MINNEAPOLIS -- Like much else in 2020, the Twins' annual celebration of the Diamond Awards will have a considerably different look this year. Even so, the club still has players to recognize for their on-field and off-field contributions and money to raise for brain, muscle and nerve disorders in partnership with the University of Minnesota.
With that in mind, the Diamond Awards will carry on in a distanced manner. FOX Sports North will bring the 16th edition of the awards banquet to living rooms around Twins Territory at 7 p.m. CT on Dec. 9, honoring the most outstanding Twins and highlighting ongoing research for multiple sclerosis, ALS, ataxia, muscular dystrophy, Parkinson's disease and other areas of focus at the University of Minnesota.
The event has already raised nearly $4 million for research, education and patient care since its inception in 2006.
The Twins announced the recipients of the 2020 Diamond Awards on Friday ahead of the virtual banquet. Here's a rundown of this year's winners, as voted on by the Twin Cities chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America and the board of directors of the Twins Community Fund.
Most Valuable Twin Award: Nelson Cruz
The 40-year-old designated hitter is the Twins' most valuable player for the second straight season after again leading the club in both homers (16) and OPS (.992). Though the Minnesota offense wasn't as productive as widely expected, Cruz carried the team for large stretches of the season with his .303/.397/.595 line, while also leading the team in hits (56) and walks (25). He drove in both of the Twins' runs in the Wild Card Series against the Astros.
Joseph R. Haynes Twins Pitcher of the Year Award: Kenta Maeda
The Twins expected that they were getting steady veteran production when they traded away top pitching prospect Brusdar Graterol to acquire Maeda from the Dodgers last offseason. They got an ace. Maeda led Minnesota starters in ERA (2.70), strikeouts (80) and innings pitched (66 2/3) and finished as MLB's qualified leader in WHIP (0.75). He took a no-hitter into the ninth inning on Aug. 18 and threw five shutout innings as the Twins' Game 1 starter in the Wild Card Series.
Bill Boni Twins Most Outstanding Rookie Award: Randy Dobnak
Most well-known on the national level for his meteoric rise from a little-known independent league to ALDS Game 2 starter last season (and, yes, for being a former Uber driver), Dobnak showed that his success wasn't a fluke by anchoring a rotation spot in the face of extreme attrition on the staff while ranking among MLB's ERA and wins leaders in the early season. He faltered down the stretch but still finished the season with a respectable 4.05 ERA in 10 starts.
Jim Kaat Defensive Player of the Year Award: Byron Buxton
Buxton was named a Gold Glove Award finalist in center field on Thursday and has a strong case for his second such honor (and first since 2017) after finishing second among MLB outfielders with 11 defensive runs saved. There were injury issues again -- he suffered lingering effects of his offseason left shoulder surgery and was hit by a pitch in the helmet in the waning days of the season -- but he stayed on the field for 39 games while tying for second on the team with 13 homers.
Charles O. Johnson Most Improved Twin Award: Matt Wisler
During Spring Training, there was some thought that Wisler was still fighting for a roster spot. The 28-year-old even said that he was somewhat surprised when the Twins offered him a guaranteed contract after claiming him off waivers from the Mariners. He proved to be a steal. He finished second among Twins relievers in innings (25 1/3) and led all regulars in ERA (1.07) on the back of the slider that he threw 83.4% of the time while doing everything from opening to closing.
Carl R. Pohlad Community Service Award: Buxton
In 2019, Buxton began his "Buxton's Battalion" program, which invites families of service members to Target Field on Tuesdays to watch batting practice, participate in meet-and-greets and attend the night's game. He and his wife, Lindsey, also donate money to the Minnesota Military Family Foundation and provide opportunities for members of the Minnesota National Guard at Target Field. Buxton's older brother, Felton, serves in the U.S. Navy.
Bob Allison Twins Leadership Award: Cruz
Cruz also won this award last year, making him the fifth player in team history to earn the honor multiple times. It's awarded to the player that "exemplifies determination, hustle, tenacity, competitive spirit and leadership both on and off the field," and from his quiet leadership and energetic presence in the clubhouse to the community service that earned him the Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award and the Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award, Cruz clearly embodies that.
Kirby Puckett Twins Alumni Community Service Award: LaTroy Hawkins
The 21-year MLB veteran now serves as a special assistant to baseball operations in the Twins' front office and an occasional analyst on FOX Sports North broadcasts and has been one of the organization's most outspoken advocates against racial and social injustice. He has been one of MLB's leading figures in conversations about systemic racism in professional sports and in America. He serves as an active member of the Still Got Game Foundation, a nonprofit where former professional athletes impact social change, and supports Women Called Moses, the Jackie Robinson Foundation and St. Jude Research Hospital.
Mike Augustin "Media Good Guy" Award: Taylor Rogers
This was a tough year to be the team's representative to the MLB Players' Association. Rogers didn't sign up to be the clubhouse's de facto spokesman for conversations around the COVID-19 pandemic and labor negotiations through the sport's standstill, but he faced the media often with his candor and dry wit despite a challenging season on the field.
Dick Siebert Upper Midwest Player of the Year Award: Brad Hand
A native of Minneapolis and a graduate of Chaska High School, Hand led the Majors with 16 saves this season and tallied 29 strikeouts in 22 innings while posting a 2.05 ERA for Cleveland, which finished second to the Twins in the AL Central and lost the Wild Card Series to the Yankees.
Terry Ryan Play Ball! Minnesota Award: Charles "Corky" Reynolds
Reynolds has been the official scorer and public address announcer at Crookston High School for more than 20 years and played a major role in starting the Crookston Baseball Association, of which he currently serves as secretary, more than 10 years ago.