For a good stretch of his career, Torii Hunter was considered the best center fielder in the major leagues. Between 2001-’09, he won nine consecutive Gold Gloves.
While there were likely too many home run-saving catches for Twins fans to recall a specific defensive gem, the image of the then-Minnesota Twin robbing Barry Bonds in the 2002 All-Star Game in Milwaukee is probably remembered by most baseball fans.
Out of Pine Bluff, Ark., Hunter was a first-round draft pick of the Twins in 1993 — as the 20th overall pick. He made his major-league debut in August 1997, playing just one game as a pinch-runner.
The next season, he played only six games early in the season, going 4-for-17 and was sent down and spent the rest of the year in the minors. By 1999, however, Hunter was an everyday player in the bigs. In his first full season, he committed just one error in 292 chances.
He would play 11 seasons with the Twins, accumulating seven of his Gold Gloves, while hitting .271 with 192 homers, 711 RBI and 126 stolen bases. He ranks eighth on the Twins’ all-time homer list, but it was his defense and team leadership which made him so valuable.
With the Twins, Hunter made the playoffs four times, but they only advanced as far as the American League Championship Series once. Plus, he made the All-Star team twice, in 2002 and ’07.
Before the 2008 season, Hunter left the Twins, signing a five-year, $90 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels. There, he would hit .286 with 105 homers and 432 RBI, while stealing 60 bases. He made two more All-Star Game appearances, and was in back-to-back postseasons, losing in the ALDS in ’08 and falling to the Yankees in the 2009 ALCS.
For his career (through June 26), Hunter owns a .278 batting average with 301 homers, 1,174 RBI and 187 stolen bases. He’s played in eight playoff series, batting .305 with four homers and 18 RBI.
Before this season, Hunter signed a two-year, $26 million deal with the Detroit Tigers. Entering June 27 action, he’s batting .307 with four homers and 31 RBI. Plus, his name is in the discussion for being one of the AL’s three starting outfielders at the All-Star Game (July 16, 7:30 p.m. ET on FOX).
Among active players, Hunter ranks 12th in doubles (426), 14th in hits (2,074) and RBI, 15th in runs (1,112) and 17th in homers.
Is he a Hall of Famer? Watch the above video to hear his case.