This 2019 Twins season has been a joy in so many ways — among them being that it has erased much of the sour taste from all the bad baseball played at Target Field for the better part of this decade.
But at the same time, 2019 has stubbornly refused to let us forget those largely bad Twins teams (five 90-loss seasons in six years). That’s because a LOT of individual players from those teams are doing quite well this season — many in unpredictable fashion.
I couldn’t quite fill out an entire lineup, but I did come up with a dozen players who were on the Twins sometime between 2011 and 2016 who are contributing somewhere between “All-Star” and “meaningful” levels this season for their current teams elsewhere. They are listed below in order of some combination of achievement and surprise. All stats through Monday’s games.
1 Danny Santana (2014-17 Twins; 2019 Rangers): Santana had a breakout rookie year, hitting .319 with a .472 slugging percentage for the Twins in 2014 and looking like a mainstay. For the next four years, he compiled a .575 OPS for the Twins and Braves. His next stop seemed to be out of baseball. UNTIL: 2019 with the Rangers, when Santana suddenly has 17 homers and a .938 slugging percentage. An OPS+ of 130 as a rookie and 132 this year, and never higher than 64 any other year. Amazing.
2 Liam Hendriks (2011-13 Twins; 2019 A’s): Hendriks gave up a ton of hits and home runs, didn’t strike many batters out and generally disappointed as a starter from 2011-13. He’s been between serviceable and good out of bullpens since 2015, but in 2019 he was an All-Star with the A’s — where he has a 1.64 ERA and 80 Ks in 60.1 innings.
3 Eduardo Escobar (2012-18 Twins; 2019 Diamondbacks): Escobar, one of the most popular Twins players in recent memory, turned himself from a useful player into a very good hitter somewhere around the middle of 2017. So it’s not stunning to see what he’s done in Arizona. But still: the man leads all of baseball with 89 runs batted in and has a 3.3 WAR. I did not see that coming.
4 Ryan Pressly (2013-18 Twins; 2019 Astros): He was a good reliever with the Twins. He’s turned into a cheat code with the Astros and made the All-Star team to prove it.
5 Kurt Suzuki (2014-16 Twins; 2019 Nationals): Suzuki posted a .680 OPS in three season as the Twins’ catcher, turning 33 right as that final year ended. Put him out to pasture? Nah. Suzuki has an .813 OPS since then, hitting 42 home runs in 828 at bats.
6 Aaron Hicks (2013-15 Twins; 2019 Yankees): Sigh. The John Ryan Murphy trade. Hicks has provided 9.8 wins above replacement for the Yankees since 2017, per Baseball Reference. Murphy … has not.
7 Chris Herrmann (2012-15 Twins; 2019 A’s): It’s not that Herrmann has been great since leaving the Twins, but his .530 OPS in his four years here suggested his MLB career wouldn’t last long. But here he is with Oakland, his third team in four years, providing depth, versatility and some pop.
8 Anthony Swarzak (2009-14 Twins; 2019 Braves): He’s pitched for seven teams since 2015. That’s a lot. But he’s also pitched pretty well, to the tune of a 3.73 ERA and 10.1 Ks/9 innings out of the bullpen — including 2.59 for the Braves this season.
9 Tommy Milone (2014-16 Twins; 2019 Mariners): If you need a guy to pitch five OK innings but absolutely no more than six, Milone is still your man. He’s doing it this year for Seattle, albeit with no run support.
10 Francisco Liriano (2005-12 Twins; 2019 Pirates): Now 14 seasons after his Twins debut (!), Liriano, 35, has reinvented himself as a pretty good relief pitcher (3.31 ERA) in Pittsburgh.
11 Robbie Grossman (2016-18 Twins; 2019 A’s): Grossman is doing pretty much what he did for the Twins now with the A’s — getting on base and being pesky from both sides of the plate.
12 Brian Dozier (2012-18 Twins; 2019 Nationals): He hit just .182 after being traded to the Dodgers last year and was just 2-for-16 as a part-time player in the playoffs. On May 15 with the Nationals this season, Dozier’s OPS was a dismal .601 and his average was an even worse .187. Since then, though? Dozier is hitting .273 with an .885 OPS to resurrect his season and perhaps career.