Behind the Dish: Twins Catchers in 2021
Image courtesy of Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports2020 was supposed to be the year of Mitch Garver. Following a breakout year in 2019 highlighted by Silver Slugger honors, it seemed as if nothing could stop the craft beer loving, New Mexico State alum.
The baseball gods thought otherwise.
2020 presented a wide array of challenges for Garver. In addition to spending significant time on the Injured List, Garver had a career-worst year at the plate, batting just .167 with 12 hits in 23 games. Not ideal for a player who was expected to help anchor the return of the ‘Bomba Squad.’
Things got spicy when Ryan Jeffers entered the picture. The Raleigh, North Carolina native was called up in mid-August after Garver and Byron Buxton were both placed on the IL. Despite it being his MLB debut Jeffers did not look like a rookie, batting .273 with three home runs in 26 games.
And to make things even more complicated the Twins saw 26 appearances from seasoned veteran Alex Avila. Avila didn’t exactly break the bank at the plate, batting just .184 with a meager two RBI. Still, Avila managed to draw a decent number of walks and provided a valuable veteran presence in the clubhouse.
In a year where Garver, Jeffers, and Avila all saw similar playing time, there was one clear standout; Ryan Jeffers.
However, we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg from the UNC-Wilmington alum. Bumping him immediately to the role of everyday catcher could be premature, considering he’s only had 62 MLB plate appearances.
There’s no guaranteeing that the Twins will have all three 2020 catchers next season. Alex Avila was signed to a one year, 4.25 million dollar contract for 2020. That’s up now and it’s unlikely that the Twins will keep Avila given his age and lack of production at the plate.
Yet there is benefit to carrying three catchers on an MLB roster; especially three catchers who have a diverse wealth of experience and differing talents. Let’s take a look at why each of these guys could provide value to the 2021 Twins.
Everyone deserves a second chance; and by everyone I mean Mitch Garver. There is complete validity behind the criticism that he received for his lackluster performance at the plate this season. Yet it’s important to remember that not only was Garver pretty damn good last year, but that he is by no means an MLB veteran.
Garver entered the league in 2017 and just finished his fourth season. In all retrospect, he hasn’t worn the hat of ‘starting catcher’ for a long enough time period to be considered a bust. And on top of his stellar 2019 campaign at the plate, Garver is rock solid defensively behind the dish.
Ruling Mitch Garver a bust because of a bad 60 game season in which he was injured would be wrong. Give him another chance.
The 2020 Twins Daily Rookie of the Year opened the eyes of Twins fans with his high powered swing and efficiency behind the plate. Jeffers was one of the few beacons of light on offense for a Twins team that underperformed all season at the plate.
There has been a strong voice for Jeffers to assume the role of starting catcher following an excellent rookie season. That argument was reinforced by Rocco Baldelli starting Jeffers in both playoff games against the Houston Astros.
Ryan Jeffers should play a significant role in fulfilling the catching duties for the 2021 Twins; that’s without a doubt. However, the young buck is far from being an old bull. There’s no hurt in easing Jeffers into the role of an everyday player. We’ve already seen him play in pressure situations- the Twins should take their time in grooming the young star.
On a team filled with young players it’s important to have seasoned veterans like Alex Avila in the clubhouse and on the field. Not only has Avila been in the league for 12 years, he knows the AL Central better than just about anyone else. He’s spent seven-plus years in a Tigers uniform in addition to a season on the south side of Chicago.
There’s no denying that Avila’s numbers are declining. After winning the Silver Slugger in 2011 Avila’s numbers on offense have slowly trickled in the wrong direction minus a few spikes in Detroit. Despite his ability to draw walks it’s unlikely that the Twins will be able to rely on Avila’s offense if he sticks around in 2021.
Yet Avila’s leadership role could be especially critical in helping shape Ryan Jeffers into an outstanding Major League Catcher. The 33 year old has seen it all and can prove valuable amongst his younger cohorts.
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