Twins' Top 5 left fielders: Park's take

April 27th, 2020

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings are for fun and debate purposes only ... if you don’t agree with the order, participate in the Twitter poll to vote for your favorite at this position.

Here is Do-Hyoung Park's ranking of the top 5 left fielders in Twins history, since the franchise relocated to Minnesota in 1961. Next week: Center fielders.

Twins' All-Time Team: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS

1) Shane Mack, 1990-94
Key fact: His 132 wRC+ is the highest among primary left fielders in club history

Unlike many of the other positions, the Twins don't have a clear-cut star like a Rod Carew, Harmon Killebrew or Joe Mauer to automatically slot in atop the rankings in left field. That's largely due to relatively consistent turnover at the position and solid but not star-level production throughout much of the club's existence in Minnesota. That's how the underrated Mack ends up on top of this list despite never making an All-Star team or earning a single vote for the American League MVP Award.

In five seasons with the Twins, Mack provided an effective and consistent combination of power, average, on-base ability and speed while playing all three outfield spots (but primarily left) for a .309/.375/.479 slash line with 67 homers, 119 doubles, 24 triples and 71 stolen bases and a 17.9 fWAR in Minnesota. His best season came in 1992, when he posted a .394 on-base percentage with 16 homers and a career-high 31 doubles, but more importantly, he was an important force in the heart of the lineup for the World Series-winning '91 squad. Mack was relatively quiet in that World Series, but he went 2-for-4 and drove in a run in Game 6 and added another base knock in Game 7.

Mack unquestionably posted some of the finest numbers of his career in 1994, with a .333/.402/.564 line with 15 homers in 81 games, but that season was cut short by the players' strike. That caused Mack to play out the next two seasons in Japan, and he finished out his career with the Red Sox, A's and Royals before retiring in 1998.

2) , 1973-77
Key fact: Was MLB's first designated hitter in a March 6, 1973, Spring Training contest

Hisle's primary claim to fame might be the above fun fact that gives him an important niche in baseball trivia (that, depending on your stance on the designated hitter, you may or may not look upon fondly). But it wouldn't be fair to Hisle's productive Major League career to define him solely in such a manner. Unlike Mack and Jacque Jones, who sandwich him on this list, Hisle was a career two-time All-Star who peaked at third place in AL MVP Award voting with the Brewers in 1978, when he trailed Boston's Jim Rice and New York's Ron Guidry in the tally. Though that season marked his peak, his '77 campaign with the Twins also earned him MVP votes after he was worth 4.5 fWAR with 28 home runs and 119 RBIs, the last of which topped the AL.

Even outside that season, Hisle was quite solid through his five years with the Twins following a flurry of trades that sent him from the Phillies to the Dodgers to the Cardinals and then, finally, to Minnesota. He was worth at least 2.0 fWAR in all five seasons, hitting .286/.354/.457 over his Twins career thanks to double-digit homers and steals and at least a .272 average in each of his seasons in Minnesota. One more fun fact: Hisle still holds the Twins record for most stolen bases in a game, with four against the Royals on June 30, 1976.

3) , 1999-2005
Key fact: His 132 homers with Twins are most in club history by a primary left fielder

Jones has both longevity and consistency on his side to earn third place in the rankings. His 976 games with the Twins are the most in club history among primary left fielders, and he was responsible for solid power and average throughout those seven seasons as he finished his Twins tenure with a .279/.327/.455 line, 132 homers and 189 doubles. He was an anchor of Minnesota's three consecutive AL Central championships from 2002-04 -- first as the starting left fielder before later moving to right field -- alongside fan favorite center fielder Torii Hunter.

With all that said, Jones' production was around league-average for most of his career, with the exception of the 2002 campaign, in which he clubbed a career-high 173 hits, 27 homers and 37 doubles. But that still didn't earn an All-Star recognition or votes for any of the major awards. He played at least 136 games and knocked at least 14 homers and 22 doubles in each of his seasons with the Twins except his 1999 rookie campaign. He moved on to the Cubs and Tigers before finishing his Major League career in 2008 with the Marlins.

4) , 2015-present
Key fact: His next Opening Day start will make him the only player in Twins history to open five consecutive seasons in left field

Rosario entered Spring Training in 2020 knowing that he could stand to cut back on his free-swinging tendencies and be more selective at the plate, but there's still little question that he has been a consistent, productive power hitter all the same through his first five Major League seasons. Starting with a homer in his first big league plate appearance, Rosario has reached double-digits in long balls every year of his five-year career and hit at least 24 in each of the last three seasons, helping the Twins to an AL Wild Card Game appearance in '17 and the AL Central championship in '19.

Barring injuries, Rosario should continue to build on a career-high 32 homers from last season and surpass Jones as the Twins' home run leader among left fielders in relatively short order. That's fitting for the man who coined the "Bomba Squad" nickname for the record-breaking, homer-happy 2019 Twins.

5) , 1995-99
Key fact: Won the AL Rookie of the Year Award in 1995

Cordova burst onto the scene with 24 homers and 20 steals in 1995, when he became the last Twins player to take home Rookie of the Year honors by beating out the likes of Garret Anderson, Andy Pettitte, Shawn Green and Brad Radke. He went on to improve his OPS by 10 points to .849 in '96, when he clubbed 16 homers and drove in a career-high 111 runs, and he proceeded to reach double-digit homers in each of his five seasons with the Twins. He left Minnesota in free agency following the '99 season and stayed afloat with the Blue Jays, Indians and Orioles, playing his final Major League game in 2003.

Honorable mention
It was a rather tough decision to leave Dan Gladden off this list due to his prominent role in both World Series championships, but his overall body of work (.700 regular-season OPS, 4.3 fWAR in five seasons) places him just a peg below the rest. Gladden earned five straight Opening Day nods following his arrival from the Giants in '87, including four in left field, and was the team's leadoff hitter and starting left fielder in both the '87 World Series against the Cardinals and the '91 edition against the Braves. He made his mark in both, crushing a grand slam in the Twins' rout of St. Louis in Game 1 of the '87 Fall Classic and later scored the walk-off run in the 10th inning of the legendary Game 7 of the '91 World Series. He remains around the organization as a radio play-by-play broadcaster and analyst.