the kid from St. Paul who played and lived in Minnesota his whole life, lived up to that hype.
In 15 seasons with the franchise, Mauer became one of the best contact hitters in baseball, winning three batting titles, five silver sluggers, six All-Stars, and one MVP. He also earned three Gold Gloves for his excellent work behind the plate.
Very few players performed at such a high level in comparison to Mauer. He is one of the top 5 players in franchise history and well deserving of all the accolades he received (like becoming the only first round pick to have his number retired). He is the easy call for number one on this list.