The Rise of Josmil Pinto
There's Joe Mauer. Then a big, big gap. Sure, Ryan Doumit can technically sit there and intercept a pitch before it hits the umpire. But to call him a full-time catcher -- or even an adept one -- may be a stretch. Nothing against Doumit as a baseball player and hitter, but a reliable catcher he is not. And of course there was Wilson Ramos, but enough has been written on that chapter. And finally, Drew Butera. Calls a great game and has a great arm, but cannot hit his way out of AAA. Long story short, the Twins have been searching for their next catcher for quite some time.[PRBREAK][/PRBREAK]
Last season, I was on the Chris Herrmann bandwagon. And I still am, to an extent. He put together a very nice 2012, demonstrating that he could hit, he could catch and that he could even play left field. Rightfully, he started 2013 at AAA Rochester. Unfortunately, 2013 has been rough thus far for Herrmann. He's hitting only .242/.308/.274 with 3 doubles. Yes, it's still very early in the season, and that's important to note. But it's also accurate to state that the first month-plus of 2013 has been disappointing for Herrmann. There's no reason to write him off -- he still has more than 300 at-bats to accumulate this summer -- but I am disappointed that Herrmann has been so slow out of the gate in what is a very important season for him.
This preamble brings me to Josmil Pinto. While Herrmann has struggled, Pinto has flourished. Pinto, who turned 24 at the end of March, earned an "August call-up" to the Rock Cats last season after batting .295/.361/.473 with the High-A Ft. Myers Miracle. As I've written before, Pinto didn't disappoint. In 47 Rock Cats at-bats last season, he hit a nice .298/.365/.553. It's too small a sample size to determine anything other than that Pinto did indeed belong in AA.
This brings me to 2013. Pinto has undoubtedly been the Rock Cats' best hitter. As New Britain's starting catcher, Pinto has hit .341/.414/.550 in his first 129 at-bats. He has 7 doubles, 1 triple, 6 home runs, and 29 RBIs. Here's some league-wide information on Pinto, as of the date of this post. He's 3rd in the entire Eastern League in runs with 25; 2nd in hits with 44; tied for 2nd in home runs with 6; 1st in RBIs with 29; 1st in total bases with 71; 7th in on-base percentage at .414; 4th in slugging percentage at an even .550; 2nd in average at .341; and 2nd in OPS at .964.
I should reiterate that we are only in the second week of May. Pinto has not yet been around the league that proverbial "second time." But at the same time, he's demonstrating thus far that he has improved from 2012, that he can catch a good game (he has a good arm from what I've seen, but I have heard that he needs work framing pitches), and that it's time to start considering where he sits on the Twins' depth chart.
For my Twins' catching depth chart, I'm simply not going to count Drew Butera. It's the fan's prerogative, right? Nothing personal, but I've seen enough. He's earning more than major league minimum and the Twins have 2 other catchers that can do his job for less. So as of today, my Twins' depth chart at catcher is: Joe Mauer, Ryan Doumit, Chris Herrmann, Josmil Pinto. If Pinto keeps that average above .300, keeps hitting for extra bases -- and if Herrmann fails to correct his early season slide -- I'm prepared to switch those final two positions as soon as July, when Pinto more than likely will catch at New Britain Stadium as a member of the Eastern League All-Star Team.
But calling Pinto the next Twins' catcher is too simple a conclusion. Herrmann had a very good year last season and in my opinion, from having seen both catch a handful of games, Herrmann is a better receiver. There's a lot of baseball to go in 2013 and I'd like to see both Herrmann and Pinto have strong campaigns that force the Twins' front office to make a tough decision in 2014. As this team rebuilds, isn't that what we, as fans, want -- competition from qualified applicants for a spot on the team that will cost only $500,000? And competition that might make Ryan Doumit a tradeable asset this season or next?
There's a long way to go in 2013. But so far, so good with Josmil Pinto.