MLB Top 5: Minnesota Twins Middle Infielders

This is the third article in a series that looks at the five best players at each position for the Minnesota Twins. In this installment are second basemen and shortstops.

Much like with the first basemen, many of the top middle infielders with the Washington Senators/Nationals and Minnesota Twins franchise put their focus on defense. The group includes three Hall of Famers (with one who earned election for his contributions as a manager) and a high-salaried shortstop who is looking to bounce back from a career-worst season.

The Best Second Basemen and Shortstops in Minnesota Twins History

Second Basemen

Honorable Mention – Ray Morgan has played an interesting part in baseball history. He spent his entire eight-year career in Washington (1911-18), creating a formidable double-play pairing with George McBride. Morgan was the batter who was walked by Babe Ruth before the future slugger was ejected during a June 1917 game for punching the umpire after arguing the call. Ernie Shore relieved Ruth, Morgan was thrown out trying to steal and Shore retired the next 26 batters for what was called a perfect game at the time (later changed to just a no-hitter).

Morgan was also a part of one of the biggest brawls in baseball history. During a 1914 game in Detroit, umpire Jack Sheridan, whose eyesight was beginning to fail, called him out at first. The two got into a scuffle that led to both teams leaving their dugouts, fans running onto the field and chairs being thrown from the stands. Morgan, who was no stranger to temper-fueled issues, was suspended for a week.

In addition to his temper, Morgan struggled with keeping his weight in check and had a few run-ins with the law. After retiring as a player following his contract being sent to Baltimore, he owned a café that doubled as a saloon. Unfortunately, this was during prohibition when alcohol was banned in the U. S. Morgan was also arrested after beating up a Baltimore police officer in 1923, but he was released after Nationals owner Clark Griffith promised to keep an eye on him and make him a scout for the team. Morgan died in 1940 due to pneumonia and heart issues.

5. Brian Dozier – He showed rare power for a second baseman during his seven seasons with the Twins (2012-18). Although he earned his only All-Star selection in 2015 and his only gold glove two years later, his best season was in between them.

In 2016, Dozier batted .268 with 104 runs and 165 hits, and he set career highs with 42 home runs, 99 runs batted in and 336 total bases. The homer total is tied for seventh in franchise history in a single season and is the most by someone not named Harmon Killebrew. Dozier followed that with 34 home runs and 93 RBIs in 2017.

“Bull” finished his career in Minnesota ranked tenth in franchise history with 167 home runs to go with 593 runs (including four seasons with 100 or more), 928 hits, 202 doubles, 491 RBIs, 98 stolen bases and 1,673 total bases in 955 games. He went 2-for-4 with a homer in a loss to the Yankees in the 2017 Wild Card game. Dozier was a 2013 Wilson Defensive Player Award winner and a 2017 fielding champion. He led all American League second basemen in putouts, assists and double plays in 2015.

Dozier was sent to the Dodgers for three players at the 2018 trade deadline and spent time with the Nationals Padres and Mets before retiring prior to the 2021 season. He was a part of a Los Angeles team that lost to Boston in the 2018 World Series and was a reserve for a Washington team that won the title the following year.

4. Edward “Chuck” Knoblauch – A star at Texas A&M, he was taken in the first round of the 1989 draft. Knoblauch reached the big leagues two years later, winning the Rookie of the Year Award after batting .281 with 50 runs batted in and 25 stolen bases. During his seven seasons in Minnesota (1991-97), he earned four All-Star selections, two silver sluggers and a gold glove.

Knoblauch was an ideal leadoff hitter, able to hit line drives, bunt effectively and aggressively traverse the bases. He stole at least 25 bases in each season with the Twins, had at least 150 hits six times and scored more than 100 runs four times. His best season was 1996, when he set career-bests with a .341 average, 197 hits and 72 RBIs, led the league with 14 triples and set a team record with 140 runs scored.

“Knobby” ranks fourth in franchise history in stolen bases (276, including a career-high 62 in 1997) and on-base percentage (.391). He batted .304 with 713 runs, 1,197 hits, 210 doubles, 43 home runs, 391 RBIs and 1,638 total bases in 1,013 games. The 1996 fielding champion appeared in 12 playoff games during the 1991 season, batting .326 with eight runs, 15 hits, three doubles, five RBIs and six steals to help the Twins win their second title in five years.

The Twins gave Knoblauch a big contract, then traded him to the Yankees for four players and cash before the 1998 season. The sparkplug second baseman helped his new team win three straight championships and get to the World Series for a fourth consecutive year in 2001. However, the usually sold fielder had major issues, especially with his throwing. He made 54 errors in his first three seasons with the Yankees before he was moved to left field.

Knoblauch ended his career with the Royals in 2002. He was known for his temper (especially a 1995 incident where he allegedly assaulted a teenage fan), alcohol and marital issues and his admitted use of performance-enhancing drugs. Knoblauch cut all ties to baseball after he retired, even leaving his awards in a box in his old house after he moved.

3. Stanley “Bucky” Harris – Like too many kids growing up in the early 1900s, he was forced to work in the coal mines at age 13 to help feed his family after his father left. Harris played baseball with other boys from the mines after their shift was over, but it was from playing basketball in the winter months where he earned his nickname for his ability to buck off opposing defenders.

Harris spent a decade with Washington (1919-28), becoming one of the most consistent performers, both at the plate and in the field. Not only was he a part of one of the greatest defensive infields in baseball history (with first baseman Joe Judge, shortstop Roger Peckinpaugh and third baseman Ossie Bluege), he was a surprise choice of owner Clark Griffith to become the team’s player-manager in 1924 at age 27.

The Nationals responded to the “Boy Manager,” winning 92 games and the first of two straight pennants. In the World Series against the heavily favored Giants, Harris used what is now called an “opener” in Game 7, allowing righty Warren “Curly” Ogden to face just two batters before bringing in lefty George Mogridge. The strategy worked, as New York manager John McGraw was forced to take out future Hall of Fame first baseman Bill Terry, who was poor against southpaws. The game was tied until the ninth when Harris brought in Game 5 starter Walter Johnson, who pitched four scoreless frames before Washington finally won the title with a run in the 12th inning.

The Nationals won 96 games in 1925 but fell to the Pirates in the World Series. Harris was traded to the Tigers after the 1928 season but played just 11 games with Detroit before retiring as a player in 1931. He is tied for tenth in franchise history with 166 stolen bases, and he also batted .275 with 718 runs, 1,295 hits, 223 doubles, 508 RBIs and 1,673 total bases in 1,252 games. Harris was also the 1927 fielding champion and led the league in double plays five times and putouts four times.

Harris managed with the Tigers until 1933, led the Red Sox, Phillies and Yankees and had two more stints with the Nationals before ending his managerial career with a second stint in Detroit before retiring from the field in 1956. He finished his 29-run run as a bench boss with a 2,158-2,219 record, including a 1,336-1,416 mark in 18 seasons with Washington (1924-28, 35-42 and 50-54). He was inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame as a manager by the Veteran’s Committee in 1975.

2. Charles “Buddy” Myer – He started as Harris’ double play partner for a year before spending two seasons in Boston. Myer was traded back to Washington (for five players) to take Harris’ place and spent the next 13 years at the keystone position and 16 overall with the Nationals (1925-27 and 29-41). He was acquired from the Cubs in 1925 and overcame blood poisoning when a spike wound to his leg became infected.

Myer was a two-time All-Star who finished fourth in the MVP voting in 1935 after winning the batting title with a .349 average, scoring 115 runs, and setting career highs with 215 hits, 36 doubles and 100 runs batted in. Three years later, he set a team record with a .454 on-base percentage.

The cocky leadoff hitter is tied for the top spot in franchise history with a .393 on-base percentage, and he ranks fourth in triples (115), fifth in runs (1,037), tied for eighth in doubles (305) and tenth in hits (1,828). Myer also batted .303 (including eight seasons of .300 or better) with 757 RBIs, 118 stolen bases and 2,464 total bases in 1,643 games. Although he wasn’t known for his prowess at the keystone position, he won two fielding titles and led the league in putouts and double plays at second base in 1935.

Myer is a two-time World Series participant who hit .300 (6-for-20) with two runs scored and two RBIs in a five-game loss to the Giants in 1933, the last time the team would win the pennant in Washington. Following his baseball career, Myer would be a banker, real estate developer and golfer until passing away from a heart attack in 1974 at age 70.

1. Rod Carew – He received his name in an unusual way. In 1945, Carew’s parents were traveling by train to the hospital in Panama sitting in the rear coach that was reserved for “colored people.” His mother went into labor on the ride, but the conductor found Dr. Rodney Cline in the “whites only” car in front who rushed back and helped in the delivery. In honor of the doctor, Carew’s mother named her son after him (and a nurse who helped was asked to be his godmother).

Carew’s mother took her two sons to New York City in the early 1960s to escape their abusive father, and he was discovered by a Twins scout while playing sandlot baseball. He joined the Twins in 1967, earning Rookie of the Year honors after batting .292 with 150 hits and 51 runs batted in. He also was named to the first of 12 straight All-Star Games, an honor he earned each season he was in Minnesota (1967-78).

Carew could hit to all fields, hitting better than .300 in 10 straight seasons (including five at .350 or higher) and winning six batting titles. He also smacked at least 300 hits four times, leading the league three times in a five-year span. Carew spent his first nine years at second base and finished in the top 10 of the MVP voting four times.

Following a gruesome leg injury suffered when an opposing player slide into him to break up a double play, Carew moved to first base in 1976. He spent his final three years there and won the MVP Award in 1977 after leading the league and setting franchise records with a .388 average and 239 hits and topping the A. L. with 128 runs. Despite making a run at .400 and winning another batting title the following year, Carew was done with owner Calvin Griffith’s penny-pinching ways and asked to be traded. Griffith obliged, sending him to the Angels for four players before the 1979 season.

Carew left Minnesota as the franchise’s all-time leader in batting average (.334), and he is tied for the top spot in on-base percentage (.393). He also ranks fifth in stolen bases (271, including four seasons with 30 or more), sixth in hits (2,085), eighth in triples (90), tied for eighth in doubles (305), ninth in total bases (2,792) and tenth in runs (950) to go with 74 home runs and 733 RBIs in 1,635 games. In five playoff contests with the Twins, Carew had just one hit in 16 at-bats.

Carew continued his fantastic career in California, earning All-Star selections in his first six seasons to extend his streak to 18 in a row. He was not chosen for the Midsummer Classic in his final season in 1985, but he joined an exclusive club with 124 hits during the campaign and 3,053 during his 19-year career. Following his playing days, the 1977 winner of the Roberto Clemente Award has spent most of his time operating a hitting school and doing charitable work. Carew was inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991.

Shortstops

Honorable Mentions – Pete Runnels manned shortstop and later second and first base for the Senators for seven seasons (1951-57) during the tail end of their run in Washington. His best season was 1956, when he batted .310 with 179 hits and a career-high 76 runs batted in. Runnels batted .274 with 431 runs, 921 hits and 355 RBIs in 921 games with Washington. He earned five All-Star selections and won two batting titles after being traded to the Red Sox and ended his career with the Houston Colt .45s in 1964.

Greg Gagne was a member of two World Series championship teams during his 10-year run with the Twins (1983-92). He drove in 335 runs in 1,140 regular season games and appeared in 24 postseason contests, totaling 12 runs, 19 hits, five doubles, four home runs and 10 RBIs. Gagne played with the Royals and Dodgers before retiring in 1997.

Cristian Guzman was an All-Star who led the league in triples three times during his six-year tenure in Minnesota (1999-2004). He tied a franchise record with 20 three-baggers in 2000 and earned his first All-Star selection the following year after batting .302 with 80 runs, 14 triples 10 home runs, 51 RBIs and 24 stolen bases. Guzman played in 18 postseason games with the Twins, amassing nine runs, 15 hits one homer, two RBIs and three steals.

Guzman went to Washington, where his early years were dominated by eye and shoulder surgeries. He got the first hit in the history of Nationals Park in early 2008 and earned his second All-Star selection that year. Guzman spent five years in Washington before having his last Major League experience following a trade to Texas at the deadline in 2010.

Whether at shortstop or second base, Jorge Polanco has had solid seasons with Minnesota. After brief callups in his first two seasons, he has had his moments throughout his 10-year career, all with the Twins so far. Polanco was an All-Star in 2019, when he set career highs with a .295 average, 107 runs, 186 hits and 40 doubles to go with 22 home runs and 79 runs batted in. Two years later, he had career bests with 33 homers and 98 RBIs as a second baseman, but his average and production has dropped in the past two seasons. Polanco has appeared in 12 postseason games so far, accumulating five runs, nine hits, two home runs and five RBIs.

Carlos Correa has turned his early career success with the Astros into a pair of big contracts. The 2015 Rookie of the Year earned a pair of All-Star selections and a gold glove with Houston while also reaching 20 home runs five times and 80 RBIs in three seasons.

Correa signed a three-year deal with the Twins for $105 million before the 2022 season with opt-outs after each of the first two years. Following a solid year (.291-22-64), he tested free agency. However, concern over an old knee issue caused two teams to back out of deals. First was the Giants (13 years, $350 million), then came the Mets (12 years, $315 million). Minnesota was not scared away and brought Correa back on a six-year contract worth $200 million. He produced arguably his worst season in 2023 but will be looking to build on his two straight fielding titles.

5B. Cecil Travis – He was a three-time All-Star during his 12-year career spent entirely with Washington (1933-41 and 45-47), with five of those seasons coming as a third baseman. The line drive hitter batted .300 or better seven times and smacked 150 or more hits in six seasons. Travis’ best campaign was 1941, when he set career bests with a .359 average, 106 runs, 39 doubles, 19 triples and 101 RBI to go with a league-leading 218 hits.

Travis was a part of the 76th Infantry Division with the Army during World War II, earning a Bronze Star as one of the soldiers who pursued German forces as they were retreating from Western Europe. He returned and played three more seasons, finishing tied for eighth in franchise history with a .314 average and tenth with 78 triples.

Travis also had 665 runs, 1,544 hits, 265 doubles, 657 RBIs and 2,046 total bases in 1,328 games. He was a scout with Washington for a decade after his playing career and passed away in 2006 at age 93.

5A. Roy Smalley III – He was the son of an infielder who had an 11-year career in the National League, mostly during the 1950s. Roy III was the top overall pick by the Rangers in 1974 but was traded just two years later in a six-player deal that included future Hall of Fame pitcher Bert Blyleven going to Texas.

Smalley was the starter in Minnesota for nine of his 10 seasons over two stints (1976-82 and 85-87). He was a solid run producer who scored at least 80 runs three times, and totaled 160 or more hits, 20 or more home runs and 75 or more RBIs twice each. Smalley earned his only All-Star selection in 1979, when he batted .271 and posted career highs with 94 runs, 168 hits, 25 home runs and 95 RBIs.

Smalley batted .262 with 551 runs, 1,046 hits, 184 doubles, 110 homers, 485 RBIs and 1,602 total bases in 1,148 games with Minnesota. He had a double and two walks coming off the bench for the Twins in the 1987 World Series victory over the Cardinals. Smalley led shortstops in assists and double plays three times each and putouts twice. He was traded to the Yankees, then the White Sox and finally back to the Twins, and he now works as an analyst for games with Minnesota.

4. Roger Peckinpaugh – He was a part of one of the greatest defensive infields in Major League history. Known for his throwing arm, he was a reserve with the Naps and a solid starter for the Yankees before he was traded to the Red Sox, then the Nationals after the 1921 season. Peckinpaugh formed a fantastic double play combination with Bucky Harris during his five-year run in Washington (1922-26).

“Peck” drove in a career-best 73 runs in 1924 and helped the Nationals upset the Giants in the World Series. He batted .417 in the series, hit a winning double in Game 2 (which resulted in a strained muscle in his leg), then had two hits and made a stellar defensive play in the ninth inning of Game 6.

Peckinpaugh was named American League MVP the following year, beating out several future Hall of Famers thanks to his defense and leadership, as well as his .294 average and 64 runs batted in. He batted .267 with 583 hits and 261 RBIs in 639 games before the Nationals traded him to the White Sox for one final season in 1927. After his playing career, Peckinpaugh managed in the minor leagues and spent seven years as a skipper for the Indians. He worked in Cleveland’s front office until his retirement in 1946.

3. George McBride – He was a prototypical Deadball Era shortstop, “all field, no hit.” McBride was a journeyman early in his career before he was acquired by the Nationals. He played 13 seasons with Washington (1908-20), spending most of that time as part of a stellar double play combination with Ray Morgan.

McBride had 100 or more hits in a season eight times and drove in at least 50 runs in four straight seasons, which correspond to years in which he received MVP consideration (1911-14). He became a reserve in his final four years before retiring following the 1920 season. McBride batted just .221 with 461 runs, 1,068 hits, 127 doubles, 393 RBIs, 116 steals and 1,296 total bases in 1,459 games with Washington.

Owner Clark Griffith named McBride manager in 1921, but he lasted just one season despite an 80-73 record and a fourth-place finish. He was hit in the head by a thrown ball during warmups before a game in late July and suffered a concussion and a partial paralysis of his face. McBride finished the season but resigned after dizziness and fainting spells continued. He was a coach with the Tigers later in the 1920s and retired for good in 1929. McBride was successful with investments outside of baseball, which he used to support himself until his death in 1973 at age 92.

2. Zoilo Versalles – He was another in a long line of stellar defensive shortstops with the franchise. Versalles earned callups during the final two seasons in Washington and was a starter in the first seven years in Minnesota (1959-67). He earned two All-Star selections, won two gold gloves, and led the league in triples three times.

Versalles had by far his best season on 1965 when he edged out several of his teammates and won the MVP Award while helping to lead the Twins to their first pennant in their new home. He posted a .273-19-77 stat line, posted career highs with 182 hits and 27 stolen bases, and led the league with 126 runs, 45 doubles, 12 triples, 122 strikeouts and 308 total bases. In the World Series, Versalles had three runs, eight hits, one homer and four RBIs (all in Game 1) during the seven-game loss to the Dodgers.

“Zorro” had 570 runs, 1,061 hits, 190 doubles, 87 home runs, 406 RBIs and 1,628 total bases in 1,109 games with Minnesota. The Cuban native overcame political upheaval in his home country early in his career to lead all A. L. shortstops in putouts and double plays twice each and become one of the most aggressive baserunners in baseball.

Versalles saw his numbers fall considerably in 1966, thanks to a heel injury that caused a hematoma in his lower back. Not only did the injury limited his baseball career, but it hampered him after he retired in 1971 following stints with the Dodgers, Indians, Senators and Braves. After one season in Japan, Versalles found little work after his playing days due to his limited English and deteriorating health. He was found dead in his home in 1995 at age 55 due to heart disease.

1. Joe Cronin – While he is known mostly for his time with Boston during his 20-year career, he was a two-time All-Star who finished in the Top 10 of the MVP voting three times during his seven seasons in Washington (1928-34). Cronin also was a player-manager for his final two seasons with the Nationals before he was traded to the Red Sox.

In addition to baseball, Cronin played soccer and tennis and ran track as a teenager. The San Francisco native passed up the chance to play for the well-known minor league team in the area, the Seals, to sign with the Pirates, but was a reserve because Pittsburgh had a solid starter at every position he could play.

Cronin came to Washington in 1928 and soon was one of the league’s best shortstops, both in the field and at the plate. He drove in more than 100 runs in five straight seasons and hit better than .300 four times. Cronin led the league with 18 triples in 1932 and finished second in the MVP voting the following year, when he hit .309 with 186 hits, a league-high 45 doubles and 118 RBIs. He was also the manager of the team, leading them to 99 wins and the American League pennant. He hit .318 (7-for-22) with two RBIs in the loss to the Giants.

The player-manager was an All-Star for the second straight season in 1934, but the Nationals fell to seventh place with a 66-86 record. Cronin was recruited by Boston, which kept upping its offer until owner Clark Griffith caved and traded him away. He went on to post a 1,071-916 record in 13 seasons as a manager with the Red Sox and earn five more All-Star selections as a player. Meanwhile, the Nationals/Senators franchise would not win another pennant until moving to Minnesota.

Cronin retired as a player in 1945 and his time as a skipper ended two years later. He was the general manager of the Red Sox for more than a decade and served as American League president from 1959-74. Cronin was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1956.

Upcoming Stories

Minnesota Twins Catchers and Managers
Minnesota Twins First and Third Basemen and Designated Hitters
Minnesota Twins Second Basemen and Shortstops
Minnesota Twins Outfielders – coming soon
Minnesota Twins Pitchers – coming soon

Previous Series

A look back at the Milwaukee Brewers

Milwaukee Brewers Catchers and Managers
Milwaukee Brewers First and Third Basemen and Designated Hitters
Milwaukee Brewers Second Basemen and Shortstops
Milwaukee Brewers Outfielders
Milwaukee Brewers Pitchers

Previous Series

A look back at the Miami Marlins

Miami Marlins Catchers and Managers
Miami Marlins First and Third Basemen
Miami Marlins Second Basemen and Shortstops
Miami Marlins Outfielders
Miami Marlins Pitchers

A look back at the Los Angeles Dodgers

A look back at the Los Angeles Angels

Los Angeles Angels Catchers and Managers
Los Angeles Angels First and Third Basemen and Designated Hitters
Los Angeles Angels Second Basemen and Shortstops
Los Angeles Angels Outfielders
Los Angeles Angels Pitchers

A look back at the Kansas City Royals

Kansas City Royals Catchers and Managers
Kansas City Royals First and Third Basemen and Designated Hitters
Kansas City Royals Second Basemen and Shortstops
Kansas City Royals Outfielders
Kansas City Royals Pitchers

A look back at the Houston Astros

Houston Astros Catchers and Managers
Houston Astros First and Third Basemen and Designated Hitters
Houston Astros Second Basemen and Shortstops
Houston Astros Outfielders
Houston Astros Pitchers

A look back at the Detroit Tigers

Detroit Tigers Catchers and Managers
Detroit Tigers First and Third Basemen and Designated Hitters
Detroit Tigers Second Basemen and Shortstops
Detroit Tigers Outfielders
Detroit Tigers Pitchers

A look back at the Colorado Rockies

Colorado Rockies Catchers and Managers
Colorado Rockies First and Third Basemen
Colorado Rockies Second Basemen and Shortstops
Colorado Rockies Outfielders
Colorado Rockies Pitchers

A look back at the Cleveland Guardians

Cleveland Guardians Catchers and Managers
Cleveland Guardians First and Third Basemen and Designated Hitters
Cleveland Guardians Second Basemen and Shortstops
Cleveland Guardians Outfielders
Cleveland Guardians Pitchers

A look back at the Cincinnati Reds

A look back at the Chicago White Sox

Chicago Cubs Catchers and Managers
Chicago Cubs First and Third Basemen
Chicago Cubs Second Basemen and Shortstops
Chicago Cubs Outfielders
Chicago Cubs Pitchers

A look back at the Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox Catchers and Managers
Boston Red Sox First and Third Basemen
Boston Red Sox Second Basemen and Shortstops
Boston Red Sox Outfielders and Designated Hitters
Boston Red Sox Pitchers

A look back at the Baltimore Orioles

Baltimore Orioles Catchers and Managers
Baltimore Orioles First and Third Basemen
Baltimore Orioles Second Basemen and Shortstops
Baltimore Orioles Outfielders and Designated Hitters
Baltimore Orioles Pitchers

A look back at the Atlanta Braves

Atlanta Braves Catchers and Managers
Atlanta Braves First and Third Basemen
Atlanta Braves Second Basemen and Shortstops
Atlanta Braves Outfielders
Atlanta Braves Pitchers

A look back at the Arizona Diamondbacks

Arizona Diamondbacks Catchers and Managers
Arizona Diamondbacks First and Third Basemen
Arizona Diamondbacks Second Basemen and Shortstops
Arizona Diamondbacks Outfielders
Arizona Diamondbacks Pitchers

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