Considered one of the Twins' top prospects heading into the 2010 season, Valencia got his first opportunity in the Majors at the start of June when Michael Cuddyer was placed on the bereavement list. At the time, Valencia's stay was expected to be just a few days, but injuries to other players prolonged it and the rookie eventually earned a regular spot in the lineup.Prior to arriving in Minnesota, Valencia hadn't gotten off to a strong start at Triple-A Rochester. He batted .292 with 15 doubles but no home runs in 49 games for the Red Wings. There were questions as to where his power had gone. But the slow start turned into what was an incredible season for Valencia, and he wound up finishing the year as a candidate to join the Twins who've won Rookie of the Year honors: Tony Oliva (1964), Rod Carew (1967), John Castino (1979), Chuck Knoblauch (1991) and Marty Cordova (1995). "He's learned the game and how to handle himself," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of Valencia toward the end of the 2010 season. "He's listened to other hitters, he's watched film of pitchers. The physical ability is there. When we got him up here he was willing to listen and he worked. He is a nice looking player."
al rookie of the year voting
|Neftali Feliz, TEX||20||7||1||122|
|Austin Jackson, DET||8||19||1||98|
|Danny Valencia, MIN||1||9||12|
|Wade Davis, TB||11||11|
|John Jaso, TB||1||3|
|Brennan Boesch, DET||3||3|
|Brian Matusz, BAL||3||3|
One thing that hampered Valencia's candidacy for Rookie of the Year was the fact that he didn't spend a full season in the Majors. And while Valencia never headed back to the Minors after his callup, it took a little bit of time for him to gain an everyday spot in the lineup. Once he did, though, Valencia wound up playing a key part in the Twins' success.In 65 games after the All-Star break, Valencia ranked first among American League rookies in batting (.311), RBIs (37) and doubles (16). He was also second in hits (75) and third in home runs (seven) over that span. "He's made a difference in a lot of games, and single-handedly won a handful," starter Kevin Slowey said during the final month of the season. "It's been great for us. He was a guy that everybody knew he had the talent and it would just be a matter of time of getting up here and getting some repetitions." And though the Twins might not have added another Rookie of the Year winner to the organization, thanks to Valencia they'll head into this winter for the first time in a number of years without a question mark at third base.
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.