Gray, Lewis headline Twins' Diamond Award winners

October 19th, 2023

MINNEAPOLIS -- It goes without saying that one of the more dynamic and successful Twins teams in recent history will have no shortage of outstanding performances and players to be recognized -- and it’s time to highlight those standouts as end-of-year award season approaches.

On Thursday, the club announced the recipients of its 2023 Diamond Awards, in conjunction with the Twins Community Fund, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America and the University of Minnesota.

The 19th annual Diamond Awards will take place on Jan. 25, 2024, at The Armory in Minneapolis. As always, proceeds will go towards research and care in brain, nerve and muscle disorders through the University of Minnesota.

Most Valuable Twin, Joseph W. Haynes Twins Pitcher of the Year:
The starting rotation was the motor of the 2023 Twins from start to finish, and Gray’s career year played front and center. As part of Minnesota’s two-headed rotation monster, Gray finished second in the American League with a 2.79 ERA and 183 strikeouts in 32 regular-season starts. He allowed only eight homers -- the fewest by a full-season qualified pitcher in Twins history (since 1961).

Gray wasn’t just the Twins’ Most Valuable Player; he was, by WAR, one of the most valuable in the entire league. With the right-hander bound for free agency, could he end up back in Minnesota?

Bill Boni Twins Most Outstanding Rookie:
Lewis does nothing but hit, he’s quickly becoming a focal point of the Minnesota clubhouse and he’s arguably already a postseason hero -- so of course the 24-year-old is the club’s Most Outstanding Rookie, though strong arguments also could be made for Edouard Julien and Matt Wallner, who drove the offense for much of the second half.

Lewis led the team with a .920 OPS while hitting .309/.372/.548 with 15 homers (including, most notably, four grand slams) in only 58 games. With better health, the Twins hope he can be the middle-of-the-order presence that makes this lineup tick. It’s not fair to expect Lewis to keep up this level of performance for good, but he’s certainly talented enough to make it happen.

Charles O. Johnson Most Improved Twin:
Jeffers went from the lower end of the catcher timeshare at the start of the year to catching every inning of all six postseason games -- and he earned it through a breakout season in which he hit .276 with an .859 OPS and 14 homers after spending the offseason (and part of the regular season) tinkering with his swing mechanics and timing mechanisms to finally unlock his full potential.

Bob Allison Team Leadership, Jim Kaat Twins Defensive Player of the Year:
Plantar fasciitis held back Correa’s on-field performance all season, and he frequently remarked that he knew his defense wasn’t up to the lofty standards he’d set in years past. Still, the veteran shortstop provided value there and particularly with his leadership, which will always be an enormous part of what he brings to a young clubhouse. The defense went noticed around the league, too, as Correa was announced on Wednesday as one of the AL shortstop finalists for the Gold Glove Award.

Mike Augustin “Media Good Guy”, Carl R. Pohlad Outstanding Community Service:
Not only was López the club’s ace from start to finish and one of its bright spots in the postseason, but his kindness, intelligence and candor were always apparent both inside and outside the clubhouse. He and his wife, Kaylee, jumped headfirst into community engagement through the Twins Community Fund upon their arrival in the Twin Cities, and they were constant presences at events before and throughout the season.

Dick Siebert Upper Midwest Player of the Year: , PIT
The Pirates right-hander, a native of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was named to his first All-Star team this season and finished tied for fifth in the National League in strikeouts (210). It was Keller’s first career 200-strikeout season, and he also came a whisker shy of 200 innings, finishing at 194 1/3 frames, during which he posted a 4.21 ERA for Pittsburgh.

Kirby Puckett Twins Alumni Community Service: Tommy Watkins
Watkins, the Twins' third-base coach, has been around the organization since he was first drafted by Minnesota in 1998. In addition to his frequent work around the Twin Cities and North Minneapolis in 2023, Watkins’ work through his foundation (established 2020) continued with a food drive and golf tournament this season.

Sherry Robertson Twins Minor League Player of the Year:
This is exactly why the Twins were so thrilled when Lee dropped to them at the No. 8 overall pick of the 2022 MLB Draft due to the chaos above them in the Draft order. Just 156 games into his Minor League career, the organization's No. 2 prospect is already a fixture in the Triple-A St. Paul lineup and should be knocking on the door of the Majors at some point in ‘24.

Lee has been as advertised: He controls the strike zone very well, makes contact and can hit for power, as shown by his 16 homers, 39 doubles and three triples across 125 games for Double-A Wichita and Triple-A St. Paul in 2022, when he hit .275/.347/.461. The 22-year-old still is seeking consistency at the Minors’ highest level and is better from the left side of the plate, but signs are pointing to Lee being one of the Twins’ quickest-arriving prospects in quite some time.

Jim Rantz Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year:
When the Twins selected Lewis in the ninth round of the 2022 MLB Draft, the right-hander was mostly notable for his use of the knuckleball -- but in the year since, he’s positioned himself for one of the brighter futures in the organization.

Lewis emphasized continuing to throw the knuckler, but not as his primary pitch; instead, the Twins' No. 13 prospect used it as a complementary offspeed pitch to play off his high-extension, high-spin fastball and his hammer curveball in a highly impressive first taste of pro ball, during which he posted a 2.49 ERA with 118 strikeouts and 33 walks in 101 1/3 innings for Single-A Fort Myers and High-A Cedar Rapids.