Minnesota Twins: Johan Santana is still a great success story
We are currently in the middle of Hispanic Heritage Month, and the Minnesota Twins have a great history when it comes to Latin-born players. We’ll look at several of them over the next few weeks, starting today with left-handed pitcher Johan Santana.
Santana was born on March 13, 1979 in Venezuela. He was signed by the Houston Astros as an amateur free agent in 1995, and after a few unspectacular seasons in the minor leagues, the Astros left him unprotected in the Rule 5 draft after the 1999 season. The Florida Marlins drafted him and immediately traded him to the Twins for Jared Camp.
Santana made his debut for the big league Twins, despite having not pitched above Single-A ball, on April 3, 2000, pitching a scoreless inning of relief against Tampa Bay. He made a few starts but pitched mainly out of the bullpen that year, picking up his first win in relief on June 6 in Houston. His ERA that first year was 6.49.
Minnesota Twins: Johan Santana is one of the franchise’s most dominating pitchers.
Santana broke through in 2002; despite leading the league in wild pitches, he made 27 appearances, including 14 starts, and posted a solid ERA of 2.99. In 2003, he again split time between the bullpen and the starting rotation but put up a 3.07 ERA, finishing seventh in AL Cy Young Award voting.
Over the next three years, from 2004-2006, Santana put together an incredible run that resulted in two AL Cy Young Awards. In all three of those years, he led the league in strikeouts, ERA+, FIP, WHIP, hits per nine innings, and strikeouts per nine innings. He made at least 33 starts and pitched well over 200 innings each year, leading the league in ERA twice (2004 and 2006).
Santana was also an All-Star in 2007, his final year with the Twins, before leaving for the New York Mets. While he did pitch the first (and only) no-hitter in Mets history, injuries derailed his career, and he threw his last major league pitch at just 33 years old in 2012 (after missing all of 2011).
While Santana was dominant in the 2000s, he didn’t have the longevity that we usually look for when selecting Hall of Famers. However, it still seems a bit of a shame that he was one-and-done on the ballot in 2018, receiving just 2.4% of the vote. At least he has taken his well-deserved place in the Twins Hall of Fame.
Even if he’s not a Hall of Famer, Twins fans will remember Santana as one of the most dominant starting pitchers ever to play in Minnesota.