The Franchise 1999 (Position Players)

C Terry Steinbach 1.2 WAR
C Javier Valentin 0.9 WAR
Steinbach came back for one more year in his age 37 season. The expectation out of spring was not great for his bat, but his value was felt to be in the way he handled the young pitching staff. It was also felt that, though he had experience for the last several years, Javy Valentin was not yet ready to be an every day catcher. The buzz was that if Steinbach wasn’t able to play the Twins might turn to prospect Matt LeCroy. As it turned out, when Steinbach went down with an injury, the team brought A.J. Pierzynski up for 9 games. Steinbach was only out of for a short stint, and had a better-than-expected season at the plate. He performed so well that he mulled playing again in 2000, but ultimately retired in the winter. In three seasons with the Twins, Steinbach batted .256/.321/.391/.748 with 30 home runs.

1B Doug Mientkiewicz -1.7 WAR
IF Ron Coomer 0.8 WAR
Mientkiewicz was considered the team’s most polished prospect heading into the season. He won the Eastern League batting title in 1998 and earned a starting job with the Twins out of spring training in 1999. Mientkiewicz was known mostly for his glove and hitting for average. He was often compared with Mark Grace. The rookie found major league pitching to be a giant step up from AA ball, and struggled offensively most of the season. By June, Ron Coomer was getting more and more playing time at first base (and less at third due to Koskie’s success).

2B Todd Walker 0.3 WAR
After getting off to his typical slow start, Todd Walker slowly brought his hitting numbers up as the season went on. He ended at .279/.343/.397/.740. Tom Kelly and the organization were pretty public with the idea that if Walker was not going to be a 20 home run guy (he hit 9 in 1999), that they would like to see his batting average above .300. Walker was also not a favorite of the organization due to the fact that he didn’t run fast and defensively, according to Jim Souhan “his range is limited and he doesn’t have soft hands.” Ultimately Walker was traded to the Rockies in the summer of 2000.

SS Cristian Guzman -2.5 WAR
While the company line was mostly positive, it’s hard to look at Cristian Guzman’s rookie year as anything but an extended time for the young man to take his lumps, particularly at the plate. His final OPS+ was 38. A switch hitter, Guzman showed a large split at the plate (.470 OPS vs right-handed pitching, .736 vs left-handed pitching). The Twins, at least publicly, were very impressed with his defense and speed. Despite a tough year, Guzman returned as the starter in 2000.

3B Corey Koskie 2.6 WAR
Koskie started the season as a part-time third baseman whose glove was considered shaky and offense was questionable at the major league level. By June, he had established himself as the cream of the young crop of Twins. He worked hard at his fielding and ended the season as a +8 third baseman. Koskie was also the best hitter on the team in 1999. The plan out of spring training was for Koskie to platoon with veteran Ron Coomer at third base, but Koskie’s success meant Coomer ended up spelling Mientkiewicz at first base more often.

LF Chad Allen -0.8 WAR
The Twins drafted Allen in the 4th round of the 1996 draft. He made his debut in 1999. Allen’s rookie year would be his busiest major league season, accounting for almost half of his game appearances over the course of a 7-year major league career.

CF Torii Hunter 0.8 WAR
OF Jacque Jones 1.8 WAR
Hunter was among those Twins rookies who fought to keep their heads above water in a difficult 1999 season. Hunter’s performance was pretty good, and the team was hoping that he would continue to improve. There was already some buzz surrounding the 23-year-old’s defense in center field, but in the late summer months the Twins brought Jacque Jones up to challenge Hunter for the center field position. Jim Souhan was among those who felt Jones had the inside edge because of his versatility.

RF Matt Lawton 0.5 WAR
Lawton missed a month in the early part of the season due to a fractured eye socket as a result of a Dennys Reyes pitch to the face. When he went down on June 8 Lawton had on OPS of .741 – down a bit from the standards Lawton had set in the previous two seasons. By the end of the season Lawton’s OPS was .708, well down from his standards.

DH Marty Cordova 0.9 WAR
At the age of 29 Cordova was on the outside looking in of the team’s youth movement. Though his numbers were up slightly from the previous two seasons, it was clear that there was little room on the team for the former rookie of the year. He became a free agent after the season and landed with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2000 where he struggled. Cordova had a monster year with Cleveland in 2001, and finished his career with Baltimore in 2002 and 2003.

IF Denny Hocking -0.6 WAR
IF Brent Gates 0.9 WAR

 

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