Twins’ Top 5 first basemen: Park's take

March 30th, 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 first basemen in Twins history, since the franchise relocated to Minnesota in 1961. Next week: Second basemen.

1) Harmon Killebrew, 1961-74
Key fact: First Twins player inducted into National Baseball Hall of Fame

To this day, Killebrew's prodigious power is commemorated at the site of the old Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, Minn., where the "Killer" anchored the 1961 lineup that brought Major League Baseball to the Upper Midwest for the first time. High up in the indoor amusement park at the Mall of America, a lone red chair is bolted to the wall far above the path of the log flume, marking the spot where the ball finally came to earth when Killebrew crushed a 522-foot homer on June 3, 1963, the longest in the ballpark's history.

The 1969 American League Most Valuable Player Award winner, a 13-time All-Star and six-time AL home run champion, Killebrew was one of the most feared sluggers of his generation and surpassed the 40-homer mark eight times in his 22-year career, of which 21 were spent in what became the Twins franchise. He's the club's all-time leader since relocation in games played (1,939), home runs (475) and RBIs (1,325), and his 573 career home runs place him 12th on the all-time Major League leaderboard. In 1984, he became the first member of the Minnesota Twins to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

"Harmon Killebrew wasn't just a great baseball player; Harmon Killebrew had a big heart," said Hall of Famer and longtime teammate Rod Carew at Killebrew's memorial. "He loved people. He loved treating people the right way, and he respected everyone. ... No matter how many players pass through the Twins' organization, there will only be one face of this organization, and that's Harmon Killebrew."

2) Kent Hrbek, 1981-94
Key fact: Owns the fourth-highest bWAR total (38.6) among all position players born in Minnesota

Hrbek grew up in Bloomington, Minn., and attended Kennedy High School, around three miles away from Metropolitan Stadium, where he later played as a big leaguer for part of the 1981 season after the Twins selected him in the 17th round of the 1978 MLB Draft. But it was when the Twins moved to the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in '82 that Hrbek blossomed into a hometown star in front of his friends and family around the Twin Cities, as the slugger made his only All-Star team and finished second in voting for the AL Rookie of the Year Award to Cal Ripken Jr.

One of only eight players to spend the entirety of a 10-plus-year career in Minnesota, Hrbek is second in club history with 293 home runs and 1,086 RBIs and led all hitters in homers and RBIs at the Metrodome in the 28 years that the Twins called the stadium home. He was the starting first baseman on the only two World Series championship teams in club history. He hit a grand slam that opened up a big lead in Game 6 of the 1987 World Series and was highlighted in the notable tag play of Ron Gant at first base in Game 2 of the 1991 World Series.

3) Justin Morneau, 2003-13
Key fact: Second-most games played at first base (1,124) in club history

A fan favorite throughout his 11 seasons with the Twins, Morneau was the club's fixture at first base for most of their success in the 2000s as a part of five AL Central championship teams alongside the likes of Corey Koskie, Jacque Jones, Joe Mauer, Torii Hunter, Michael Cuddyer and Johan Santana. He was the 2006 AL MVP winner after hitting 34 homers with a .934 OPS, spurring a streak of four straight All-Star recognitions from 2007-10. He hit 30 or more homers in three seasons and ranks third in club history in homers, sixth in RBIs and eighth in hits.

"To come through and be drafted by this organization -- I remember the day I came and hit was about a week after the Draft, and Corey Koskie kind of took me under his wing," Morneau said after the announcement of his election to the Twins Hall of Fame. "I took some batting practice in the Metrodome. On that day, I couldn't imagine a day like this, to be inducted among the greatest players in franchise history."

4) Don Mincher, 1961-66
Key fact: Twins' starting first baseman in all seven games of 1965 World Series

Mincher relocated with the franchise to Minnesota in 1961 and settled in as the club's regular first baseman in 1964, when he hit 23 homers with an .847 OPS and was helped by Killebrew's positional flexibility to play at first base, third base and left field. Mincher clubbed 22 homers a year later as a strong starting rotation led the Twins to the AL pennant and a World Series matchup against the Los Angeles Dodgers. In his first career postseason plate appearance, Mincher hit a second-inning solo homer off future Hall of Fame right-hander Don Drysdale, but his bat fell quiet as the Twins fell in seven games. Mincher was later part of the December 1966 trade that also sent Jimmie Hall and Pete Cimino to the Angels for Dean Chance and Jackie Hernández.

5) Doug Mientkiewicz, 1998-2004
Key fact: One of two Twins to win Gold Glove Award at first base (Vic Powers)

Mientkiewicz earned some down-ballot MVP votes and his only career Gold Glove Award for a solid 2001 season in which he played 151 games and hit .306/.387/.464, and followed that up with two solid seasons at the plate before Morneau took control of the starting job in 2004. Mientkiewicz was traded to the Red Sox at the Trade Deadline in the four-team blockbuster highlighted by Nomar Garciaparra's move to the Cubs, and the first baseman was on the World Series roster when Boston broke the "Curse of the Bambino" that fall. He later returned to the Twins' organization for five years as a manager in the Minor League system.

Honorable mentions
Rod Carew won the 1977 AL MVP Award while primarily playing first base for the Twins, but he will be considered as a second baseman, where he played for the majority of his Minnesota career, for the purposes of these lists. ... Similarly, Joe Mauer finished his career with five seasons as the primary first baseman but was considered a catcher. ... David Ortiz hit .266/.348/.461 with 58 homers in six seasons with the Twins before he was released in 2002 and later attained full "Big Papi" stardom with the Red Sox.