Twins' Top 5 third basemen: Park's take

April 13th, 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 third basemen in Twins history, since the franchise relocated to Minnesota in 1961. Next week: Shortstops.

1) , (1981-90)
Key fact: Four American League Gold Glove Awards are most by a Twins infielder

For 10 years, Gaetti gave the Twins a power bat in the middle of the lineup and a rock-solid glove at the hot corner. Most importantly, he helped deliver the first World Series championship in club history. Hitting cleanup or fifth for most of the season, Gaetti was one of three 30-homer hitters on that '87 team (joining Kent Hrbek and Tom Brunansky) and had his signature moment in Game 1 of the AL Championship Series, when he homered in the first two postseason plate appearances of his career to push the Twins to an 8-5 win at the Metrodome and a surprisingly smooth series win in five games.

Gaetti was eventually named the ALCS Most Valuable Player and followed that up with a 7-for-27 performance in the World Series, including a homer and four RBIs. Even outside of that 1987 season, the third baseman sustained his power and defense throughout most of his Twins career as he hit 20 or more homers six times and won four consecutive AL Gold Glove Awards from 1986-89.

He enjoyed a long playing career in the Majors after leaving Minnesota, taking stops with the Angels, Royals, Cardinals, Cubs and Red Sox before he retired following the 2000 season. Even so, Gaetti's extended tenure in Minnesota pushed him to eighth in club history in games (1,361), doubles (252) and home runs (201) and ninth in hits (1,276).

2) , (1998-04)
Key fact: Accumulated 5.8 fWAR in 2001, the most in a season by any Twins third baseman except Harmon Killebrew

Koskie never garnered an All-Star honor and only received one vote for the AL MVP Award through his nine-year career, but thanks to a balanced skillset of power, on-base ability and defense, the third baseman posted a very strong three-year peak in 2001 (5.8 fWAR), 2002 (5.1 fWAR) and 2003 (4.9 fWAR) and finished his Minnesota career with 23.2 fWAR, a close second to Gaetti in nearly 550 fewer games with the Twins.

In that time, the Twins snapped their postseason drought with three consecutive division championships from 2002-04 before he finished his career with the Blue Jays and Brewers. Though Koskie posted a 111 wRC+ in '06, that proved his final season as concussions and the complications therein led to his retirement. Koskie was later elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and maintains an active presence in the Minneapolis area and business community, with a focus in youth sports and personal development.

3) Rich Rollins, (1961-68)
Key fact: Led MLB with 10 triples in 1964, a single-season record for a Twins third baseman

Rollins had longevity with 888 games played for the Twins over eight seasons, including the 1965 campaign in which the Twins won the first AL pennant in club history before losing the World Series in seven games to the Dodgers, though he only made three plate appearances -- all as a pinch-hitter -- in the Fall Classic. That's because, following strong offensive seasons from 1962-64 highlighted by two All-Star honors and a top-10 finish in AL MVP voting, Rollins' performance trailed off sharply in '65, though he saw significant playing time through '68, after which he was selected in the expansion draft by the Seattle Pilots.

But that string of three strong offensive years earns him the third spot on this list, as he exceeded 161 hits, 23 doubles and 12 homers in all three campaigns while playing a solid third base.

4) , (1979-84)
Key fact: Shared 1979 AL Rookie of the Year Award

Though Castino was a largely average hitter and split his Twins career between third base and second base, his exemplary defense at the hot corner drew comparisons to the legendary Brooks Robinson, according to Castino's biography by the Society of American Baseball Research. That was enough to earn him a split of the 1979 AL Rookie of the Year Award with Blue Jays shortstop Alfredo Griffin, which launched a solid six-year career that was cut short by a back injury after only 666 games.

5) , (2015-present)
Key fact: .576 slugging percentage in 2019 trails only 1969 Killebrew (.584) among primary third basemen for the club

Now that Sanó's tenure at third base officially appears to be complete with the signing of Josh Donaldson, his résumé consists of a stellar rookie campaign in which he finished third in AL Rookie of the Year voting, two power-packed, yet disappointing offensive seasons, and a pair of markedly stronger campaigns at the plate. Though Sanó struggled to stay on the field and was an inconsistent defender at the hot corner, the raw power numbers (118 homers over five seasons) speak for themselves, particularly when Sanó found a way to better harness his body and plate approach as a key part of the Twins' AL Central-winning lineup in 2019.

Honorable mention

Killebrew, the Hall of Famer, would have been the clear No. 1 on this list had he not already been ranked among the first basemen earlier in this series. ... Perhaps Steve Braun and his on-base ability would have been better appreciated in today's game, but his meager power numbers held him back from more national recognition throughout his six-year tenure with the Twins. ... Nick Punto makes another appearance with his 11.6 career fWAR, mostly on the back of his stellar defense at second base, third base and shortstop and his longevity with the Twins despite his meager bat.