The Franchise 1996 (Position Players)

C Greg Myers 1.1 WAR
C Matt Walbeck -0.7 WAR
A comparison:
Walbeck 1994-1996 OPS+/WAR 37-0.7;  61/-0.1; 38/-0.7
Drew Butera 2010-2012 OPS+/WAR 46/0.2; 24/-1.5; 53/0.2

Even with the poor performance the prior two years and the signing of free agent Greg Myers, the catcher position was considered Walbeck’s going into the season. The 30-year-old Myers wasn’t great, but was an improvement over Walbeck. Following the season the Twins traded Walbeck to Detroit. He hung around the majors until 2003, and did have some better seasons.

1B Scott Stahoviak 1.4 WAR
Stahoviak had his career season at the age of 26. He didn’t grab many headlines, but quietly it seemed that he was positioning himself to be there first baseman for the near future. An injury plagued 1997 ended that, but it is easy to forget that Stahoviak seemed to be on a path towards being a solid player.

2B Chuck Knoblauch 8.6 WAR
As Knoblauch had another outstanding season, the noise in the papers was mostly about potential trades. The Twins put him through waivers at the trade deadline, but the Yankees made a claim to block potential playoff opponents from acquiring the 27-year-old. The trade talk quieted a bit when Knoblauch signed a five-year deal with the Twins in late August. 1996 was the on-field peak of Knoblauch’s career. Over the course of his time with the Twins, Knoblauch had a .416 slugging percentage. In 1996, he slugged .517 while leading the league with 14 triples and setting a then career high mark with 13 home runs. In 1994 and 1995, his K/BB rates were 1.37 and 1.22. In 1996 it was 0.76.

SS Pat Meares 0.5 WAR
Meares was the quintessential light-hitting good-glove shortstop. The only problem was, in 1996, he was simply a +1 shortstop.

3B Dave Hollins 3.1 WAR
Dave Hollins may have been one of the best moves the Twins made in the late 1990′s. Hollins signed as a free agent in January, and proceeded to be a solid third baseman who provided some power that the Twins lacked elsewhere. At the end of August Terry Ryan traded Hollins to Seattle for a player to be named later. The Mariners completed the deal in September by sending minor leaguer David Ortiz to the Twins.

LF Marty Cordova 2.6 WAR
Cordova’s power numbers took a small hit from his ROY season, but he improved his strikeout rate and knocked in 111 runs.

CF Rich Becker 4.3 WAR
When Alex Cole was released prior to 1996, the Twins made it clear that this was the year that Becker would be given the chance as the full time lead off man and center fielder. He did not disappoint. While he had an average-looking 103 OPS+, he got on base at a .372 clip and was a +12 player in center field (-2 in LF and RF combined). Becker changed to a full-time left-handed hitter in 1996. He did get off to a slow start with the bat, but recovered in the summer months.

RF Matt Lawton 0.6 WAR
Lawton also had a slow start at the plate. He blamed it on tinkering with his stance in the Arizona Fall League before the season. In particular, he said, the St. Louis Cardinals batters were to blame because they convinced him to crouch lower.

DH Paul Molitor 3.7 WAR
I wrote this a few years ago:

Paul Molitor had signed with the Twins before the 1996 season excited to play for his hometown team and looking forward to being in the same lineup with Kirby Puckett (which of course didn’t work out). He came into the season with 2,789 career hits. The Twins started a nine-game home stand on September 6 with Molitor 13 hits away from the milestone. While it appeared unlikely that he would reach it in front of the Metrodome crowd (the Twins started a nine-game road trip immediately following the homestand), there was some hope.

Molitor ended up with 11 hits in the nine games, and took to the road with the team only two hits short. In the first game of the road trip at Kaufmann Stadium, Molitor became the first player to triple for his 3000th hit as mentioned by Souhan above; but also became the first player to reach 3000 in a year in which he had 200 or more hits on the season.

UT Ron Coomer 0.7 WAR
IF Jeff Roboulet -0.8 WAR
OF Roberto Kelly 1.2 WAR

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