3 Questions Facing Twins Catchers During the 2020 Season
Image courtesy of © David Berding-USA TODAY SportsHow much will Mitch Garver regress?
Mitch Garver had a breakout season in 2019 as he compiled 31 home runs with a .995 OPS in only 93 games. Because of his offensive output, he was be awarded a Silver Slugger. Now entering his age-29 season, it’s going to be tough for him to repeat those numbers in 2020 so some regression can be expected. So how much will he come back to the pack?
Baseball Reference projects him hitting .263/.342/.510 (.852) with 22 home runs and 20 doubles in 413 plate appearances. This would be an increase of 54 plate appearances over last year when he set a career high with 359 PA. FanGraphs Steamer projections have him hitting .254/.333/.464 (.797) with 16 home runs and 18 doubles. They also see him getting into 90 games and having 378 plate appearances.
Most likely, Garver will be somewhere in the middle of these two different projections. It could also depend on what kind of baseball is being used throughout the big leagues. Either way, it seems unlikely for Garver to hit more than 30 home runs for the second consecutive season.
Will Alex Avila be used as much as Jason Castro?
In his first year as manager, Rocco Baldelli stressed the importance of rest for all his players and this was especially true for his two catchers. In fact, Jason Castro and Garver basically split the catching duties with Garver starting just one more game behind the plate than Castro. Minnesota brought in Alex Avila to replace Castro as the team’s second catcher, but how much will he be used during the season?
Baseball Reference projects Avila to get just over 320 plate appearances which would equate to roughly 80 games played. Steamer projections have him appearing in 51 games and getting 205 plate appearances. After Garver’s 2019 season, Baldelli might want to use him on a more regular basis but rest certainly seemed to help both catchers last year.
It seems likely for Garver to catch roughly 60% of the team’s games with Avila catching 35% and Willians Astudillo picking up the rest of the starts.
Will the Twins carry three catchers?
Because of a rule change this year, teams will now be able to carry 26 players on their active roster. This makes it easier for a team to consider carrying three catchers. Astudillo played in 58 games for the Twins last season, but only 17 of his starts came behind the plate. He was used at every infield position besides shortstop and in both corner outfield spots. This defensive flexibility could be one reason the Twins keep Astudillo on the roster.
In my initial Twins roster projection, I only had the Twins carrying two catchers with Astudillo being used in Rochester. The final battles for bench spots will be between Ehire Adrianza, Jake Cave and Astudillo. Adrianza is the team’s best defensive middle infielder, so he should have a bench spot. This leaves Cave and Astudillo fighting for the last spot, but realistically both players will be used at different points during the 2020 campaign.
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