Minnesota Twins All-Decade Team
The past decade was mostly dark times for the Minnesota Twins. While it was bookended by a pair of AL Central titles, there was only one other playoff appearance, in the 2017 AL Wild Card game. All seven postseason games they played resulted in losses to the New York Yankees. They lost 90+ games five times, including 103 in 2016. Although they struggled overall, there were plenty of impressive individual seasons from Twins players, many from the 2019 season in which they set the MLB home run record.
The All-Decade roster was created by taking the best individual seasons at each position to fill out a 25-man roster. Each player will be represented by their best season and cannot be used more than once. I only used seasons in which a player played at least 90 games for the Twins in order to limit small sample sizes. Here are the best Twins seasons of the 2010s.
Starting Pitcher: Phil Hughes (2014)
Phil Hughes was largely disappointing during his years with the Twins, but he had a fantastic 2014 season. His ERA of 3.52 was solid, but not truly representative of how great he was that year. Hughes set an MLB record with an 11.63 K/BB ratio across 209 2/3 innings. He also was hurt by an awful defense behind him that year, as evidenced by his 2.65 FIP. In a decade in which the Twins were devoid of a true ace, 2014 Hughes gets the nod on this roster.
Relief Pitcher: Glen Perkins (2013)
After failing to break into the rotation, Glen Perkins transitioned into a dominant reliever for his hometown Twins. 2013 was his first full year as the team’s closer, and also the first of his three All-Star selections. That year, Perkins posted a career best 2.30 ERA, .926 WHIP, and 11.1 K/9. With those numbers, I want the lefty and his nasty slider as my closer on the All-Decade team
Catcher: Mitch Garver (2019)
The hardest decision on this roster was which catcher to name the starter. Joe Mauer had an incredible 2010 season, but I decided to use him as the team’s first baseman, meaning 2019 Mitch Garver is my starting catcher. Garver exploded offensively this year, slashing .273/.365/.630 with 31 home runs, second most among MLB catchers. He also improved his defense and pitch framing and was average behind the dish, improving his -16 DRS in 2018 to an even zero in 2019. The fact that Garver can provide adequate defense at catcher while putting up those offensive numbers easily makes him the best Twins catcher since Mauer.
First Base: Joe Mauer (2017)
After playing like one of the top catchers of all time in the 2000s, injuries forced Mauer to transition to first base for much of the past decade. 2017 was unquestionably his best season after the position switch. While he lacked the typical power of a first baseman, he was an on-base machine, slashing .305/.384/.417. He served as the number two hitter and clubhouse leader on the 2017 Wild Card team. Mauer also posted a DRS of seven, providing Gold Glove caliber defense despite losing out controversially to Eric Hosmer. Although he took a step back offensively after various injuries, Mauer still needs to be starting on the All-Decade team.
Second Base: Brian Dozier (2016)
Brian Dozier manned the keystone from 2013-2018, reaching his peak in 2016. On a better team, Dozier could have been an MVP candidate, mashing 42 home runs and playing an above average second base. Dozier also represented a shift in the organization’s offensive philosophy. He served as the leadoff hitter for much of the second half of the 2016 season, but was much more of a power hitter than the prototypical speedy leadoff hitter with on-base skills. Dozier did draw 61 walks and stole 18 bags, but the Twins had never had that type of power leading off games before. His 6.3 WAR is representative of how well he played offensively and defensively that season.
Shortstop: Jorge Polanco (2019)
Shortstop has been a problem for the Twins in recent years, so Jorge Polanco‘s All-Star campaign in 2019 was an easy choice. Polanco was always viewed as a bat first infielder and broke out in a big way this season. He slashed .295/.356/.485 and was a key cog in the Twins’ historic lineup. He also posted a DRS of two, the first time in his career he rated above average defensively. Polanco’s 5.7 WAR was easily the highest of any Twins shortstop this decade (he and Eduardo Escobar both posted WARs of 2.1, good for second), making him the obvious selection on this roster.
Third Base: Miguel Sanó (2019)
Miguel Sanó‘s 2019 season was another easy choice. After years of waiting, he finally lived up his lofty expectations with the bat this season. Despite dealing with a foot injury to open the year, Sanó set career highs in OPS (.923), home runs (34), RBIs (79), and WAR (3.1). Perhaps most impressive is the fact that he made major adjustments to his swing in the middle of the season and still managed to post huge numbers. Sanó still struggled defensively, but his huge offensive year earns him the starting spot at the hot corner.
Left Field: Josh Willingham (2012)
I expected this spot to be claimed by Eddie Rosario, but Josh Willingham was absolutely huge at the plate for a horrible Twins team in 2012. Across 145 games, he racked up 35 home runs and 110 RBIs. He also finished the year with an OPS of .890. He was a liability in the outfield, but no worse than Rosario was during his best offensive years. Unfortunately, the Twins finished 66-96 in 2012 and Willingham never got the recognition he deserved. It came down to splitting hairs, but Willingham’s on-base ability earns him the starting job in left field.
Center Field: Byron Buxton (2017)
Byron Buxton was once viewed as the top prospect in baseball. 2017 was the first year that we began to see his tantalizing potential on display at the big league level. With a .728 OPS, this is definitely the least impressive offensive season on the roster. Buxton earned his place on the All-Decade team with his calling card, his elite center field defense. 2017 saw Buxton post a DRS of 24 and rack up 5.1 WAR despite his average performance at the plate. He was recognized with the Rawling’s AL Platinum Glove award as the best defender in the league, and received MVP votes because of his defense alone. While he continues to progress with the bat, Buxton’s glove earns him the starting spot in center field.
Right Field: Max Kepler (2019)
Max Kepler was another young player to break out in 2019. Kepler set career highs in nearly every major offensive stat, including OPS (.855), home runs (36), RBIs (90) and runs (98). He also was great in the outfield, posting a DRS of seven and filling in admirably in center field when Buxton went down injured. Kepler has progressed every year in his big league career, and was arguably one of the most underrated players in the MLB in 2019. His great all around game was an easy choice for the All-Decade team.
Designated Hitter: Nelson Cruz (2019)
Nelson Cruz was one of the best free agent signings of the offseason and the leader of the Twins’ 2019 lineup. The seemingly ageless Cruz slashed .311/.392/.639 and slugged 41 home runs. He also drove in 108 runs and scored 81 times himself. As great as he was this year, he was not a shoo-in for the starting spot. Jim Thome posted a 1.039 OPS in 2010, with 25 home runs of his own. In the end, though, Cruz’s importance to a historic lineup earns him the DH role on the All-Decade roster.
- 1B-Joe Mauer (2017)
- SS-Jorge Polanco (2019)
- DH-Nelson Cruz (2019)
- 3B-Miguel Sano (2019)
- C-Mitch Garver (2019)
- LF-Josh Willingham (2012)
- RF-Max Kepler (2019)
- 2B-Brian Dozier (2016)
- CF-Byron Buxton (2017)
- Glen Perkins (2013)
- Taylor Rogers (2019)
- Tyler Duffey (2019)
- Brandon Kintzler (2016)
- Jared Burton (2012)
- Brian Duensing (2010)
- Blaine Boyer (2015)
While the Twins failed to win a postseason game this decade, they still had many fantastic individual seasons. 40% of the All-Decade roster is made up of players’ 2019 seasons, so there is reason to believe that next decade will be filled with more success for the Minnesota Twins.