The Minnesota Twins today announced the recipients of the Diamond Awards, their annual awards for the 2023 season, based on voting conducted by the Twin Cities Chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America and the Twins Community Fund Board of Directors. In addition, the Twins and the BBWAA announced plans for the 19th annual Diamond Awards, which will be held on Thursday, January 25, 2024 at The Armory in Minneapolis and will benefit research, education and care in brain, nerve and muscle disorders at the University of Minnesota. Since its inception in 2006, the event has raised nearly $4 million through a combination of corporate sponsorships and money raised through auction items.
Right-handed pitcher Sonny Gray is the winner of the Most Valuable Twin Award and the Joseph W. Haynes Award (former Twins Executive Vice President) for Twins Pitcher of the Year. The 2023 American League All-Star went 8-8 with a 2.79 ERA (184.0 IP, 57 ER), 55 walks, 183 strikeouts, a 1.15 WHIP and a 2.82 FIP in 32 regular season starts for the Twins. Gray ranked second among qualified AL hurlers in ERA (third in MLB), and was tied for first among Twins pitchers in starts, while ranking second in innings pitched and third in strikeouts. The 33-year-old allowed just eight homers over the course of the regular season, posting an MLB-leading 0.39 home runs-per-9.0-innings ratio – the lowest single-season mark by a qualified pitcher in Twins history (1961-present).
Infielder Royce Lewis is the winner of the Bill Boni Award (former St. Paul Dispatch-Pioneer Press Executive Sports Editor), given to the Twins Most Outstanding Rookie. Lewis hit .309 (67-for-217) with seven doubles, 15 home runs, 52 RBI, 20 walks, six stolen bases, 36 runs scored, a .372 on-base percentage, a .548 slugging percentage and a .921 OPS in 58 games for the Twins during the 2023 regular season. Four of his 15 home runs came with the bases loaded, setting a new Twins/Senators single-season record for grand slams; he also matched Alexei Ramirez (4 for CWS in 2008) for the most grand slams in a single season by a rookie in American League/National League history (1901-present). The 24-year-old also ranked among major league rookie leaders (minimum of 200 at-bats) in batting average (1st), slugging percentage (1st), OPS (2nd), on-base percentage (3rd) and batting average on balls in play (.354, 4th).
Catcher Ryan Jeffers is the winner of the Charles O. Johnson Award for Most Improved Twin. Jeffers hit .276 (79-for-286) with 15 doubles, two triples, 14 home runs, 43 RBI, 33 walks, three stolen bases, 46 runs scored and an .858 OPS in 96 games for the Twins in the 2023 regular season. The 26-year-old matched his career best in home runs (also, 2021), while setting single-season career highs in nearly all major offensive categories including games played, runs scored, doubles, triples, walks, stolen bases, batting average, on-base percentage (.369), slugging percentage (.490) and OPS. Jeffers also led all catchers (minimum of 250 at-bats) in batting average on balls in play (.359) and OPS+ (136.5), and ranked second in OPS, third in slugging percentage and on-base percentage, and sixth in batting WAR (1.5).
Shortstop Carlos Correa is the winner of the Bob Allison Award (former Twins player), given to the Twins player who exemplifies determination, hustle, tenacity, competitive spirit and leadership both on and off the field, and the Jim Kaat Award (former Twins pitcher) for Twins Defensive Player of the Year; he earns both awards for the second-straight year. After re-signing with the Twins in January, Correa hit .230 (118-for-514) with 29 doubles, two triples, 18 home runs, 65 RBI, 59 walks, 60 runs scored and a .711 OPS in 135 regular season games for Minnesota. The 29-year-old led the Twins in games played while ranking fourth among qualified shortstops in fielding percentage (.987) and fifth among American League shortstops in innings (1,144.1). He also committed just six errors on the season, fewest among all shortstops (minimum of 1,000.0 innings). Correa’s average throw velocity of 88.2 mph was also second among all shortstops (minimum of 500 throws) behind Kansas City’s Bobby Witt Jr. (88.6 mph). In addition to his steady play in the field, Correa was once again one of the Twins’ key guiding voices both on the field and inside the clubhouse, helping both veterans and younger players alike be the best versions of themselves.
Right-handed pitcher Pablo López is the winner of the Mike Augustin (former Pioneer Press Sports Writer) “Media Good Guy” Award and the Carl R. Pohlad Outstanding Community Service Award. López went 11-8 with a 3.66 ERA (194.0 IP, 79 ER), 48 walks, 234 strikeouts and a 1.15 WHIP in 32 starts during the 2023 regular season, earning his first career All-Star selection. From the time of his first Zoom with the club’s beat writers in January until the final time he spoke with the media after the Twins’ playoff run ended in October, López endeared himself to everyone covering the team with his friendliness and candor, providing insight into who he is as a player and a person. Off the field, Pablo and his wife, Kaylee, devoted themselves to Twins Territory via donating to the Minnesota Twins Community Fund (MTCF) and by being regular presences at community events, including helping sort donations at the United Way of Lee, Hendry and Glades Counties processing center during spring training, visiting hospitals during the season, volunteering during the organization-wide Twins Week of Service, speaking at schools, participating in the MTCF High School Leadership Academy and spending hours signing autographs for fans at TwinsFest.
Pittsburgh Pirates right-handed pitcher Mitch Keller is the winner of the Dick Siebert Award (former University of Minnesota Baseball Coach) given to the Upper Midwest Player of the Year. A native of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Keller went 13-9 with a 4.21 ERA (194.1 IP, 91 ER), 55 walks, 210 strikeouts and a 1.25 WHIP in 32 starts for the Pirates in 2023, en route to his first career All-Star selection. Pittsburgh’s Opening Day starter set single-season career bests in wins, starts, strikeouts, innings pitched and WHIP, and was one of 17 pitchers in 2023 to reach 200 strikeouts.
Current Twins third base/outfield coach and former infielder Tommy Watkins is the winner of the Kirby Puckett Award for Twins Alumni Community Service. A member of the Twins organization since being selected in the 38th round of the 1998 First-Year Player Draft, Watkins’ commitment to bettering communities around Twins Territory spans from his hometown of Fort Myers, Florida to the Twin Cities. During the 2023 season, Watkins participated in the Twins’ annual free glove giveaway, mentored young athletes in North Minneapolis, visited childhood cancer patients during an in-season hospital visit, spoke with young athletes at Twins youth camps, visited Twins fans across the Upper Midwest on Twins Winter Caravan and signed autographs at TwinsFest. In addition to his team-sponsored activities, Watkins established the Tommy Watkins Foundation in 2020 to enrich communities through educational, social and athletic activities, and he continued to work with his foundation through a food drive and golf tournament in 2023.
The 19th annual Diamond Awards will honor the 2023 BBWAA award recipients (including the to-be-determined winners of the Herb Carneal Lifetime Achievement Award and the Terry Ryan Play Ball! Minnesota Award), as well as the winners of the Sherry Robertson Award (Brooks Lee) for Twins Minor League Player of the Year and the Jim Rantz Award (Cory Lewis) for Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year. All proceeds from the event will benefit the University of Minnesota’s innovative research and patient care focused on ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), ataxia, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease. The 19th annual Diamond Awards will take place on Thursday, January 25, 2024 at The Armory in Minneapolis. For more information on the event visit diamondawards.umn.edu or call (612) 624-4897.
(info courtesy of Twins)