This morning at 9:00 a.m. the annual Rule 5 draft will begin. First will be the Major League portion. It will be followed by the minor league portion. The Twins have had some successes in each. The nabbed 3B Brian Buscher from the Giants in the minor league portion. In the major league portion, they have added names like Gary Wayne, who was a solid lefty reliever for the Minnesota Twins for a few seasons, including 1991. The most recent success was Scott Diamond.

Today, I want to write about one of the most underrated players in Minnesota Twins history. In my opinion, this player is the best player that the Twins have selected in the Rule 5 draft.

The initial assumption many will make is that I am referring to Johan Santana. However, I don’t believe that he is at all underrated in Twins history. He also was not a player that the Twins selected in the Rule 5 draft. 

Admittedly, it may be semantics, but in that 2000 Rule 5 draft, the Marlins took Santana. The Twins used the 2nd pick to select RHP Jared Camp. The teams had previously agreed to a deal in which they would make those picks and then swap them, with money being exchanged as well.

In my opinion, the best player that the Twins have drafted themselves in the Rule 5 draft came to the organization on December 4, 1989.

Shane Mack was the first round pick of the San Diego Padres in 1984 after a great career at UCLA. His pro career began in the 1985 season because he played for Team USA in the 1984 Olympics. He debuted with the Padres in May of 1987 and hit .239/.299/.361 (.660) in 105 games (267 plate appearances). In 1988, he played in just 56 games for the Padres and hit .244/.336/.269 (.605) with three doubles. 1989, he played in just 24 games for the Padres AAA team, and hit just .225/.344/.325 (.669) in that time.

Although he had that first round pedigree, and the major college background, Mack was a bust to that point in his career. The Padres exposed him to the Rule 5 draft.

The Twins scouting personnel saw something in Mack that told them that he still had a chance to be a solid big league player. Maybe it was that they just saw a great athlete who needed a change of scenery. Whatever the reason, they selected him in that 1989 Rule 5 draft, and he came to big league camp in 1990. There is little risk in making a Rule 5 selection. It’s just $50,000 to make a pick, and if the player is returned, it is for $25,000. Or, in the case of Diamond, a trade can be worked out. According to Twins Trivia, the Twins have made 17 selections since 1986, and only two of those players remained on the Twins roster the entire season after being taken (Mack in 1989 and Wayne in 1988).

The Twins were a last place team in 1990, so the 26-year-old Mack got plenty of opportunity. In fact, he played in 125 games. He earned the playing time. He hit .326/.392/.460 (.852) with 10 doubles, four triples, eight homers and 44 RBI. He also stole 13 bases.

In 143 games in 1991, Mack hit .310/.363/.529 (.893) with 27 doubles, eight triples, 18 homers and 74 RBI. He added 13 more stolen bases and helped the Twins to their 1991 World Series championship.

He played in 156 games in 1992. He hit .315/.394/.467 (.860) with 31 doubles, six triples, 16 homers and 75 RBI. He stole 26 bases that season.

He had a down season in 1993. In 128 games, he hit .276/.335/.412 (.746) with 30 doubles, four triples, 10 homers and 61 RBI. He stole 15 bases.

His final season with the Twins came in 1995. He played in just 81 games, but he hit .333/.402/.564 (.966) with 21 doubles, two triples, 15 home runs and 61 RBI.

In those five seasons with the Twins, Mack’s OPS+ numbers were 133, 140, 139, 100, and 147. In 633 games, he hit .309/.375/.479 (.854). He hit 119 doubles, 24 triples, 67 home runs, and 315 RBI. He also stole 71 bases. His OPS+ was 130.

He became a free agent following the 1994 season. He spent the 1995 and 1996 seasons in Japan, playing for the Yomiuri Giants. He came back to the States and in 1997 and 1998, he played a total of 129 games for the Red Sox, A’s, and Royals.

When the Twins Hall of Fame ballot came out last month, Mack’s name was on it for the first time. It is inexplicable why a player who did that well for the Twins for a five-year stretch was only put on the ballot this year. Looking at the site results, based on number of tweets, we see Dan Gladden with 47 tweets while Shane Mack has just four tweets. Remember Mack’s 130 OPS+ in his five seasons with the Twins? Gladden’s OPS+ in his first season with the Twins was 90. Other front-runners include Corey Koskie, who deserves it at some point, but he has a 116 OPS+ in seven seasons. Chuck Knoblauch, who absolutely should be in the Twins Hall of Fame, had a 114 OPS+ in his seven seasons with the Twins. Of course, we shouldn’t make much of anything that’s voted by fans. Other deserving Twins Hall of Fame candidates, Dave Goltz (0) and Brian Harper (4) are not racking up twitter mentions either.

That it took so long for Mack to even be recognized on that ballot is one indication of just how underrated Shane Mack is in Twins history. During those five years, he was one of the top five outfielders in all of baseball. Did we appreciate at the time that the Twins had both Mack and Kirby Puckett roaming the outfield?

Shane Mack and Johan Santana are a couple of cases of the best case scenario of what can happen for a team using a Rule 5 draft pick. Scott Diamond’s 2012 season is certainly encouraging. If a team can find a player who performs to the level that LHP Gary Wayne did for the Twins for four seasons, that is a major success.

At Twins Daily today, we will be sure to highlight who the Twins select in the Rule 5 drafts, Major League and Minor League portions. We’ll also look back at any players that the Twins should happen to lose. 

Also at Twins Daily, the Forums have been quite busy throughout the Winter Meetings with a large variety of topics and rumors. Who are the Twins at risk of losing in the Rule 5 draft today? Is Ben Revere on the trade block, and should he be? Did the Twins dodge a bullet when Joe Blanton signed with the Angels and Jeff Francis re-signed with the Rockies last night?