Twins Catchers Quietly Struggling
Image courtesy of Seth Stohs, Twins DailyBefore the 2017 season, the Twins signed Jason Castro to a three-year, $24 million deal. In 2017, he had easily his best offensive season since his All-Star season in 2013 with the Astros. Last year, Castro hit .242/.333/.388 (.720) with 22 doubles and ten home runs. While those aren’t great numbers for a hitter, they are very solid for a catcher, especially one credited to be as solid as he is defensively.
But right now, Castro has been struggling and because of Morrison and Grossman, few are talking about it. Following his 0-4 with three strikeout game on Wednesday night, Castro is hitting just .146/.241/.229 (.470). He has 20 strikeouts in 54 plate appearances. That’s 37%.
Defensively, Castro is a good pitch framer. Let’s be honest, those are the numbers that made him a free agent that several teams wanted last year. He is league average the last couple of years in terms of throwing out base stealers. He’s had his moments already this year in terms of blocking balls and such.
Of course, it’s also important to remember that we are talking about 54 plate appearances. He’s still at the point of the season where a 4-for-4 day would raise his batting average by .065, so there is no reason to worry at this point.
Mitch Garver was the Twins minor league player of the year last year after a big season in AAA. He made his debut. Now 27, he’s earned the opportunity to be on the big league roster. He’s been used mostly in a platoon role. Castro starts against right-handers while Garver gets the starts against southpaws.
Between that and the multitude of weather postponements, Garver hasn’t had much playing time. In fact, he went from April 10 until April 21 without playing. He’s had just 22 plate appearances in his eight games played this season. He’s hitting .200/.273/.400 (.673) with a double and a game-winning home run among his four hits. He has seven strikeouts in his 22 plate appearance (32%). Of course, if I want to use the if-he-goes-4-for-4-in-his-next-game scenario, Garver’s batting average would increase by .133.
Defensively, he has had his ups and downs. On Tuesday night in New York, he had a tough inning with a “wild pitch’ and an error, but he was also the catcher for Jose Berrios’s complete game shutout.
I said already last year that I thought Garver was the best overall catcher in the organization. Of course, at the time, he had zero major league service time. But I’ll stand by that comment. I think that Garver can be a good defensive catcher and a better-than-average hitting catcher. Of course, that will need to be proven over time. At this stage, it is simply opinion.
Jason Castro and Mitch Garver are the Twins two catchers, and they likely will be throughout the season, barring injury. As the Twins, hopefully, start playing a more consistent schedule, both catchers should be able to get into more of a regular routine with more consistent playing time.
Looking at Rochester to see what the options are as the Twins' #3 catcher, it’s easy to feel confident that Castro and Garver will remain the big league catchers.
Bobby Wilson went 0-3 with two walks on Wednesday. The 35-year-old veteran has two hits in his first 31 at bats (.065) with the Red Wings. Willians Astudillo is hitting .267/.290/.400 (.690) in his eight games for the Red Wings. And at AA, the Twins have defensive specialist Brian Navarreto and veteran Wynston Sawyer.
The Twins will need their catchers to pick it up over the next few weeks offensively. And there is little reason to believe that they won’t. Castro will likely end the season hitting .220 with about ten homers and strong defense. Garver isn’t proven, but if he gets enough consistent at-bats, he should certainly outperform Castro at the plate.
While catcher is an area in the organization that could use some depth (their top catching prospects are in Cedar Rapids - Rortvedt, Banuelos), I believe that their two major league catchers have a chance to be about league average for the position, and if that’s the case, it will really help the team.
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