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2017 Minnesota Twins Roster Projections - The Catchers

Today I’ll start a series in which I am going to try to (somewhat) predict which players will start the season at which levels, which affiliates. It’s a fun exercise to try to predict. I’m going to include everyone who is currently in the organization. As you know, the unfortunate side of the business is that some players will not be in the organization following spring training. Hopefully this series will spur some interesting discussion.

We’ll start today behind the plate. Kurt Suzuki has been the Twins primary catcher the last three seasons. He left via free agency and recently signed with the Atlanta Braves. The Twins looked to free agency this offseason for a replacement and signed one early. Jason Castro received at three year, $24.5 million contract, primarily for his pitch framing abilities.
Image courtesy of David Richard, USA Today
However, who will be the backup to Castro, and how will the rest of the catchers fit into the rest of the organization? Let's walk through the catchers throughout the Minnesota Twins organization.

Minnesota Twins - Jason Castro (29), John Ryan Murphy (25)

No, aside from spring training injury, there is no way that Jason Castro isn’t the team’s primary catcher coming out of spring training. So really it’s all about who the backup will be to start the season. I think going into spring training, there are three guys on pretty equal footing.

John Ryan Murphy got the job last year but really struggled in the season’s first month. He spent most of the rest of the season in Rochester. He was very good defensively, but the offense never came on for more than a couple of weeks at a time. He’s still just 25. He has one option remaining.

Mitch Garver was just added to the Twins 40-man roster (so he’s got three options left). He was drafted and immediately started hitting. However, over the last three seasons, he has developed into a very solid defensive backstop. He’s got a strong arm and his pitch framing numbers are acceptable and improving.

Chris Gimenez was brought in recently on a minor league deal, which puts him a little bit behind the eight-ball. He’s a veteran who has been around a long time. He’s definitely a backup type. Also, he’s played for Cleveland and Texas in recent years so Derek Falvey and Thad Levine are very familiar with him.

Which of the three will be the backup?


Rochester Red Wings - Mitch Garver (26), Chris Gimenez (34), Eddy Rodriguez (31)

Well, the other two will be at Rochester. If Garver is in Rochester, he will continue to get the majority of time behind the plate but will also get to DH and play first base. Murphy would catch at least 50% of the time if he’s there. Gimenez would likely have the same role in Rochester as he would have in the big leagues, backup catcher.

Eddy Rodriguez has been around a long time. The 31-year-old was born in Cuba, came to the States and played in high school and college in Miami. He’s played in AAA each year since 2011, and he even played in two games for the Padres in 2012.



Chattanooga Lookouts - Brian Navarreto (22), Dan Rohlfing (27)

Rohlfing spent the first eight seasons of his pro career in the Twins system including spending the entire 2014 season in Rochester. He left and had spent the last two seasons playing in the Mets and Diamondbacks systems. The 27-year-old may find himself splitting time between AA and AAA.

Navarreto remains a big prospect behind the plate. That’s mostly because he is a big man. Unfortunately to this point his bat hasn’t been big. But I maintain hope that it will improve at some point, at least enough to be a quality backup backstop. Defensively, Navarreto fits into the elite category. He has a huge arm and does very well behind the plate.


Ft. Myers Miracle - AJ Murray (23), Kevin Garcia (24), Brian Olson (24)

Murray was a Midwest League All-Star in 2016. Right after the game (in which he homered), he was promoted to the Miracle (and homered in his first game). He’s got work to do defensively, and after hitting well in Cedar Rapids, he struggled with the Miracle.

Kevin Garcia came to the Twins as a free agent before the 2016 season. He moved back and forth between Ft. Myers and Cedar Rapids. He is solid with the glove and a good leader for a pitching staff. He caught every game for the Kernels once the playoffs started.

Brian Olson played in the GCL, Cedar Rapids, Ft. Myers and even a game in Rochester. He’s got some bat and puts together quality plate appearances. He’s solid defensively and could likely ride the same roller coaster in 2017.


Cedar Rapids Kernels - Ben Rortvedt (19), Rainis Silva (20), Bryant Hayman (24)

Rortvedt was the Twins second-round pick in 2016 out of high school in Wisconsin. While it’s possible he could start the season in extended spring training, he will be the primary catcher wherever he is. He’s got plenty of room for improvement across the board, but he’s got the tools to develop into a very good player.

Bryant Hayman began the 2016 season in Cedar Rapids but really struggled and went back down to extended spring training where he got hurt while at Elizabethton.

Rainis Silva is a solid defensive catcher. He hasn’t hit, and he’s still young. He spent the second half of the 2016 season with the Kernels.

Mitch Kranson played a lot of third base in college, but he went to Instructs to catch, and that's where he would like to play going forward. So expect him to do a lot of catching.

Extended Spring Training - Justin Hazard (23), Dominic Blanco (21), Robert Molina (19), Jhon Alvarez (19), Kerby Camacho (19), Kidany Salva (18)

Blanco was released by the Mariners midseason last year and the Twins quickly signed him. He got into a handful of games in the GCL, and he should bump up to E-Town this year. Robert Molina can catch but he struggled with the bat at E-Town last year. He’ll likely head back there. Jhon Alvarez is young and debuted in the States in 2016. He is likely to repeat the level.

Kidany Salva was drafted last year. A Puerto Rico native, he moved to Texas for his senior year in high school. While he is very young and will head back to the GCL, he has some potential to be good both offensively and defensively.

The Top Prospects

1.) Mitch Garver,
2.) Ben Rortvedt,
3.) Brian Navarreto,
4.) Kidany Salva,
5.) AJ Murray

So what do you think? Who will start the season as Jason Castro’s backup? Which prospects are you most excited about in 2017?

Please feel free to discuss and ask questions in the Comments below.


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32 Comments

No question Murphy has the experience factor over Garver with solid ML time before joining the Twins. But Garver is the better prospect with more potential. As long as he gets to play in some sort of rotation/platoon and not languish on the bench, he would be my choice. Though I could see the merit of him begining the season in Rochester if Murphy shows anything with the bat in ST.

My pick remains Garver.

Rortvedt has my attention for all the obvious reasons, but I will be watching Murray closely this season. A player can work on his defensive craft behind the plate, provided he has at least some natural aptitude and ability there. But being a quality hitter seems to be a more natural talent. And we all know catchers who can actually hit and provide solid offense are rather rare.
    • Oldgoat_MN and goulik like this

 

No question Murphy has the experience factor over Garver with solid ML time before joining the Twins. But Garver is the better prospect with more potential. As long as he gets to play in some sort of rotation/platoon and not languish on the bench, he would be my choice. Though I could see the merit of him begining the season in Rochester if Murphy shows anything with the bat in AT.

My pick remains Garver.

Rortvedt has my attention for all the obvious reasons, but I will be watching Murray closely this season. A player can work on his defensive craft behind the plate, provided he has at least some natural aptitude and ability there. But being a quality hitter seems to be a more natural talent. And we all know catchers who can actually hit and provide solid offense are rather rare.

'

I'm a big believer in Garver, offensively and now defensively. But there's a reason Murphy was highly thought of. He's had 2-3 solid MLB seasons backing up Brian McCann. Murphy is almost a year younger. 

 

Garver has two months in Rochester. One was terrific. One wasn't.  I don't think another month or two would be bad for him. But I think he's ready. 

    • ThejacKmp, goulik, nytwinsfan and 1 other like this

I think Seth has it correct, to start the year. Once the season starts, it will depend on whether or not Murphy and Garver hit (assuming health, of course).

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twinsfan2018
Feb 03 2017 09:00 AM

I disagree with you I think Ben Rortvedt is a better prospect than Mitch Garver.  I think Rortvedt is the better prospect and I don't think it is that close.  Yes Garver has a higher floor than Rortvedt, but I don't think anyone can disagree that Ben has a much higher ceiling.  Let me know what you think.  By the way check out my podcast over at blogtalkradio.com called Minnesota Sports Weekly.  

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twinsfan2018
Feb 03 2017 09:05 AM

I just don't see what everyone sees in Garver he is a solid catching prospect, but in my mind Murphy brings so much more to the table.

 

Travis Aune Co-host of Minnesota Sports Weekly

I agree with the org rankings at the bottom. Since Garver is viewed as a better option than Murphy, he starts in AAA getting everyday at-bats, while Murphy finds at-bats when he can at the MLB level. If Castro goes down with injury, Garver becomes the every day C in Minnesota. 

Vanimal Host of Minnesota Twins Whine Line

    • Mike Sixel, Twins33, bluechipper and 2 others like this

 

I just don't see what everyone sees in Garver he is a solid catching prospect, but in my mind Murphy brings so much more to the table.

 

Travis Aune Co-host of Minnesota Sports Weekly

 

Well, I think pretty much everyone would say that Garver has a better bat than Murphy (Though again, Murphy is better than what he showed in 2016). Defensively, I think that Murphy is likely a bit better, but Garver has improved so much defensively that most think he can be a bit above average.

    • bluechipper likes this

I like our position at catcher better than any year since Mauer went down. Not having a backup plan for what became Mauer's catching demise was a huge organizational mistake. I like this year having Castro as the starter and Murphy as the backup with Garver on his heals. If Murphy stumbles, Garver comes in. If both stumble we have Chris Gimenez. If both do well, we have someone to trade away mid season. 

    • Mike Sixel, Twins33, bluechipper and 1 other like this

I think that there will be a 3-way battle for the second MLB-level catcher, and the one who will hit LH pitching better will win that spot.Hard to tell who is ahead right now, but the 2 younger ones might have a leg up :)

 

After a .505 OPS season at Fort Myers, I see Navarreto as a candidate for release not promotion. I just cannot see him at AA over any of the 3 names you have with Miracle.I suspect that Olson stats at AA with either another FA catcher or Garcia up there as well, with Navarreto repeating at Fort Myers, along with Murray and Silva.I cannot see Silva and Rortvedt in the same team.

 

I think that as prospects go, I am a bit more pessimistic, because I just have 3 catchers (Garver, Rortvedt, and Silva, in that order) in my top 60 Twins' prospects.And Garver's ceiling projects as that of a potential average starter at the position.Hard to tell about the other two because they are so young, in a position that requires more development than most positions to make it to the bigs.Definitely a position for the Twins to focus on the draft or in trades.That 3 year contract to Castro means that they will not likely need someone before 2020, but that someone might not be in the organization yet...

    • goulik likes this

And the Twins get another catcher on board.29 year old former Rockie & Cardinal Jose Gonzalez, last of the Gary South Shore RailCats.Likely Chattanooga-bound.

 

And the Twins get another catcher on board.29 year old former Rockie & Cardinal Jose Gonzalez, last of the Gary South Shore RailCats.Likely Chattanooga-bound.

 

He could... but he's more likely a post-spring training release... or a sit-in-Ft. Myers waiting for an injury candidate.

Seth, what are the chances Stuart Turner gets returned from the Reds, and where would they play him?

 

Maybe they work out a trade so he is sent the Reds minors?

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diehardtwinsfan
Feb 04 2017 02:18 PM

 

I disagree with you I think Ben Rortvedt is a better prospect than Mitch Garver.  I think Rortvedt is the better prospect and I don't think it is that close.  Yes Garver has a higher floor than Rortvedt, but I don't think anyone can disagree that Ben has a much higher ceiling.  Let me know what you think.  By the way check out my podcast over at blogtalkradio.com called Minnesota Sports Weekly.  

 

I like Rortvedt, but I'd like to see him do something before I make that statement. Garver will make the majors, and probably this year at some point. Rortvedt still has a very long road ahead of him.

    • Oldgoat_MN likes this
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diehardtwinsfan
Feb 04 2017 02:21 PM

So to comment on Seth's projections, I think those are spot on. I'd give Murphy the first shot at backup, and let Garver get a bit more time in the high minors.One place to rethink might be swapping Navaretto for Murray. Murray hit pretty well, even in FTM and is a college guy that should be moved a bit quicker. Navaretto, on the other hand was drafted out of HS and his bat never really showed potential. I have no issues letting him repeat FTM. He's been rushed as he advanced.

    • brvama likes this

Murphy was terrible at both defense and with his bat. It's not automatic that he will start the season as the backup catcher.

 

Seth, what are the chances Stuart Turner gets returned from the Reds, and where would they play him?

 

Maybe they work out a trade so he is sent the Reds minors?

 

I had the same question.  I suspect that Mesoraco's health will have some bearing - but more likely the trade scenario.

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jorgenswest
Feb 04 2017 09:21 PM

Any chance the Twins carry 3 catchers? The Indians made news carrying 3 catchers on the roster in the ALDS (Perez, Gomes, Gimenez).

 

Falvey and Levine know Gimenez well. I would not be surprised if he were the number 2 or 3 catcher on the roster. I have no way to value his presence on the bench but he must bring something unmeasured to the game that keeps him employed. If he is on the roster as the 25th man, I will trust that Falvey's sees value that is not measured well by the metrics we have available.

    • Oldgoat_MN likes this

 

Any chance the Twins carry 3 catchers? The Indians made news carrying 3 catchers on the roster in the ALDS (Perez, Gomes, Gimenez).

 

Falvey and Levine know Gimenez well. I would not be surprised if he were the number 2 or 3 catcher on the roster. I have no way to value his presence on the bench but he must bring something unmeasured to the game that keeps him employed. If he is on the roster as the 25th man, I will trust that Falvey's sees value that is not measured well by the metrics we have available.

 

I think it would be very valuable to have an emergency catcher on the 25-man roster.

It would have to be someone who could play other positions and could actually hit.

 

Cesar Tovar used to be the emergency catcher for the Twins and he actually caught. I was told he would catch a couple of ST games each year so, if needed, he wasn't too terribly raw, but I have no first hand knowledge of this. (i.e. the guy who told me that story has a tendency to make things up)

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jorgenswest
Feb 05 2017 08:39 AM

I think it would be very valuable to have an emergency catcher on the 25-man roster.
It would have to be someone who could play other positions and could actually hit.
 
Cesar Tovar used to be the emergency catcher for the Twins and he actually caught. I was told he would catch a couple of ST games each year so, if needed, he wasn't too terribly raw, but I have no first hand knowledge of this. (i.e. the guy who told me that story has a tendency to make things up)


I am not talking about an emergency catcher though Gimenez did play some 1B and 3B last year. He also has played OF. That isn't my vision of an emergency catcher but rather and emergency corner player.

Our new GM came from an organization that valued catching enough to put 3 catchers on the ALDS roster. Is it possible that he would do the same with the Twins roster this year? Is there some value a veteran catcher like Gimenez brings on the bench and in the bullpen that exceeds the value of a guy like Santana, a bench bat or a 13th pitcher?
I don't think the Twins will come out of the gate with three catchers.

I also predict that the backup will be Gimenez.
    • Gheggs08 likes this

 

I am not talking about an emergency catcher though Gimenez did play some 1B and 3B last year. He also has played OF. That isn't my vision of an emergency catcher but rather and emergency corner player.

Our new GM came from an organization that valued catching enough to put 3 catchers on the ALDS roster. Is it possible that he would do the same with the Twins roster this year? Is there some value a veteran catcher like Gimenez brings on the bench and in the bullpen that exceeds the value of a guy like Santana, a bench bat or a 13th pitcher?

 

I would be very surprised. I think if you go into the playoffs with a 3rd catcher that is an interesting move. If you try to play through a season with 3 catchers it would limit your bench too severely. 

 

Our new GM came from an organization that valued catching enough to put 3 catchers on the ALDS roster. 

 

I think it's a different thing for the playoffs and the regular season. The Native Americans may have been thinking that since they have weak hitting catchers they might want three so they could pinch hit twice during an extra inning game. That's a luxury they had because the playoffs requires less starting pitching.

 

Hard to see that being a focus during the regular season for a team that isn't expected to compete.

My big thing is wanting to see more of a platoon on the major league level than a starter-backup relationship. Castro has no business starting against most lefties - I'd like to see JRM playing those days (and I'd like to see Garver in AAA so he can get a ton of playing time).

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diehardtwinsfan
Feb 05 2017 11:19 AM

Playoffs are different simply b/c the pitching staff can be reduced. You don't need a 5th starter (or even a 4th in some cases) and with multiple days off between games, you don't need your worst options in the pen. Carrying an extra bat for flexibility makes sense.... unless of course you are Ron Gardenhire who refuses to play rookies and likes to let pitchers face only one batter.

My big thing is wanting to see more of a platoon on the major league level than a starter-backup relationship. Castro has no business starting against most lefties - I'd like to see JRM playing those days (and I'd like to see Garver in AAA so he can get a ton of playing time).

Unless he's changed his mind, Molitor has already said he'd platoon Castro. He was interviewed not long after Castro signed.
    • ThejacKmp likes this

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