The Franchise 1998 (Position Players)

C Terry Steinbach 1.4 WAR
C Javier Valentin -1.0 WAR
Following the season, the Twins decided not to pick up Steinbach’s $1.8 million contract option for the 1999 season. Steinbach flirted with the Cardinals and a potential reunion with former manager Tony LaRussa, but ultimately returned to his hometown team for a bargain price of $800,000 plus bonuses. Javier Valentin struggled as a rookie backup for Steinbach, but remained in the teams plans for the future. Also waiting in the wings was 21-year-old AJ Pierzynski.

1B David Ortiz 0.7 WAR
1B Orlando Merced -0.2 WAR
Between the time that Kent Hrbek retired after the 1994 season and the start of the 1998 season, the Twins had tried 19 different players at 1B, the most successful of which was Scott Stahoviak. David Ortiz, like Kent Hrbek, jumped from Single A ball to the majors in a single season. 31-year-old Orlando Merced figured on getting the most playing time at first base out of spring training, but lost his job to Ortiz early in the season. The Twins were hoping that the Ortiz would become the next Hrbek based on his performance in the 1998 season.

2B Todd Walker 1.9 WAR
With Knoblauch playing in the Big Apple, the Twins gave Todd Walker another chance as an everyday player, this time athis natural position of second base, after the prospect had a rough time in 1997. Perhaps the experience in 1997 was helpful, because Walker had a monster start for the Twins, and was one of the most valuable second basemen in the league in 1998. Walker was in the race for the AL batting title until August, though he ended the season out of the top 10 in that category.

SS Pat Meares 0.2 WAR
Meares’ value always came from his fielding. In 1998, he was a minus short stop and still didn’t hit. At the time, he still had a defensive reputation, and was expected to win a fairly significant raise in arbitration. The Twins passed due to a tight financial sitation, and Meares became a free agent after the season. He finished his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

3B Ron Coomer -0.3 WAR
3B Brent Gates -0.1 WAR
Coomer had difficulty with various injuries throughout the season, meaning free agent acquisition Brent Gates got a lot of playing time at third base.

LF Marty Cordova -1.0 WAR
Marty Cordova continued his yearly decline following his rookie of the year effort in 1995. There was speculation that his problems hitting were mental, though some suggested he couldn’t catch up with a major league fastball anymore. Tom Kelly grumbled to the media that Cordova wasn’t completely receptive to coaching. All in all, it was a forgettable season for a number of reasons. Cordova would rebound in 1999.

CF Otis Nixon 0.2 WAR
Otis Nixon was entering his 39 year old season when he joined the Twins as a free agent prior to the 1998 season. It was a risky move for an aging player who derived much of his value from his speed on the base paths. Nixon did not disappoint, getting on base often (.361 OBP) to cause some problems in the speed department (37 of 44 in stolen bases).

RF Matt Lawton 3.9 WAR
Matt Lawton established himself as the most productive player on the team with a very good season at the plate in 1998. He set career highs in most offensive categories, including 21 home runs which remains his career high for home runs in a season. Lawton got off to a rough start, but turned things around in the summer after hitting coach Terry Crowley suggested that he drop his hands and begin to keep a diary of all of his plate appearances.

DH Paul Molitor 0.1 WAR
41-year-old Paul Molitor played his final season in 1998. The first ballot Hall-of-Famer still had some baseball left in him, with a .281/.335/.382/.718 line in his final season.

OF Alex Ochoa -1.8 WAR
Ochoa came from the Met to the Twins in the Rich Becker trade. The outfielder struggled through his one season in Minnesota and was traded to the Brewers for a minor league player following the season.

UT Denny Hocking -0.3 WAR
Hocking’s OPS+ of 42 was overshadowed by the fact that he could play any position on the field except pitcher and catcher.

 

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