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Keiunta Denard Span
- Bats Left, Throws Left
- Height 6' 0", Weight 185 lb.
- High School Tampa Catholic High School
- Debut April 6, 2008
Outfielder Denard Span was a first-round pick in the 2002 amateur draft and made his major league debut six years later.
Span played for the US junior national team in the 2001 Junior Pan Am Games. He hit .450 with 12 RBI in 40 AB. He was third on the team in RBI behind Jeff Francoeur and Mike Nickeas, beating out B.J. Upton among others. Span helped the US win its first Silver Medal ever in the event and joined teammates Nickeas, Francoeur, Nick Crowe and Jeremy Sowers on the tournament All-Star team.
In high school in 2002, Span batted .490 with 24 steals. The Minnesota Twins took him in the first round of the 2002 amateur draft, 20th overall and the third outfielder picked after college players Jeremy Hermida and Nick Swisher and 3 spots before Francoeur. Span was signed by scout Brad Weitzel for a $1.7 million bonus.
He made his pro debut with the Elizabethton Twins in 2003, hitting .271/.355/.319 with 14 steals in 19 tries in 50 games. Baseball America rated him as the 9th-best Appalachian League prospect. He spent most of 2004 with the Swing of the Quad Cities, hitting .267/.363/.308 and making the Midwest League midseason All-Star team. He only played 64 games for the Swing due to injury.
He began 2005 with the Ft. Myers Miracle, with whom he hit .339/.410/.403 and made the Florida State League mid-season All-Star team before being promoted to the AA New Britain Rock Cats in June. He hit .285/.355/.345 in 68 games for New Britain. His composite .307 average led Twins farmhands. Baseball America rated him as the #7 prospect in the Florida State League and #14 in the Eastern League. Had he qualified, he would have led the FSL in batting average.
Span returned to New Britain in 2006 and hit .285/.340/.349 with 24 stolen bases in 35 attempts, earning himself a spot on the Eastern League mid-season All-Star team. His 80 runs and 153 hits led Twins minor leaguers. He led Eastern League outfielders in putouts (306) and double plays (5) and led the EL in hits. He spent the following year with the Rochester Red Wings, with whom he hit .267/.323/.355 with 25 steals - but was caught stealing 14 times. He led International League outfielders with 359 putouts.
In his major league debut for the Twins on April 6, 2008, Span hit 9th and played right field. He grounded out against Brett Tomko in his first at-bat and walked his next time up. In the 8th, he grounded out against Leo Nunez. He was named to the 2008 Topps All-Star Rookie Team that season, after hitting .294/.387/432 in 93 games; he also played 40 games at Rochester, where he hit a sizzling .340. In 2009, he led the American League in triples with 10 and hit .311, collecting 180 hits and scoring 97 runs. He also had 10 triples in 2010, coupled with 24 doubles, but his average fell to .264 and his OBP to .331. Injuries limited him to only 70 games in 2011, when the Twins fell out of contention in the AL Central; he hit .264/.328/.359 that season. he was healthy again in 2012, and while the Twins still struggled on the field, he bounced back towards his earlier production levels, ending up at .283/.342/.395 in 128 games, with a career-high 38 doubles. He split time between right and center field in his first two seasons in Minnesota, then was exclusively a centerfielder in the next three years.
Span was traded to the Washington Nationals in return for minor leaguer Alex Meyer before the 2013 season. That year, he had the longest hitting streak in the majors in August and September at 29 games, beating out former teammate Michael Cuddyer who had put together a 27-game streak earlier in the year. The streak was one shy of the Nationals record of 30, set by Ryan Zimmerman in 2009. He hit .279 in 153 games with a National League-leading 11 triples. He had 170 hits, scored 75 runs and had 20 stolen bases in 26 attempts. In 2014, he tied former Twins teammate Ben Revere for the ML lead in hits with 184, scored 94 runs and hit .302 with 39 doubles and 31 steals in 38 attempts. His excellent performance contributed to the Nationals winning the NL East division title. In the Division Series against the San Francisco Giants, he only went 2 for 19 with a walk as Washington made an early exit. His 2015 season was wrecked by injuries, however, mainly back and abdominal issues that kept him out from July 7th to August 25th. He was playing well before that, hitting .304 in 59 games. He played two games after returning, but then went right back to the DL on August 27th, this time with inflammation to his left hip, an injury that appeared related to the previous ones. His season was over, bad news for the team, as it had struggled badly in his absence. In deed, the Nats were badly distanced by the New York Mets over the last month of the season, with Span unable to play, and missed the postseason altogether.
Span became a free agent after the 2015 season and was pursued by a number of teams. On January 7, 2016, he signed a three-year deal with the San Francisco Giants for $31 million. On Opening Day, April 4th, he drove in 5 runs and hit the first of three consecutive homers by Giants players off Milwaukee Brewers reliever Ariel Pena in the 8th inning to begin his career with his new team with a flash. The Giants won the game, 12-3. He played 143 games, hitting .266 with 11 homers and 53 RBIs and scoring 70 runs. He also went a combined 5 for 19 in the postseason, scoring 3 runs, all in the Giants' loss to the Chicago Cubs in the Division Series. In 2017, he improved to .272 with 12 homers and 43 RBIs with 73 runs in 129 games, while his OPS+ climbed from a disappointing 93 to an even 100. With the Giants trying to re-stock after a 98-loss season, he was traded on December 20th to the Tampa Bay Rays along with IF Christian Arroyo and prospects Matt Krook and Stephen Woods in return for 3B Evan Longoria. It was not clear, however, if the Rays really wanted to have him in their starting line-up or would instead prefer to flip him to another team with more immediate plans to contend for the postseason.
"When I lead off a game, that at bat doesn't belong to me. That at bat is for my teammates. I'm trying to get on base for them any way I can. And I'm trying to make the pitcher show his slider or his changeup before he really wants to." - Span in the April 5, 2010 Sports Illustrated.
- 2008 Topps All-Star Rookie Team
- NL Hits Leader (2014)
- 2-time League Triples Leader (2009/AL & 2013/NL)