Mauer, taken first overall in the 2001 draft (ahead of Mark Prior, which has seemed better and better) tore through the minor leagues as an offensive and defensive powerhouse at catcher; a rare find to be sure. The local boy lived up to expectations in his first full season in the majors putting up a line of .294/.372/.411 in 2005. He led the American League in batting in 2006 hitting .347 and again in 2008 hitting .328. 2006 also saw his career high in home runs: 13.
Entering 2009 Mauer’s home run totals were 6,9,13,7 and 9 or a total of 44. Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA forecast projected Mauer at 10 home runs this year and a modest .307 batting average. Not content to stay within the margins of his career norms, Mauer came out swinging hitting .366 with 28 home runs (more than half his career total!) in a season he began on the disabled list. Even more impressive, Joe has carried the Twins to a tie for the division lead with the Tigers, even with his slugging partner Justin Morneau getting shut down for the season in mid-September.
With at least one game left in 2009, Mauer is set to win his third batting title, the only catcher in history to do so. Mauer is currently tied with Hall of Fame catcher Ernie Lombardi as the only catcher to win 2 such awards. Other players have had good and even great seasons this year, but Joe Mauer, is leading not only in advanced statistics, but all 3 slash stats. Combined with his defense, you can’t be more valuable than that.