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Rortvedt's MWL Encore Is Off To Strong Start

What a difference a year makes.

A year ago, Ben Rortvedt was getting his first taste of full-season minor league baseball after having been drafted out of high school in the second round of the 2016 amateur draft by the Minnesota Twins.

Things did not go well for the young catcher from Verona, Wisconsin. Through April, he was hitting only .096 with an OPS of just .229.

This spring, it was obviously important for the young catcher to get off on the right foot in 2018 and put that 2017 start well behind him.
Image courtesy of SD Buhr, Knuckleballsblog.com
Just 19 years old when he opened his first year of full-season minor league ball last season, Rortvedt admits he wasn’t used to dealing with the sorts of struggles he encountered a year ago.

“Yeah, last year did not go my way at all and I truly wasn’t used to that,” he recalled. “Since I started slow, I didn’t really know how to handle that. It was kind of rough for the first month or so. I tried to dig out of it and it was really kind of hard for me. I tried to change a lot of things.”

While he recovered over the second half of the season to hit right at .280 over the course of June, July and August, he decided this past offseason to go back to what he was familiar with, an approach he described as, “just simplifying everything and seeing the ball. That’s what I did going into spring training.”

Whatever he did, it seems to be working.

Posted Image
Ben Rortvedt (Photo : SD Buhr)

Despite a 1-for-11 stretch at the plate in his last three games going into Tuesday night, Rortvedt is still hitting .321 with an OPS of .773.

He can feel the difference, too.

“I feel really good,” he said. “I’m really comfortable with the league. I know what it’s about. I’ve been seeing the ball well and finding the barrel. “

His manager, Toby Gardenhire, can see the difference, too.

“There’s a reason they put guys in the minor leagues and they have them develop and they work them up through the system,” Gardnehire said. “It’s amazing what a year in a place like this will do. He comes back and he’s a totally different guy. He’s more confident now. He knows what to expect. He knows how to go about his day-to-day business a lot better than he did last year. He’s putting in the work and he’s having results.”

Gardenhire has noticed more than just greater experience, though. He’s seeing a level of self-confidence in Rortvedt that wasn’t there a year ago.

“It’s a confidence thing. If you go up to the plate and you don’t know what to expect from yourself and you’re just trying to make contact and you’re hoping that you do well, that doesn’t usually go very well,” the manager pointed out. “But when you’re going up there and you have a plan because you’ve been there and done it a little bit, then it changes your whole mentality and that’s what Ben’s doing right now.

“He’s got kind of a chip on his shoulder where he wants to go up there and be the guy. Last year, he kind of questioned himself a little bit, but this year I don’t see a whole lot of questioning himself in him.”
Posted Image
Ben Rortvedt (Photo: SD Buhr)

Hitting is a good thing, of course, especially for a guy drafted as high as Rortvedt was. But, as a catcher, what he does behind the plate is equally important, if not more so.

That’s an area where he’s making some adjustments to his game, as well.

For the first time since he joined the organization, the Twins have hired a catching coordinator to work with their minor league backstops. Tanner Swanson joined the organization in that capacity and Rortvedt couldn’t be happier about it.

“It was kind of frustrating not having someone to talk to about catching,” Rortvedt said, adding that Swanson’s arrival has changed that. “He’s very hands on, a very approachable guy.”

It has meant, however, that Rortvedt is working on changing the way he goes about his business behind the plate.

“The new big thing is receiving metrics, working a lot on receiving the ball the right way. It’s different from how I grew up catching.

Posted Image
Ben Rortvedt (Photo: SD Buhr)

“I grew up with more of an old style of catching, which was catch the ball where it is, try to make it look the best you can, be strong with the baseball. We’re moving more towards moving the baseball, trying to create strikes. So I’m kind of redefining myself behind the plate, trying to find a balance where I can still have my own flavor, but I can also move the baseball a little bit and create more strikes.”

It hasn’t necessarily been an easy adjustment to make all the time for Rortvedt.

“I grew up catching in seventh or eighth grade and I got really good at being strong with the baseball, so I’ve been fine tuning my game,” he explained. “It was almost frustrating in the beginning, but I think I’m starting to get more the hang of it. It’s a work in progress, just something to add to my game.”

Rortvedt’s workmanlike approach to the game is reflected in a simple goal for this year.

“I’m just out here to improve myself and win games,” he said. “If you win games, you’re probably doing well and contributing to the team.”

This article was originally posted at Knuckleballsblog.com.

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10 Comments

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ashburyjohn
Apr 25 2018 11:41 AM
He went 1-3 yesterday, so that BA is up just a little bit further still.
 
For those who want to keep up with Ben, his Adopt-A-Prospect page is expertly and entertainingly written by, well, modesty forbids me. Plenty more Twins prospects out there waiting to be adopted too!

“It was kind of frustrating not having someone to talk to about catching,” Rortvedt said

What. The. Bloody. Deuce? :)

Great stuff.  For every, say Miranda, that is off to a disappointing start, there is a Rortveldt that is shining.  Glad to see him persevere through--and learn from--last year.

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tarheeltwinsfan
Apr 25 2018 03:00 PM

Of all Twins' prospects, I feel Rortvelt is in the top 5 who need to progress the quickest and be major league ready the soonest. Who else do the Twinkies have in the minors who can shift positions to become a successful major league catcher?

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ashburyjohn
Apr 25 2018 03:06 PM

Of all Twins' prospects, I feel Rortvelt is in the top 5 who need to progress the quickest and be major league ready the soonest. Who else do the Twinkies have in the minors who can shift positions to become a successful major league catcher?

That is unfortunate, since Ben can't even legally buy a beer yet. (Buying beer is very important in the major leagues.)

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tarheeltwinsfan
Apr 25 2018 03:27 PM

What about 3B Andrew Bechtold being shifted to catcher? He has good size and a 60 rated arm. However maybe catcher is a position which takes more years to learn than other positions? Can the Twins get a good young catcher by a trade. Does anyorganization have an excess of young catchers? The Twins are 1 injury away from calling up a minor league catcher. Who would be called up in the event of an injury to Castro or Garver?

What about 3B Andrew Bechtold being shifted to catcher? He has good size and a 60 rated arm. However maybe catcher is a position which takes more years to learn than other positions? Can the Twins get a good young catcher by a trade. Does any organization have an excess of young catchers? The Twins are 1 injury away from calling up a minor league catcher. Who would be called up in the event of an injury to Castro or Garver?


Guys get moved off of catcher.
It's the most difficult position on the spectrum. Nobody moves to catcher.
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howieramone2
Apr 26 2018 09:14 AM

Our visiting expert from the Braves, said this is the strongest draft for catchers in sometime. I would be very surprised if we didn't take one fairly quickly. The new regime is all about depth.

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LimestoneBaggy
Apr 26 2018 09:50 AM

 

Guys get moved off of catcher.
It's the most difficult position on the spectrum. Nobody moves to catcher.

Except Escobar :) 

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diehardtwinsfan
Apr 26 2018 05:30 PM

 

Our visiting expert from the Braves, said this is the strongest draft for catchers in sometime. I would be very surprised if we didn't take one fairly quickly. The new regime is all about depth.

I personally would be very happy if we walked away with 2 or 3 in the top 10. I would be drafting lots of pitching and catching in this draft.

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diehardtwinsfan
Apr 26 2018 05:31 PM

 

What. The. Bloody. Deuce? :)

 

I had a somewhat similar reaction to that quote. The idea that the org never had anyone directly working with catchers is something I have no words to describe. 


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