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MLB.com report on instructional league prospects

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In case you haven't seen it, mlb.com has published an article on the prospects at instructional league camp and their progress.   ht...
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Feel free to chime in here about any of the (non-Twins) 2020 MLB postseason games!
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Re-Load vs. Re-Tool vs. Re-Build for 2021

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The Twins certainly have options this winter now that the core has been here long enough to make some tough calls. Which is the best rout...
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Contemplating the Twins Catching Conundrum

Entering the postseason one of the things that will be interesting to watch is how the catcher situation shakes out. Coming into the year it would have seemed all but certain that Mitch Garver would be the number one backstop barring injury, but his struggles combined with rookie Ryan Jeffers’ prowess on both sides of the ball put Garver’s status in doubt.
Image courtesy of © Jeffrey Becker - USA Today Sports
After a season for the ages in 2019, it’s hard to paint Garver’s 2020 as anything but a complete disaster. Granted it’s a small sample and Garver’s been banged up (including a recent stint on the IL), but after slashing a Piazza-like .273/.365/.630 (155 wRC+) last season, Garver’s .148/.243/.197 (25 wRC+) likely has Drew Butera blushing. He’s striking out at a 42.9% clip, and hasn’t turned things around since coming off the IL (1-for-9 against the Cubs with 66.7% K-rate).

Garver’s obviously not as bad as his disastrous shortened season would suggest, but he’s running out of time to turn things around and rookie Ryan Jeffers has made a compelling case to get the majority of the starts come October. It makes sense to get Garver as many reps as possible to try to get right for the remainder of the regular season, but beyond that it’s an open question.

Since receiving his call-up, Jeffers has been somewhat of a revelation on both sides of the ball. He’s slashed a really good .283/.365/.478 (132 wRC+) in 23 games, and although he’s swinging and missing a bit more than he did in the minor leagues (32.7 K% vs. 19.2% at AA in 2019), his bat basically hasn’t skipped a beat (he hit.287/.374/.483 at AA).

For the time being, Jeffers definitely looks to be a better bet with the bat than either Garver or backup Alex Avila (who’s only plus skill at this point in this career is his propensity for taking walks). If we turn to the other side of the ball, Jeffers also seems to be the preferred defensive option. He had the reputation of being an elite pitch framer in the minors and thus far that has shaken out in the big leagues as well. His Statcast numbers put him in the 87th percentile for framing (compared to the 34th percentile for Garver and 28th percentile for Avila), confirming what the eye-test already told us. Garver has worked hard to improve his framing and defense, but Jeffers brings a defensive skill-set that Garver will never approach.

Considering Garver’s struggles and the limited amount of season left, it makes sense to lean heavily on Jeffers in the postseason. When Garver was out, Jeffers was able to handle a fairly heavy workload (especially relative to the rest-heavy Twins) and his pitch framing skills and potent bat make him the obvious choice for the present. As we’ve seen, the Twins could use all the help they can get scoring runs, and Jeffers has hit.

Although it’s early, I do think it’s fair to question the future of the catching position in Minnesota. The Twins are in a great position with two talented backstops who are under team control well into the future. With the emphasis the Twins (and growingly the rest of the MLB and sports world as a whole) place on rest and recovery, there’s undoubtably a path forward for both, but it wouldn’t be too surprising to see something like a 60/40 spit in Jeffers’ favor.

Jeffers is just 23-years-old, while Garver is four months shy of turning 30, an age where it is not uncommon to see MLB bats begin to decline. Jeffers recently snuck his way into FanGraphs top-100 prospect list at number 97, so it’s not only the Twins who are high on Jeffers, and he’s already hit a ball 112.9 mph (for context, Garver’s career high max exit velo is 111.0 mph). As the better defender, Jeffers will also have the higher floor going forward, making offensive slumps more palatable.

2021 feels a bit reminiscent of 2019 when Garver was the newcomer who looked all but sure to steal reps from veteran Jason Castro as the season wore on. Of course, Garver had an astounding season that Jeffers is unlikely to ever match, but if we’re being honest, Garver’s not going to either. How quickly things can change, as it’s now Garver who has the target on his back, and Jeffers whose future shines bright. Here’s hoping for a binary star.

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21 Comments

It would be nice to have 2 solid catchers to split time next year.  Garver isn’t as bad as he has been this year and isn’t as good especially in the power department as we saw last season. 
 

I think Avila and la tortuga will be gone this offseason. 

    • glunn, mikelink45, Platoon and 7 others like this

As A.J. Pierzynski pointed out during a Fox broadcast earlier in the season, Garver has a very hard time getting to wide pitches when he catches due to the low positioning used to "help" with pitch framing. If I remember right Garver had two balls get by him in that game (with runners on base). And he had two more get by him in his last game again allowing runners to advance. The pitches usually go as wild pitches for the pitcher so they don't show up in any stats I know of for the catcher.But the eyeball test seems to show that these balls should be at least blocked or stopped. 

 

Jeffers uses the same low stance, but seems to be able to get to these pitches much better than Garver (usually sliders going into the dirt away from a RH hitter or into a LH hitter from a RH pitcher). 

 

Personally, I think the pitch framing situation is overrated as I think the umpires know what's going on and call pitches accordingly (some good, some bad). I'd like to see the Twins be more concerned with stopping balls going to the backstop allowing runners to advance. This issue gets amplified in close games, which the playoff games should be.

    • glunn, dcswede, mikelink45 and 7 others like this
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RochesterDave
Sep 22 2020 06:35 AM
Having watched Garver for a few years here on the Red Wings and of course watching all Twins games on MLB, there is something definitely “off” with him this year. I suspect that it is some sort of combination of the mental side (pandemic), physicality, or the loss of both His hitting coach (James Rowson) and his catching mentor to the Yankees. All of these factors are understandable and reasonable, but at this point I don’t know how far Rocco can go with him. I know he’s trying to bring him back to last year’s level , but I don’t think that’s happening. To add insult to injury he had Mitch pinch hit for Ryan last week with men on late in the game (forget which one). This may be designed to show Mitch, Rocco’s confidence, but on the flip side - what does it do to Jeffers who is superior in hitting and catching in 2020!! I say give the most time to the rookie this year and have a clean slate in Spring Training 2021. Go Twins!!
    • glunn, adjacent, JoshDungan1 and 6 others like this

I read that line that Garver needs as many bats as he can get.But so does Jeffers if he is going to be ready for post season.I was frustrated to see Avila start a game after Garver came back.

 

My message to Baldelli - give Jeffers a regular rotation and keep him ready to go.

    • glunn and Huskertwin like this

I'm a fan of Jeffers when you read the back stories about being sponge, willing to try new things to become a better catcher. Not saying the other guys haven't done it either but it shows the student in Jeffers and his Physics background coming into play.  In my other limited posts I talk about plate discipline and Jeffers has it.  I believe all his or almost all of hits have come with 2 strikes.  His 3 homers have been on the following counts: 1st - full count, 2nd 1-1 count and 3rd was 2-2 count.  His ability to work the count, see pitches shows discipline.  Shows discipline for his full game in general.  Old philosophy of you shouldn't lose your job due to injury is commendable and getting Garver some reps is nice, but Avila should be odd man out.  

    • glunn, MN_ExPat, Huskertwin and 1 other like this

 

I read that line that Garver needs as many bats as he can get.But so does Jeffers if he is going to be ready for post season.I was frustrated to see Avila start a game after Garver came back.

 

My message to Baldelli - give Jeffers a regular rotation and keep him ready to go.

Garver needs reps, but he also needs to eased back into things.

 

And I'm not sure if maximizing catching reps is all that important for Jeffers at this point in the season -- he's had plenty already. Now it seems perfectly valid to balance rest and regular reps for all 3 catching options, so they're all ready in case they are needed.

    • glunn, MN_ExPat and railmarshalljon like this

If its me, Jeffers would be my #1 catcher heading into the playoffs. Would want to get Garver into at least half the remaining games for him to get caught up with both his bat and behind the plate. With that said, I will be shocked if Jeffers is behind the plate in Game 1.

 

Going forward, Rortvedt has missed this year of development and is now at least two years away. Should fit perfectly with the time when Garver's decline will be noticeable. The good news is that a Jeffers-Rortvedt duo gives you both a right handed bat and left.

    • glunn, DocBauer, JoshDungan1 and 4 others like this

 

Garver needs reps, but he also needs to eased back into things.

 

And I'm not sure if maximizing catching reps is all that important for Jeffers at this point in the season -- he's had plenty already. Now it seems perfectly valid to balance rest and regular reps for all 3 catching options, so they're all ready in case they are needed.

I just do not want him sitting a week.Rotate him in. 

I thought this article was going to be about which 2 catchers make the playoff roster.

Man have I had to eat a lot of crow on Jeffers.While I felt like he had kind of a poor spring and didn't perform to expectations there.I have to say I think he looks great behind the plate right now and his bat has played well at the MLB level so far.I can see why the Twins have been so high on him all the way through the system.I have always been a bit of Jeffers doubter but he has had a strong debut IMO.

 

I still like Mitch but his eye at the plate is off this year and he has added much more swing and miss this year.I don't now if his prep was off or what the deal was but baseball is like that.It gives you breaks and makes you a hero and then you can't catch a break and it drops you to a zero. I still think he has a power bat and if the eye returns can be a tough out.At this point in time though I would rather see Jeffers on the post season roster than Mitch.

    • glunn and Huskertwin like this

 

I thought this article was going to be about which 2 catchers make the playoff roster.

That's a good question too, and much more immediate. It would be hard to leave off Garver, but if he doesn't heat up this final week, the fact that Avila brings a patient lefty bat with postseason experience would be tempting. (Albeit, Avila's batting line in the postseason is not very good!)

 

I suppose with a 28 man roster, they could bring all 3. Would be a little unusual, but unless Arraez or Odorizzi needs the spot, it might not be an issue. They could always reassess after each round.

    • glunn, DocBauer, JoshDungan1 and 2 others like this

For postseason Garver gets the bench and Jeffers gets the bulk of the games.You need the best hottest hands in the post season, not the well he did it in the past so he is our guy.  

 

For next season, you need to take serious look at what you have in Garver.So many catchers fall off so quickly on offense, and not that Garver had long history of success.He started to have drop off at end of season last year, many attribute to grind of being catcher, but maybe it was league adjusting to him.They know he will not swing at fringe strike and hates swinging at off-speed.If he misses those middle fastballs when they come he will not have good outcomes. 

 

Jeffers should be in the picture in post-season and next year for sure. 

    • glunn and Melissa like this

Garver to the Yankees to join his hitting and catching coaches? Depends on what we get back, of course.

    • glunn likes this

Never EVER trade or do anything whatsoever with the Yankees

    • glunn likes this
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Doctor Gast
Sep 22 2020 09:06 AM

Before we signed Donaldson, the big talk was trading for an ace & the topic of Jeffers or Rortvedt should be used as trade bait (especially Jeffers). Their reasoning was that we had Garver & they were not needed. My argument was that they were our near future & Garver as great we think he is, catching is a demanding position so we need a good back to relieve him (Garver could be used to sub at 1B to keep his bat in the line up). How quickly Jeffers has progressed & Garver`s recent slump & injury has driven this point more relevant.I`m still high on Garver but he if he can`t turn it around quickly Jeffers should be our priority. If Garver can be close to Jeffers, I`m afraid Garver will take the 1st seat into the post season. 

    • glunn and MN_ExPat like this

 

I read that line that Garver needs as many bats as he can get.But so does Jeffers if he is going to be ready for post season.I was frustrated to see Avila start a game after Garver came back.

 

My message to Baldelli - give Jeffers a regular rotation and keep him ready to go.

Agreed. Avila is no longer needed and shouldn't be on the post season roster, IMO.

    • mikelink45 likes this

 

 

 

Personally, I think the pitch framing situation is overrated as I think the umpires know what's going on and call pitches accordingly (some good, some bad). I'd like to see the Twins be more concerned with stopping balls going to the backstop allowing runners to advance. This issue gets amplified in close games, which the playoff games should be.

I think you're right about that--for the most part.Those that keep stats on such tell us that there are some catchers that get more calls off the plate than others.I think those that yank the ball back to the center of the plate are doing themselves more harm than good, but I have no data to support that. 

The electronic strike zone will eliminate that, and I hope it comes sooner rather than later.The home plate umps in the recent White Sox series was awful for the most part.I've heard some object that it's not perfect, to which I rejoin "I'd settle for better, we'll work on perfect." 

JcS

    • h2oface and Huskertwin like this

I think you're right about that--for the most part.Those that keep stats on such tell us that there are some catchers that get more calls off the plate than others.I think those that yank the ball back to the center of the plate are doing themselves more harm than good, but I have no data to support that.

I see plenty of borderline calls going to yankers. I think the key is more to be consistent - bring the glove toward the center on any pitch, not just the borderline calls you want.
 

    • Joey Self likes this

Garver is the Rodney Dangerfield of Twins' catchers. He gets no respect. I certainly am not ready to dump him, after what... all of 20 games played so far this crazy year? Not me. Not selling on Kepler, either. Or Buxton......

    • Joey Self likes this

 

... Garver has a very hard time getting to wide pitches when he catches due to the low positioning used to "help" with pitch framing. ... he pitches usually go as wild pitches for the pitcher so they don't show up in any stats I know of for the catcher.But the eyeball test seems to show that these balls should be at least blocked or stopped. 

 

Jeffers uses the same low stance, but seems to be able to get to these pitches much better than Garver (usually sliders going into the dirt away from a RH hitter or into a LH hitter from a RH pitcher). 

 

... I'd like to see the Twins be more concerned with stopping balls going to the backstop allowing runners to advance. This issue gets amplified in close games, which the playoff games should be.

This is what I cam on here to point out. Jeffers seems more agile and able to snag pitches in the dirt or wide of the plate than does Garver. Hurts to give away those advances to baserunners.

    • Huskertwin likes this
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Brock Beauchamp
Sep 23 2020 12:40 PM
Garver’s value is down considerably this year and Jeffers needs more seasoning. Keep them both and reevaluate 13 months from now.
    • Craig Arko and Huskertwin like this