Twins announce 2021 Diamond Award winners

October 11th, 2021

The Twins didn't have the team success they hoped for when they began the 2021 campaign with designs on a third straight American League Central title, but there were still many individual performances throughout the organization that were worthy of recognition as part of the annual Diamond Awards, as announced by the club on Monday.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the 17th annual Diamond Awards will be conducted remotely for a second straight season via a television special on Bally Sports North, which is set to air from 6-7 p.m. CT on Nov. 19.

As always, benefits from the Diamond Awards and the associated auction will go toward research, education and care in brain, muscle and nerve disorders, including ALS, ataxia, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy and Parkinson's disease, in partnership with the University of Minnesota.

Here's a rundown of this year's winners:

Most Valuable Twin: Jorge Polanco
Polanco is the Most Valuable Twin for the first time in his career as a unanimous selection after leading the team in games played (152), hits (158), doubles (35), homers (33), RBIs (98) and stolen bases (11). Though he had a slow start to the season, he posted a .914 OPS and 21 homers in a highly productive second half that completed his most power-packed season as a big leaguer.

Bob Allison Leadership Award: Nelson Cruz
Even considering his trade to the Rays ahead of the Trade Deadline, Cruz won the Bob Allison Award for the third straight season, joining Michael Cuddyer and Justin Morneau as the only players to earn the honor three times. Despite leaving the Twins, Cruz's impact on the organization -- both on and off the field -- clearly endures in the Twin Cities, as exemplified by his nomination for the Roberto Clemente Award by his old team earlier in the fall.

Twins Pitcher of the Year: José Berríos
Consistent as ever, Berríos earned the Pitcher of the Year selection despite making 12 of his 32 starts for the Toronto Blue Jays following his July 30 trade for prospects Austin Martin and Simeon Woods Richardson. Berríos posted a 3.48 ERA with 126 strikeouts in 121 2/3 innings for the Twins and finished the year with a career-best 3.52 ERA and 204 strikeouts while starting 32 games for the third straight full season, tying the AL lead.

Twins Outstanding Rookie: Bailey Ober
With the exit of Berríos and J.A. Happ at the Trade Deadline amid struggles and injuries throughout the club's pitching depth, the 26-year-old Ober emerged as one of the Twins' most pleasant surprises down the stretch, taking advantage of new mechanics to pitch healthy and pain-free for the first time as a professional. His pinpoint command translated effectively to the big leagues with previously unseen velocity into the low-90s, resulting in a 4.19 ERA and 96 strikeouts across 92 1/3 innings in 20 starts.

Carl R. Pohlad Outstanding Community Service Award: Taylor Rogers
Rogers, who comes from a multigenerational firefighting family, has been active in the Twin Cities community and his home state of Colorado in supporting firefighters and first responders. Rogers is active in the Rogers Family Foundation, a nonprofit that he co-founded to support mental health and wellness among the first-responder community.

Defensive Player of the Year: Andrelton Simmons
Though Simmons' offensive contributions were the lowest of his career, that's not why the Twins signed him; they brought him in for his defensive ability. He delivered in that regard, as his 16 outs above average, per Statcast, ranked sixth among all qualified Major Leaguers.

Most Improved Twin: Jorge Polanco
Polanco's team MVP Award was all the more significant considering his struggles in 2020, when he posted a .658 OPS and four homers in 55 games due to his struggles with ankle health for a second straight season. He underwent surgery on his right ankle for the second consecutive offseason leading into the '21 campaign -- and it got him back to his '19 All-Star form.

Media Good Guy: Josh Donaldson
Whether in talking about his swing and hitting approach or representing the team on Zoom news conferences amid tough stretches or being a leading player-side voice in the crackdown on pitchers' use of sticky substances, Donaldson's candor and willingness to speak his mind helped him earn his first Mike Augustin Award for "Media Good Guy."

Upper Midwest Player of the Year: Jared Walsh, Angels
Walsh, who was born in the Milwaukee area, earned his first Upper Midwest Player of the Year honor following an All-Star season featuring a career-high 29 homers and 147 hits for the Angels.

Twins Minor League Players of the Year: Jose Miranda, Louie Varland
Miranda didn't make it all the way to the Majors in 2021, but he'll almost certainly be in line to see significant playing time in '22 after a huge breakout season during which he hit .344/.401/.572 with 30 homers and 32 doubles for Double-A Wichita and Triple-A St. Paul.

As the Twins' No. 28-ranked prospect, Varland, a local kid who attended North St. Paul High School and Concordia University in St. Paul, reported to his affiliate with an uptick in velocity that helped him to a 2.10 ERA and 142 strikeouts in 103 innings with Class A Fort Myers and High-A Cedar Rapids that forced him into the Twins' starting discussion of the future.

Kirby Puckett Twins Alumni Community Service Award:
The work that Joe and Maddie Mauer do for the Twin Cities community has been a fixture of his presence since his playing days, and it hasn't slowed down since his retirement. The three-time Most Valuable Twin Award winner and 2008 Carl R. Pohlad Award winner has continued his longtime support of Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare and turned his annual Mauer and Friends Kids Classic into a COVID-friendly home run derby reunion this season that raised more than $350,000.

Herb Carneal Lifetime Achievement Award: Mike Radcliff
Radcliff has recently conquered a difficult battle with pancreatic cancer, and he was inducted into the Killebrew Root Beer Professional Scouts Hall of Fame and honored at the East Coast Pro Showcase earlier this year in honor of his more than three decades of service for the organization since 1987 as a scout, scouting director and now vice president of player personnel.