A few of the categories were close races and some of the battles were not so close and that is what makes this a fun exercise. There can be people on both sides of the MVP battle between Josh Willingham and Joe Mauer. One person might think Glen Perkins was the best relief pitcher and another person might put all of their money behind Jared Burton. When a team loses over 90 games for the second season in a row, it's nice to have some positive energy at the end of the year.
At the beginning of the year, I made predictions for winners in all of the categories listed below. There were some duds when I looked into my crystal ball in April but it can be hard to predict what kind of season a player will have. During the All-Star break, I looked at the first half of the year and named the frontrunners for the awards at the half-way point. Things can change over the course of the second half of the year so let's jump into this year's awards.
Each of the awards below has been named after someone that optimizes that award for the Twins organization. There are some legends from the past and even one current MLB player but all have had a significant place in Twins lore.
Harmon Killebrew MVP: Josh Willingham, LF-DH
Preseason Pick: Joe Mauer, C-1B-DH
Midseason Pick: Josh Willingham, LF-DH
Previous Winners: Michael Cuddyer (2011), Joe Mauer (2010)There are a few different men to consider for the top honor with the organization, as there was some good seasons put together by multiple players. Joe Mauer had a very good bounce-back season after suffering through multiple injuries in 2011. In the last couple months, Justin Morneau put together some nice numbers to show he can be a force in the middle of the line-up. Denard Span put together excellent numbers at the plate with very good defense at a premium position. For a team destined to finish in the basement of the AL Central for the second consecutive year, there were plenty of good performances on the field.
In the end, the vote most likely comes down to the same two men that faced off against each other at the midseason part of the year. It could really be a toss up between Joe Mauer and Josh Willingham. Mauer leads the team in batting average, on-base percentage, and hits while Willingham is at the top in home runs, RBI, and slugging percentage. On the defensive side of the ball, Mauer played 74 games at catcher with his other 71 appearances being at first base or designated hitter. Willingham would play 119 games by rumbling around left field and 25 games as designated hitter. They both had an extreme amount of value to this club but Willingham's gets my vote for his clutch hits during the season and for having a higher win probability added than Mauer.
Johan Santana Pitcher of the Year: Scott Diamond, LHP
Preseason Pick: Francisco Liriano, LHP
Midseason Pick: Scott Diamond, LHP
Previous Winners: Carl Pavano (2011), Carl Pavano (2010)There wasn't much of a competition for this award since Diamond was head-and-shoulders above the rest of the members of the starting staff. He was the team leader in wins, ERA, and innings pitched. The only category Diamond failed to win was strikeouts since Francisco Liriano, my preseason pick for the award, had 109 even though he was traded to the White Sox at the end of July. It was a break-out season for Diamond and it will be exciting to see what he has to offer in 2013. He should get an entire season of playing time at the big league level and the Twins hope he can replicate some of his outstanding performances from earlier this season.
Rick Aguilera Relief Pitcher of the Year: Jared Burton, RHP
Preseason Pick: Brian Duensing, LHP
Midseason Pick: Jared Burton, RHP
Previous Winners: Glen Perkins (2011), Jesse Crain (2010)Much like the race for the team MVP, it came down to two men for the top relief pitcher on the 2012 Twins. Both players had very good seasons so it was a tough choice between Glen Perkins and Jared Burton. Perkins had more strikeouts with more innings pitched and he showed the ability to take over the closers role for the club after Matt Capps was shelved due to injuries. Jared Burton had the best season of his career and he led the Twins bullpen in ERA and WHIP. After his breakout season in 2011, the Twins expected Perkins to be one of their best relief options. Burton was a surprise find and his outstanding season earned him the award as the top bullpen arm for the Twins.
Rod Carew Rookie of the Year: Scott Diamond, LHP
Preseason Pick: Chris Parmelee, 1B-RF-DH
Midseason Pick: Scott Diamond, LHP
Previous Winners: Ben Revere (2011), Danny Valencia (2010)The Twins got looks at plenty of young players this season as Brian Dozier and Scott Diamond got plenty of opportunities. Chris Parmelee and Liam Hendriks made the team out of spring training but they were both sent back to the minor leagues for big chunks of the season. In the end, Diamond emerged as the ace of the pitching staff that struggled to find good performances on the mound. He finished third among American League rookies with 12 victories to his name and he did this in fewer starts than those ahead of him in the rankings. Diamond and Hendriks were among three AL rookie starters to throw a complete game in 2012 and Diamond was the only one in the group with a complete game shutout.
Now it's your turn. What would your ballot look like for the top awards in the Twins organization for 2012? Leave a comment and start the debate.