Joe Mauer

No. 7 spent the bulk of last season fighting through injuries, and most fans who watched him grit his teeth and take his lumps in '07 saw a somewhat different player from the one who hit .347 in 2006. The defending batting champ lost some of his speed out of the batter's box, had a little trouble nailing his customary liners into the gap, and had to deal with media that kept nagging him about a "history" of injury. But even with all that injury and pressure, even with a season consisting of just over 100 games, Mauer continued to prove himself a solid cornerstone of an ever-changing Twins lineup. His .808 OPS was third only to Jorge Posada and Victor Martinez among American League backstops, while his .293 batting average and .382 on-base percentage are proof enough that a good eye can trump a bad leg. And behind the plate? Even accounting for limited duty, his strong, accurate arm (only one error in 777 innings of duty) made him a gamble to run against, and that trend can only continue. A hurt Mauer was one of the best catchers in baseball last year—and this year it looks like we'll be getting the healthy Mauer.


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