The Minnesota Twins made Denard Span their number one pick during the 2002 draft, taking the young outfielder out of Tampa Catholic High School in Florida. The 20th overall selection, Span began paying immediate dividends in the Twins organization, and is currently a top position player prospect within the system. After making his Major League debut in April, Span has reached the pinnacle of professional baseball in only five years, but he is ready to accomplish much more.
Span began his career playing for the Elizabethton Twins of the Appalachian League, where he showed the ability to be a catalyst from day one. After swiping 14 bases, scoring 34 times in 50 games, and smacking five doubles, the Twins felt he would be ready for full-season ball the following season.
In 2004, a broken hamate bone would rob Span of some of his season, but he would be honored by being named to the Midwest League All-Star Game. Though he did not play in the game, it would be the first of three straight All-Star Game appearances, as he was honored by the Florida State League in 2005, and the Eastern League in 2006.
Making All-Star Games is a great honor for Span, but early in his career he could feel the pressure to perform.
”I felt pressure when I was younger,” Span explained when asked is he felt the need to perform being a first round pick. “Now, I realize it does not matter what round you were drafted in.”
All-Star Games were not the only honors bestowed on Span throughout his successful minor league career, as he was often named one of the top prospects in his respective leagues, including the seventh best prospect in the Florida State League, as well as the 14th best prospect in the Eastern League back in 2005. In 2006, Span was among the Twins leaders in plenty of statistics, including leading the organization in plate appearances (536), hits (153), and runs (80).
Aside from being a pest at the top of the lineup, Span is also rated as the best outfield prospect in the Twins organization defensively, which is something he prides himself on.
”I always pride myself on my defense,” Span told TwinCitiesDugout.com. “I think that good defense outweighs good offense any day.”
A speedster, Span has the ability to set the table against any pitcher, and that is something that he feels is something he brings to the table. “Of course I feel my defense is my best attribute, but I also have the ability to change ball games on the offense side with my speed.”
After appearing in a career-high 139 games for the Rochester Red Wings in 2007, his first season of Triple-A ball, Span felt ready to make the Twins roster right out of Spring Training in 2008. During the spring, Span batted .282 for the Twins, and many people believed he would be with the Twins when they broke camp, but that did not happen.
”I was disappointed when I found out I was going back to Triple-A,” Span told us. “But that was because I worked so hard from the second half of the year, to the off-season, and into Spring Training.”
However, Span took his second stint in Rochester in stride, really making adjustments at the plate and becoming even more of a force in the Rochester lineup. He has taken what he learned last season into 2008, and the results have been great.
”I have just been continuing from last year’s second half,” Span explained. “I’m just trying to be more selective and more patient.”
The disappointment from not being with the Twins to open the season quickly faded when Span was promoted to the Major Leagues in April.
”It was surreal,” Span said. “It was amazing. I will definitely never forget those three weeks.”
Though Span will always remember his first stint in the big leagues, he plans to be there for a long time in the future.
”There is no question that I am confident that I can play everyday in the Major Leagues.”
For now, that dream is on hold, as he recovers from a broken finger, but there is no doubt that he will be a Major Leaguer once again. Span is a very driven young man who knows what he wants in life, and that is put on that big league uniform everyday.
”My goal is to get healthy first,” Span said. “Then I can continue doing what I have been doing so that I can get another crack at the Show.
After five years in the minors, numerous All-Star nominations, countless organization awards, and continued success, Span is certainly a part of the future of the Minnesota Twins organization.