FOX Sports North heads for the podium to distribute awards for the Minnesota Twins' 2018 campaign.
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER - Eddie Rosario
Although the #AcceptThisRosie campaign to get Rosario into the 2018 All-Star Game came up short, the 27-year-old outfielder was hands down the Twins’ MVP this summer. He led the club in hits (161), homers (24), RBI (77), batting average (.288) and stolen bases (8), being one of the Twins’ few consistent outlets on offense during a frustrating season.
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CY YOUNG - Kyle Gibson
In the last 14 months, Gibson has gone from a first-round bust to a reliable ace. He followed up a strong finish to 2017 with a career year this summer, posting personal bests in innings pitched (196 2/3), ERA (3.62), strikeouts (179), K/BB (2.27) and K/9 (8.2). Based on his strong resume and big leadership role in the clubhouse, there’s a good chance we could see No. 44 starting on Opening Day next spring.
BEST MOMENT - Joe Mauer honored at Target Field
It’s difficult to come up with words to describe what occurred at Target Field on Sept. 30, 2018. During a meaningless game between two non-playoff teams, a crowd of 30,144 Twins fanatics swarmed to watch Joe Mauer, the hometown kid, play in what might be his last game – ever. From the national anthem and on, the fans gave Mauer multiple standing ovations, but none was bigger than we he surprised the entire state and put on the catcher’s gear for (probably) one last time. Mauer, who hadn’t played catcher since 2013 due to concussion issues, caught one pitch from Matt Belisle in the ninth inning and exited the game to a tearful ovation. If he does choose to retire, it was the perfect sendoff for one of the best Twins players of all-time.
BEST WIN - Twins 3, Yankees 1 (Sept. 12)
Jake Odorizzi whizzed through a dangerous New York Yankees lineup that included Andrew McCutchen, Giancarlo Stanton and Didi Gregoriius for seven frames and brought a no-hitter into the eighth inning at Target Field. He hurled a career-high 120 pitches towards the plate until Yankees first baseman Greg Bird connected on a run-scoring double in the eighth inning. It would have been the first no-hitter for a Twins pitcher since Francisco Liriano on May 3, 2011 against the Chicago White Sox. Odorizzi is the fourth Twins pitcher to have a no-hitter after 7+ innings pitched, joining Liriano, Kevin Slowey and Anthony Swarzak. Better yet, the Twins topped New York 3-1 that night, clinching a series win over the Yanks that’s been rare in this millennium.
TOP ROOKIE - Jake Cave
A move in March that was overlooked by many ended up playing a crucial role in the Twins’ 2018 season. On March 16, the Twins sent minor-league pitcher Luis Gil to New York in exchange for Cave, who was the odd man out in the Yankees outfield despite hitting .324/.367/.554 with 15 homers for Triple-A Scranton in 2017. Cave began the season in Rochester but was recalled in May to make his MLB debut for the Twins. He mashed a two-run homer in his second career at-bat but was sent back down to Rochester a few weeks later. In late June, the Twins recalled Cave again, and he stayed with the club for good, due to his strong play and a Minnesota outfield hampered with injuries. Cave went on to hit .252/.305/.451 in 91 games and led the Twins with 10 homers and ranked second with 33 RBI after the All-Star break.
COMEBACK KID - Trevor May
May was finally able to ditch the Play Station controller, Fortnite dances and Twitch streams when he made a full return from Tommy John surgery July 31. He was solid for the rest of the way out of the bullpen, compiling a 3.20 ERA, 1.026 WHIP and career-best 12.8 K/9 in 25 1/3 innings pitched. May was also one of four different Twins pitchers to record a save, as he went a perfect 3-for-3 in opportunities.
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MR. UNEXPECTED - Willians Astudillo
It took Astudillo over 600 minor-league games to make his MLB debut. It only took him about two games to win over the hearts of Twins fans. Bringing his unique 5-foot-9, 225-pound frame with him to the big leagues, Astudillo showed off his versatility immediately, playing left field, center field, third base, second base, pitcher and catcher -- all in his first nine MLB games. In 29 contests, “La Tortuga” hit an impressive .355/.371/.516 with eight extra-base hits and 21 RBI while only whiffing three times in 97 plate appearances, unheard of numbers in today’s game. Astudillo also owns perhaps the most viral-worthy moment of the summer when he sped around the bases to score with ease from first base on a Max Kepler double. And let’s not forget about his walk-off homer, either.
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CAN’T WAIT ‘TIL NEXT YEAR - Alex Kirilloff
Returning from Tommy John surgery that held him out of action last season, Kirilloff made up for lost time in his first full professional baseball season. The former 15th overall pick in the 2016 draft mashed a .333/.391/.607 slash line and 38 extra-base hits in 65 games for Low-A Cedar Rapids before being promoted to High-A Fort Myers. Kirilloff only improved at the next level, hitting .362/.393/.550 with 24 doubles, seven homers and 45 RBI for the Miracle. If he had acquired enough at-bats, the 20-year-old outfielder would have led both the Midwest League and the Florida State League in batting average. Unsurprisingly, he took home hardware as the Twins’ minor-league player of the year. What’s next? An MLB debut seems unlikely in 2019, as he’ll probably likely be tearing the cover off the ball next year for Minnesota’s new Double-A affiliate, Pensacola Blue Wahoos. But really, don’t put it past him.