We're approaching the end of our series looking back at all decade teams. Today, we look at the top Minnesota Twins hitters, by position, of the past decade. This group is recent, so the names are familiar to you all. There are a lot of talented players, several of which will continue adding to their numbers in the new decade.
As we look at the decade of the 2010s, it was pretty disappointing. The Twins opened Target Field in 2010, and they had a great stretch run to get back to the playoffs. And then there were a lot of struggles the rest of the decade. The team almost got to the playoffs again in 2015. They got to the Wild Card game in 2017. A new batch of young stars took their lumps, but things really came together in 2019. Rocco Baldelli's lineup was strong and set the MLB record for homers in a season on their way to a 102-win season.
This group includes at least one future Hall of Famer, several Twins Hall of Famers, some All Stars, and some immensely talented players who will lead the Twins in the new decade.
Before we jump to the 2020s, let's take one more look back at the 2010s.
C - Joe Mauer (2010-2018)
1,159 games, .294/.376/.412 (.788) with 270 doubles, 71 homers, 526 RBI.
If you choose to live in the world of What If, imagine what Joe Mauer’s career trajectory had been if not for the foul tip off of his face mask in 2013. At the time, he was hitting .324/.404/.476 (880). And yes, the numbers were never quite the same. He moved from behind the plate to first base… but he still remained a better than average player. He was an All Star in 2012 when he hit .319 and led the league with a .416 On-Base Percentage. He was an All Star and won the Silver Slugger in his shortened 2013 season as well. After 2013, he hit over .282 and posted an OPS over .752 just once. In 2017, he hit .305/.384/.417 (.801). Despite the relative struggles, he finished with an OPS+ below league average just once (2% below in 2015). He retired after the 2018 season with the Twins records in Times on Base and Doubles. He had his number #7 retired by the Twins in 2019.
1B - Justin Morneau (2010-2013)
411 games, .272/.340/.451 (.791) with 99 doubles, 58 homers, 237 RBI.
Speaking of What Ifs… Justin Morneau may have been having his best season in 2010 when he slid into second base and took a knee to the head. At the time, he was hitting .345/.437/.618 (1.055) with 25 doubles and 18 home runs in 81 games. He was headed to the All Star game, but instead missed the rest of the season. He returned for a partial season in 2011 then spent all of 2012 with the team. With the Twins, he just didn’t fully recover from the concussion. Late in 2013, he was traded to the Pirates and was on their playoff roster. He won a batting title in Colorado in 2014 (.319) and hit .310 in 2015 before hit career ending after 58 games with the White Sox in 2016.
2B - Brian Dozier (2012-2018)
955 games, .248/.325/.447 (.772) with 202 doubles, 167 homers, 491 RBI.
Dozier was the Twins 8th round pick in 2009 from Southern Mississippi. He made his MLB debut as a shortstop in 2012. That offseason, he worked with Paul Molitor and successfully transferred to second base the following season. He continued to get better each year. But his power stroke showed up in 2013 when he hit 18 homers. That was the team record for most homers by a second baseman. He hit 23 homers and 33 doubles in 2014. He hit 28 homers in 2008 (with 39 doubles). He played in the 2015 All Star game and homered in his lone at bat. In 2016, he hit 35 doubles and drilled 42 home runs and drove in 99 runs. In 2017, he hit another 30 doubles and 34 homers. He also won a Gold Glove Award that season. He struggled early in 2018 and was traded to the Dodgers at the July deadline. His 167 homers led the Twins for the decade by nearly 50. His 98 stolen bases was 24 more than Ben Revere stole. He played in the 2018 World Series and won a ring in 2019. He signed with the Padres for the 2020 season.
3B - Trevor Plouffe (2010-2016)
723 games, .247/.308/.420 (.727) with 148 doubles, 96 homers, 357 RBI.
This is a tough one. Miguel Sano hit 118 homers in the decade, but we’re going with Trevor Plouffe. He was the Twins first, first-round pick in the 2004 draft. He debuted as a shortstop in 2010. He went up and down throughout the 2011 season. In 2012, he came up and for a stretch in June, he and Josh Willingham put on a major power display. In 2013, he finally made the full-time move to third base after playing all over the diamond and became a plus-defender. Plouffe ended that season with a career-high 24 home runs. He was a regular the next three seasons. His 96 homers ranked fourth in the organization in the decade. He split 2017 between the A’s and the Rays, and played in seven games for the Phillies in 2018. He’s now a star in the media!
SS - Jorge Polanco (2014-2019)
441 games, .281/.339/.444 (.783) with 104 doubles, 45 homers, 226 RBI.
Polanco signed in July 2009 and worked his way up the farm system. He was added to the 40-man roster in December 2013 after a strong season in Cedar Rapids. In 2014, he was called up from Ft. Myers a couple of times as depth, and again in 2015. He became a regular in the second half of 2016 and has been the primary shortstop since, well, except for that 2018 first-half suspension. He was struggling mightily in the first half of 2017. He couldn’t be sent down, but Paul Molitor gave him a weekend of game off, and he came back on fire, and he hasn’t really stopped hitting since. In 2019, he became the first Twins shortstop to start for the American League in the All Star game since Roy Smalley in 1979. He received MVP votes in 2019.
LF - Eddie Rosario (2015-2019)
640 games, .270/.309/.479 (.788) with 127 doubles, 106 homers, 346 RBI.
Rosario was the Twins 4th round pick in 2010 from Puerto Rico. He put up some great numbers in the minor leagues. Still, it was a surprise when he was called up to the big leagues early in 2015. An even better surprise? In his first MLB at bat, he homered off of Scott Kazmir. That season, he filled the stat line with 18 doubles, 13 homers, 11 stolen bases and a league-leading 15 triples.He added 16 outfield assists that season, showing off a powerful arm. After an up-and-down 2016 season, he has provided power to the Twins lineup the last three years. In 2017, he hit 33 doubles and 27 homers. In 2018, he missed much of September and still hit 31 doubles and 24 homers. Last year, he hit 28 doubles and added career highs in homers (32) and RBI (109). His 106 homers ranks third for the decade.
CF - Byron Buxton (2015-2019)
393 games, .237/.292/.414 (.706) with 74 doubles, 38 homers, 145 RBI.
Buxton was the second overall pick in the 2012 draft. He became one of the top prospects in the game. He was the Baseball America minor league player of the year in 2013. He was promoted from Double-A in mid-2015 when there was a roster crunch. He became a regular in 2016. In 2017, he played in 140 games and hit .253 with 14 doubles, six triples and 16 homers. He also stole 29 bases. He finished the season very strong and received MVP votes. After that season, he was presented the Gold Glove Award. He also won the Platinum Award for the best defensive player regardless of position. Unfortunately, he missed most of 2018 with injury. In 2019, he was putting together a great season when he ran into a wall and hurt his left shoulder. Through 87 games, he was hitting .262 with 30 doubles, four triples and ten homers.
RF - Max Kepler (2015-2019)
553 games, .238/.319/.444 (.763) with 114 doubles, 92 homers, 280 RBI.
Like Polanco, Kepler signed with the Twins in July 2009. The Berlin native spent a year in the GCL and then played two seasons in Elizabethton. In 2013, he moved up to Cedar Rapids. In AA Chattanooga in 2015, he hit .322/.416/.531 (947) with 32 doubles, 13 triples, nine homers and 18 steals. He was the Southern League MVP and after winning a league championship, he was promoted to the big leagues where he played in three games at the end of the season. He came up early in 2016 and hit a solid .235/.309/.424 with 20 doubles and 17 home runs. A solid .734 OPS for a rookie. But in 2017, his OPS was .737, and in 2018, it was .727. He hit 17, 19 and 20 home runs. All solid, but a step forward would need to happen. The Twins locked him up to a long-term deal. Kepler went out and earned it in 2019. He hit .252/.336/.519 (.855) with 32 doubles, 36 homers and 90 home runs. And he only was used as a pinch runner after September 14th.
DH - Miguel Sano (2015-2019)
486 games, .245/.338/.498 (.836) with 87 doubles, 118 homers, 315 RBI.
The most highly touted (maybe controversial) of the international class of 2009, Sano signed with the Twins in October. He was moving up the ladder quickly until he missed the 2014 season due to Tommy John surgery. He debuted in July of 2015 and played great, posting a .916 OPS and hitting 17 doubles and 18 homers in 80 games. He finished third in Rookie of the Year voting. In 2016, he hit just .236, though he had 22 doubles and 25 homers. He returned to his rookie form in 2017, hitting .264 (.859) with 15 doubles and 28 homers. He played in the All Star Game and was runner up in the Home Run Derby. Unfortunately, his season ended early after a slide led to him having a titanium rod put in his leg. That offseason was a rough one. He was unable to work out. He found himself in the center of an MLB investigation. His season started but he really struggled. On June 13th, he was hitting .203 and was sent all the way down to Ft. Myers. He was pushed to lose weight and really work out. He spent time with the Miracle, the Lookouts and then the Red Wings before being called back up in late July. While the numbers didn’t improve much, there was a clear change in his physique and his work ethic (and diet ,and attitude, and…). His 2019 started late because of freak ankle injury. But he put together his best season. In 105 games, he posted a .923 OPS and hit 19 doubles with a career-high 34 homers. His 118 homers is second only to Brian Dozier for the decade. He is scheduled to be the Twins first baseman in 2020 with the addition of Josh Donaldson for third base.
So what do you think about this team of the decade for this past decade? Players like Denard Span and Jim Thome were certainly considered. Eduardo Escobar would certainly be the Utility Player of the Decade. Another season and Mitch Garver may have been the catcher with Joe Mauer at first base. My rule on one-year players not being eligible made decision of potentially adding Nelson Cruz unnecessary.
For more from this series, see below.
Twins All-Decade Team, the '60s (The Hitters)
Twins All-Decade Team, the '60s (The Pitchers)
Episode 15: Get t o Know the 1960s Twins (with Dave Mona)
Twins All-Decade Team, the '70s (The Hitters)
Twins All-Decade Team, the '70s (The Pitchers)
Episode 16: Get to Know the 1970s Twins (with Patrick Reusse)
Twins All-Decade Team: the '80s (The Hitters)
Twins All-Decade Team: the '80s (The Pitchers)
Episode 17: Get to know the 1980s Twins (with Howard Sinker)
Twins All-Decade Team: the '90s (The Hitters)
Twins All-Decade Team: the '90s (The Pitchers)
Twins All-Decade Team: the '00s (The Hitters)
Twins All-Decade Team: the '00s (The Pitchers)