Jump to content

Providing independent coverage of the Minnesota Twins.
Subscribe to Twins Daily Email

The Forums

Article: Twins Minor League Report (6/26): Lewis Homers,...

Twins Minor League Talk Today, 07:02 AM
The Twins opened a series in Boston on Monday night and the affiliates played eight games, six of which will be profiled here. (The two D...
Full topic ›

Article: Red Sox 4, Twins 1: Sale Outduels Berrios

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 06:55 AM
Jose Berrios pitched much better than the box score suggests, as he went blow-for-blow with Chris Sale before the Twins bullpen allowed a...
Full topic ›

Article: Kintzler Has Been Twins Bullpen's Unlikely Hero

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 06:51 AM
His palms are sweaty. Knees weak, arms are heavy. There's vomit on his sweater already, mom's spaghetti. He's nervous, but on the surface...
Full topic ›

Article: Coming Soon: Starting Pitching (But How Soon?)

Twins Minor League Talk Today, 07:02 AM
Anyone who is reading this site is a big Minnesota Twins fan. Anyone who is a big Twins fan realizes that this team needs pitching. A lot...
Full topic ›

Article: Searching For Relief

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 06:55 AM
"The two most important things in life are good friends and a strong bullpen."--- Bob Lemon, Hall of Fame PitcherThe Twins bullpen would...
Full topic ›

Backup Backstop Battle Royal?

The Twins new catching duo has helped elevate the pitching staff to respectability, but is it time to break up the backstop tandem of Jason Castro and Chris Gimenez? The veteran pair has drawn rave reviews for their leadership and ability to manage a pitching staff, but both are struggling to provide much offensive value.
Image courtesy of Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports (photo of Chris Gimenez)
Castro has had some nice stretches, but overall his batting line heading into Thursday was .202/.304/.360. That should come as no surprise, however, as that’s nearly identical production to his 2016 campaign. Castro is who he is, the Twins knew exactly what they were getting into. He has his flaws, but he’ll certainly be the primary catcher for the foreseeable future.

Being a career .257/.355/.391 hitter against left-handers, Gimenez looked like a logical platoon mate for Castro. His defensive flexibility was also a plus when the Twins opened the year with a three-man bench, and his ability to pitch in an emergency doesn’t hurt his cause, either. After going 1-for-4 Thursday afternoon, however, the 34-year-old has a .195/.327/.268 line for the season. Altogether, Twins catchers ranked 20th in wRC+ (80) and 23rd in OPS (.646) heading into Thursday’s games.

By all accounts there are a lot of intangibles Gimenez has added to the Twins. It’s also worth noting that the team is 5-6 in games he’s started behind the plate, so it’s not like he is crippling the team. But considering how the Twins Triple-A catchers are performing, you have to wonder if maybe there is a better option to back up Castro.

Rochester One-Two Punch

Down in Rochester, Mitch Garver and John Ryan Murphy have split playing time right down the middle at 18 games each. Both are off to strong starts, as they rank as the top two hitters in OPS among current players on the Red Wings’ roster.

Garver, who is actually a few months older than Murphy, has been particularly impressive, hitting .255/.397/.473. If he had enough plate appearances to qualify, his .870 OPS would rank just outside the top 10 in the International League.

Murphy has looked much better than last season, posting a .232/.306/.446 (.780 OPS) line. His biggest advantage over Garver comes in terms of experience, having 141 big league games under his belt.

Murphy also has some better defensive numbers than Garver so far, besting him in caught stealing percentage (42 to 29) and passed balls (3 to 5), though Murphy has committed two errors and Garver zero. While neither is considered a liability in terms of pitch framing, they also don’t have reputations of being elite in that discipline either.

Three Catchers?

If the Twins were to replace Gimenez, I would expect Murphy would be the guy who got the call. It’s easy to forget he hit .267/.311/.374 over 284 plate appearances with the Yankees prior to falling on his face for the Twins last year. The team is trying to stay competitive, and Murphy is probably better suited to step in and contribute right away considering his familiarity with the league and the MLB pitching staff.

But, if the Twins were looking to add a third catcher, I’d imagine Garver would be the guy. If the Twins were looking to add a right-handed bat to the bench, you’d be hard pressed to find a better option than Garver down on the farm right now. Sure, it’s great to see ByungHo Park back, but he’s still not on the 40-man roster and has hit just .179/.179/.321 in seven games since returning from injury.

As much as I like the defensive upside of Ehire Adrianza, it doesn’t make a ton of sense to have him and Eduardo Escobar on the same bench. Swapping Garver for Adrianza would give the bench some more offensive firepower and provide Paul Molitor with flexibility. Adrianza would likely get claimed on waivers, but the Twins do have Engelb Vielma, who is another similar player, on the 40-man roster.

I know a lot of people hate the idea of having three catchers, but Castro is so vulnerable against lefties (career .192/.254/.289 hitter off southpaws) that having the ability to pinch hit for him late in games could be a big asset. You’re never going to see Paul Molitor do that when he’s only got two catchers on the roster because the very last thing he ever wants to do is put his emergency catcher, Escobar, behind the dish.

Forgotten Man

It’s easy to forget the Twins could also be getting Stuart Turner back at any moment. The former third-round pick of the Twins was taken by the Reds in the Rule 5 draft this year, but he’s only gotten 27 plate appearances in Cincinnati's 39 games this season.

Turner was basically brought in to be insurance, but Devin Mesoraco is healthy and has caught back-to-back games a few times this month. Tucker Barnhart has filled in admirably as the Red’s primary catcher in Mesoraco’s absence the past two seasons. For now, the Reds are sticking with three catchers, but Turner’s days there could be numbered.

The Reds had to give the Twins $50k to acquire Turner, and if they were to remove him from their 25-man roster the Twins could get him back for $25k. Maybe the Twins would prefer to work out a trade and let the Reds keep Turner, who knows, but I suspect at some point they will have the opportunity to re-acquire him if they so desire.

Bottom Line

The Twins are off to a better start than expected and there seems to be a positive vibe in the clubhouse. Certainly much more so than last year. Gimenez has contributed to both those factors, so it’s probably premature to be talking about jettisoning him from the roster. But, if the team decides to go another direction, they have no shortage of options to back up Castro.


  • Share:
  • submit to reddit
Subscribe to Twins Daily Email

Subscribe to Twins Daily Email

43 Comments

 

But, it's pretty outstanding to look down and see every hitter on the 40 man currently in the minors is making something of a case for a callup (Garver, Murphy, Vielma, Palka and Granite).

I'm not seeing too much of a case for a few of those guys.  Palka's K's are down, but so is his generally offensive effectiveness: his wRC+ at AAA in 101, his ISO less than either Garver's and Murphy's so far.  I'd guess he might be making something of a case for being dropped from the 40-man later this year, as much as he's making a case for a callup.  Vielma had a decent start repeating AA, but has looked overmatched as expected in first outings at AAA.  Still early, of course, but he looks very much like someone you wouldn't want to call up this year unless you had a roster emergency.

 

The two catchers are hitting well, though, and Granite is continuing his Ben Revere impression, which could be useful on the MLB bench under the right circumstances.

Photo
Ryan Atkins
May 19 2017 12:20 PM

I would like to see them wait a bit longer.

Maybe if they were to trade Escobar, then it could make sense to bring up Murphy as a 3rd catcher.

But if we're starting to characterize a .232 BA at AAA as a "strong start", then it suggests he can't do much better than that. And those numbers probably drop at the big league level (down to say Castro/Giminez level).

Either way, this seems a low impact decision whichever way they go.

 

In unrelated news: Chris Herrmann (.185) hit a walk-off HR for the D-backs a couple nights ago.

Folks, there just aren't many Buster Posey's out there. The 7th top hitting catcher in MLB is hitting a whopping .214

    • ashburyjohn, Sconnie and howieramone2 like this
Photo
LA VIkes Fan
May 19 2017 12:33 PM

Wow, that's telling. I guess it just shows that teams all around the leagues are valuing defense over offense at the catcher position. I think the Twins problem is not that they have weak hitting catchers, we kind of expected that coming into the season, but they also have a weak hitting centerfielder, corner outfielders who are not ready yet to hit in the middle of the order, and the two veterans at first and second base are not hitting much although Mauer is starting to come around a little. We do have the DH spot to get that additional middle of the order bat, but we haven't been able to find anyone give us that level of production. I think a lot of the hitting issues at the catching position become a whole lot less important if we can find someone to consistently DH and consistently provide production in the middle of the order. Unfortunately, Vargas has not done that yet this year and Park was injured and has not done that yet at AAA since he came back. We really don't have anyone else.

 

I think the solution is  glaringly simple.  We need to find a middle of the order bat to be the DH. That would lessen the load on everyone else and we could then carry a weak hitting catcher and a weak hitting centerfielder without much trouble. Does anyone know of anyone who might be available in trade that hits but doesn't really field much so they won't be too expensive?

    • Ryan Atkins likes this

Wow, that's telling. I guess it just shows that teams all around the leagues are valuing defense over offense at the catcher position. I think the Twins problem is not that they have weak hitting catchers, we kind of expected that coming into the season, but they also have a weak hitting centerfielder, corner outfielders who are not ready yet to hit in the middle of the order, and the two veterans at first and second base are not hitting much although Mauer is starting to come around a little. We do have the DH spot to get that additional middle of the order bat, but we haven't been able to find anyone give us that level of production. I think a lot of the hitting issues at the catching position become a whole lot less important if we can find someone to consistently DH and consistently provide production in the middle of the order. Unfortunately, Vargas has not done that yet this year and Park was injured and has not done that yet at AAA since he came back. We really don't have anyone else.

I think the solution is glaringly simple. We need to find a middle of the order bat to be the DH. That would lessen the load on everyone else and we could then carry a weak hitting catcher and a weak hitting centerfielder without much trouble. Does anyone know of anyone who might be available in trade that hits but doesn't really field much so they won't be too expensive?


A veteran bat with minimal defensive value is one of the cheapest assets available at the deadline, so that's nice.
    • howieramone2 likes this

 

Wow, ........ Does anyone know of anyone who might be available in trade that hits but doesn't really field much so they won't be too expensive?

 

Depends, do you mean for this year, or for the next 5+ years? those lists are VERY different.

 

For example, the Dodgers have a minor leaguer that some think has no position, but he can really hit. That's very different than saying that bad team X has player Y that can hit.

Photo
LA VIkes Fan
May 19 2017 12:50 PM

I would be in favor of a veteran bat for the short term rather than trying to get another developmental player or someone who could be around long-term unless the positional fit is perfect.  My thought is we have a pretty good developmental team that could potentially stay in contention longer if we had a good veteran middle of the order bat to complement Sano. It would also let the younger players develop without having to be  that second run producer, something I think is beginning to weigh on Kepler and even Sano. It would be kind of like adding Don Baylor or Chili Davis oh so many years ago and hopefully could be done  at a realistic price. I have to  tell you that I'm still fantasizing that Justin Morneau could be that guy but I know I'm wrong.  Anyway, Justin Morneau two years ago was kind of the concept.

    • Mike Sixel and Ryan Atkins like this
The idea that Castro and Giminez have had this magical benefit is folly. Neither can hit and the magic framing factor seems to have disappeared. I think we will eventually learn that a catchers ability to frame pitches is largely dependent on the pitcher throwing the pitch.

 

But if we're starting to characterize a .232 BA at AAA as a "strong start", then it suggests he can't do much better than that.

It's the slugging.  Murphy actually leads Rochester in isolated power at the moment, ahead of Garver and even Palka and Vargas.

 

It's not worth shaking up the MLB roster for him yet, but it's nice to see some signs of life in Murphy after his 2016 season.

    • Tom Froemming likes this
Photo
ashburyjohn
May 19 2017 02:51 PM

Folks, there just aren't many Buster Posey's out there. The 7th top hitting catcher in MLB is hitting a whopping .214

That's a useful page, but defaults to players with "qualified" numbers of plate appearances. That might be somewhat appropriate for discussion of every other fielding position, but catchers should be held to a looser standard because of the more-frequent days off built into their careers.

 

You have to drop the number of 2017 plate appearances to 75 to get 31 players, i.e. approximately one for every team. Fourteen of these guys are batting .270 or higher.

 

(Jason Castro appears in the list of 31, but not in the top 14. :) )

 

That's not perfect either, because some of those guys are DHing or playing other positions at times. but ranked lists are just a first cut at understanding anyway.

    • spycake likes this

 

In that case, I'd bring up Murph, and let Garver get even more ABs and steady catching work- some of it with pitchers who may be Twins before long themselves.

It is May and at this point in the season you don't cut competent players (especially catchers) like Gimenez (Adrianza was also mentioned) so a player can get an extra 30 PA/month. Injury (esp catchers) happen and suddenly the team would be down to two competent catchers in AAA/MLB. Getting into July when there are 2+ months left then you can make a move like this and figure things out for the remainder of the year if something suddenly happens.

    • DJSim22 likes this
Honestly I don't know what I would do probably nothing while we are winning but neither Castro or giminez is good enough to block a legit prospect.
Photo
jorgenswest
May 20 2017 12:43 PM
Changing the catching was the only real move this front office made as they take over. They chose Castro and Giminez knowing they wouldn't hit much. They must believe the value they bring to roster contributes significantly to preventing runs. I find myself agreeing with them though this skill is very complex to measure. Some of the pieces can be measured over the long term.

If you don't support Falvey and Levine's only fundamental roster decision, it is hard to imagine that you would support their continued role leading the Twins front office.
    • h2oface likes this

Who?

no, no, he was traded to get Kevin Jepsen
On behalf of statisticians, I want to apologize. For some reasons, the merits of which are not discussed here, to qualify for AVE rankings, one must qualify by AB's. Sure.

But, to qualify for OBP, and thus, OBP + SLG, of which the ability to take walks (which, as we all know, are Plate Appearances, but not AB's) is a big positive, one would suggest PAs (under which he would qualify) should be used instead of AB's.

Take note BBWA (and SABR)! I'm on to you!

 

no, no, he was traded to get Kevin Jepsen

 

What? (Never gets old...) :)

    • Sconnie likes this

Changing the catching was the only real move this front office made as they take over. They chose Castro and Giminez knowing they wouldn't hit much. They must believe the value they bring to roster contributes significantly to preventing runs. I find myself agreeing with them though this skill is very complex to measure. Some of the pieces can be measured over the long term.

If you don't support Falvey and Levine's only fundamental roster decision, it is hard to imagine that you would support their continued role leading the Twins front office.

While I didn't expect Castro would hit much, I didn't think he would be as poor at the plate as he has been so far. And...... I expected him to catch more pitches. PBs and WPs that sure looked like they were catchable. The miscue at the plate on the great Buxton throw..... I have been disappointed in his glove more than his bat even.

Plenty of season for him to perform better, though.
Photo
Rhino and Compass
May 22 2017 11:30 PM

And to think, I was upset when Josmil Pinto left. 

    • HitInAPinch likes this
Photo
Brock Beauchamp
May 23 2017 06:22 AM

 

While I didn't expect Castro would hit much, I didn't think he would be as poor at the plate as he has been so far. And...... I expected him to catch more pitches. PBs and WPs that sure looked like they were catchable. The miscue at the plate on the great Buxton throw..... I have been disappointed in his glove more than his bat even.

Plenty of season for him to perform better, though.

Why did you expect him to be better? His OPS is almost exactly between his last two seasons.

 

I was worried Castro would be a little worse with the stick than he has been this season. He has modest power but played half his games in Houston, which gave the illusion of a bit more power than he actually has (going into the season, he had nearly twice as many homers at home than he did on the road).

 

I'm quite satisfied with Castro's play.


Similar Articles


by Tom Froemming , Yesterday, 09:03 PM
Photo


by Tom Froemming , 24 Jun 2017
Photo


by Eric R Pleiss , 22 Jun 2017
Photo


by Tom Froemming , 22 Jun 2017
Photo


by Seth Stohs , 21 Jun 2017
Photo