2018 Minnesota Twins Roster Projections - The Catchers
Image courtesy of Kim Klement, USA TodayWe will start this series by looking at the Twins catchers. Jason Castro will be the starter. A year ago, he received a three year, $24.5 million contract, primarily for his pitch framing abilities. He responded with his best offensive season in four years. Chris Gimenez was his backup a year ago, but the Twins non-tendered him, and he remains a free agent. Could he come back? Could the Twins bring in another catcher to back up Castro? Or, could they finally give Mitch Garver a real opportunity? And how much depth is there in the Twins minor league system behind the plate?
However, who will be the backup to Castro, and how will the rest of the catchers fit into the rest of the organization?
Minnesota Twins - Jason Castro (30), Mitch Garver (27)
Jason Castro was signed for his defensive presence a year ago, but he put up his best offensive numbers since his All-Star season in 2013. He’s the starter. As of right now, the back up catcher role is Mitch Garver’s. He was the Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Year in 2013 and again in 2017. Last year in Rochester, he hit .291/.387/.541 (.928) with 29 doubles and 17 home runs. His defense has come a long way since he was drafted in 2013 out of New Mexico. Frankly, it’s time for him to get a real shot. Castro bats left-handed. Garver bats right-handed. Garver can also play first base if needed and has enough bat to DH or pinch-hit when he isn’t behind the plate.
Rochester Red Wings - Bobby Wilson (34), WIllian Astudillo (26)
With so many pitchers with potential (starters and relievers) who should see time in Rochester in 2018, it was important to provide them with a catcher who can help them. The Twins quickly signed veteran Bobby Wilson who has spent parts of eight of the last ten seasons in the big leagues. He’s played 324 combined MLB games for the Angels, Diamondbacks, Rays, Rangers and Tigers. He spent 2017 on the Dodgers AAA roster.
Astudillo is a 26-year-old Venezuelan who spent most of his career in the Phillies organization before signing with Atlanta for 2016 and Arizona in 2017 where he reached AAA for the first time. In 36 games for Reno, he hit .342/.370/.558 (.928) with 14 doubles and four homers. Plus, it’s hard not to like a guy who is built like, well, me.
Chattanooga Lookouts - Brian Navarreto (23), Kevin Garcia (25), Brian Olson (25), Wynston Sawyer (26)
The Twins added another minor league catcher who spent 2017 in the Dodgers organization (the Jeremy Zoll Effect?) in 26-year-old Wynston Sawyer. He spent 2010 through 2016 with the Orioles before playing last year for the Dodgers’ AA team in Tulsa. Brian Navarreto reached AA in 2017. He continues to be as good as anyone in the organization defensively but has not been able to turn the corner with the bat. Kevin Garcia had a real strong first half of the Miracle last year with the bat. He’s a good leader and solid behind the plate. Brian Olson missed a lot of time in 2017 due to a broken foot.
Ft. Myers Miracle - Ben Rortvedt (20), Mitchell Kranson (23), Caleb Hamilton (22)
It’s possible that Rortvedt could start the year back in Cedar Rapids where he started the season very slow with the bat, but he showed his mental toughness in how he improved as the season went on. There’s no questioning his defensive ability. He is very good behind the plate with a strong, accurate arm. Kranson began 2017 in Cedar Rapids and spent the second half of the season with the Miracle. Don’t be surprised if he progresses similarly in 2018, spending half the season in Ft. Myers before moving up to Chattanooga for the second half. He’ll catch, play first base, maybe some third base, possibly some outfield and certainly DH. 2017 was Caleb Hamilton’s first season behind the plate and he impressed people with his improvement. Like Kranson, he can play all over. He played third base and left field for the Kernels, and Tommy Watkins said he wouldn’t have felt uncomfortable had he needed to play him at shortstop.
Cedar Rapids Kernels - David Banuelos (21), Rainis Silva (21), Andy Cosgrove (21), Bryant Hayman (25)
Banuelos came to the organization from the Mariners in December in exchange for $1 million in international bonus money. He was Seattle’s fifth-round pick in 2017 out of Long Beach State. There are questions about his bat, but there are a lot of people who think that he is nearly big-league ready defensively. Rainis Silva spent part of 2016 in Cedar Rapids. He returned to Elizabethton in 2017, a step back, but it might be a case of one step back, and two steps forward because he finally hit with the E-Twins. He hit .356/.446/.446 (.892) in 30 games. Andy Cosgrove was the Twins 17th-round pick in 2017 out of North Carolina State. He hit .221 in 21 games in his pro debut. Hayman signed as an undrafted player after putting up monster numbers throughout his college career at Valdosta State. Unfortunately, he missed the entire 2017 season due to surgery on his ACL.
Extended Spring Training - Robert Molina (21), Jhon Alvarez (20), Kidany Salva (19), Kerby Camacho (20), Taylor Grzelakowski (24)
In his second season at Elizabethton, Robert Molina hit .253 with six extra-base hits in 25 games. After three years in the DSL, Alvarez has spent two seasons in the GCL. He played 18 games and hit .205 (and he played in one game for the Miracle). Kidany Salva was the Twins 17th-round pick in 2016 out of high school in Texas. The Puerto Rican native hit .159 in just 17 games. Camacho was the team’s 11th-round pick in 2015 out of Puerto Rico. He missed all of 2016 due to suspension. He returned and posted a .706 in 21 games in the GCL. The Twins signed Grzelakowski from the Utica Unicorns of the United Shore Professional Baseball League last summer and he finished the year with 12 games in the GCL. He’s worked really hard, lost a lot of weight without losing power, so he could be a sleeper.
Top Prospects: 1.) Mitch Garver, 2.) Ben Rortvedt, 3.) David Banuelos, 4.) Mitchell Kranson, 5.) Rainis Silva, 6.) Brian Navarreto
So what do you think? Who will start the season as Jason Castro’s backup? Which prospects are you most excited about in 2018?
Please feel free to discuss and ask questions in the Comments below.
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