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Minnesota’s Present and Future Catching Duo

Mitch Garver is coming of a historic offensive season for a catcher, but there have certainly been some struggles during the 2020 season as he tries to find his swing. His recent trip to the injured list means the Twins have called up top catching prospect Ryan Jeffers. He has less than 100 plate appearances above High-A but that might not stop him from becoming a vital part of the Twins’ short- and long-term plans.
Image courtesy of © Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Two Catcher Rotation
Last season, the Twins used a two-catcher rotation with tremendous success. Mitch Garver played in 93 games on his way to winning the AL’s Silver Slugger Award for catchers. Jason Castro was a veteran secondary option and he played in 79 contests. Together, these two helped Twins catchers to lead baseball in home runs (48), SLG (.503) and wOBA (.351). One of the more impressive stats might have been that Twins catchers scored 33 more runs than any other catching combination in the big-leagues.

Minnesota brought in Alex Avila this off-season to fill the catcher spot vacated by Jason Castro. Avila has been an All-Star and won a Silver Slugger, but that was almost a decade ago. This season he has put together professional at-bats and he has done that by getting on base over 40% of the time. The problem is Jeffers might be better than advertised.

Stealing Strikes
One of the biggest criticisms throughout Garver’s professional career has been his defensive play behind the plate. He has improved greatly, and his catcher framing is one of his biggest areas of improvement. According to Baseball Savant, there are three zones where he ranks above average over the last two seasons, at the bottom of the zone and to the left and right of the plate.

Jeffers might be even better at coaxing strikes from umpires, especially pitches on the outer edges. Jose Berrios had been in a season long slump and Jeffers helped to get a few extra borderline pitches to go his way. This might have gone a long way in helping Berrios look like his former self. Defensively, Jeffers has come a long way especially considering he didn’t have a catching coach in college, and he had to watch YouTube videos to improve behind the plate.

Just watching him pull those balls back into the zone is a thing of beauty if you’re a Twins fan.
Catch You Later
It’s not hard to imagine a scenario where Garver and Jeffers become Minnesota’s catching duo behind the plate. This season might be hard to make that happen, because no one knows how long Garver will be out with his current injury, a right intercostal strain. The Twins will get multiple weeks to see what Jeffers can do both offensively and defensively. Following this year’s draft, I had Jeffers ranked as the number six overall prospect in the Twins organization.

Over the last two seasons, the Twins have used Garver with a veteran left-handed catcher. This made it easier to platoon the two hitters even if Garver was used more than a traditional platoon. Jeffers struggles more against lefties as his OPS was over 110 points lower versus southpaws. On the other hand, Garver destroyed lefties last season with a 1.170 OPS in over 100 at-bats.

Garver can’t reach free agency until 2024 where he will be almost into his mid-30s. Jeffers is over six-years younger than Garver and he has the potential to be a solid contributor on both sides of the ball. No matter how the team uses their duo moving forward, it’s clear the team’s catching duties are in good hands.

How do you feel about Minnesota’s future behind the plate? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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14 Comments

Incredible good fortune that the Twins have Mitch Garver and Ryan Jeffers at the same time. This duo should be solid for the next handful of years, possibly with Jeffers turning out even better than Garver. Jeffers plays the game with the ease of a superior athlete. The word "prowess" comes to mind when I think of Jeffers, while I see Garver more as a hard worker that gets better by working his ass off. 

 

Don't get me wrong, I think Garver is an athlete too. However, if you give both guys a unicycle, I have a feeling Jeffers would be riding it in about five minutes, where Garver would get the trick in a couple hours. 

    • Dman and JoshDungan1 like this
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Channing1964
Aug 24 2020 11:51 PM
i dont know why everybody wants to write Avila off. I wasn't that excited about him watching him play for the D-Backs last year. Frankly I thought he was washed up or he was just ready to retire. Granted Lovullo thinks he has to keep three catchers around to hit .185 and strikeout with RISP. However, watchng Avila as a Twin is way different. At this point I would not be surprised if he doesn't wanna sign another one year deal. If he does i seriously hope the Twins oblige. He seems like he works well with the pitchers and he handles the bat like a real pro. Im not trying to be an Astudillo hater but with the emergence of Jeffers now I dont see room for him anymore. I am sure the outrage will fierce but students of the game can see the writing on La Tortuga's wall. I also wonder how guys like Marwin Cruz, Adrianza and May feel about coming back. I know its early but the off-season is shaping up to be quite a story.
    • Dman, DocBauer, JoshDungan1 and 1 other like this

At this point another 2-year deal for Cruz is a no-brainer.Marwan and Adrianza are good for depth, but I can only see one of them coming back...if at all.May is a key piece in the bullpen but someone could pay him more than we're willing.Other than Balazovic, I don't see a LOT of prime starting pitching in the pipeline, but there are a LOT of bullpen options that could make it tough to bring back May.I really don't see a spot for Astudillo.We have catching prospects, infield prospects and outfield prospects that all have far more potential than him.It's not that he's bad, it's that there's more talent than he has on the way.I'd still like to see Kiriloff this year instead of Wade. 

    • Channing1964 likes this

I think that Avila has been fine at what he is...a veteran backup catcher. But yes, the Twins should be in great shape going forward with Garver and Jeffers.

 

We also should remember that Rortvedt also is an excellent prospect, who bats from the left handed side of the plate. Although missing this year doesn't help his development, he has a future in the big leagues. So yes, the Twins should remain strong behind the plate well into this next decade.

 

I remain hopeful that once the trading deadline is behind us, MLB will increase the 60-man roster to 70 or 75. That would allow the Twins to get players like Balazovic and Rortvedt a month of work in an otherwise wasted season.

    • DocBauer, JoshDungan1, Channing1964 and 2 others like this

It is amazing to have three good catchers.It reminds me of the Berra, Blanchard, and Howard time with the Yankees.They used them in the OF as Pinch Hitters, and at 1B to get them ABs.I love it.

 

Jeffers also makes me want to have one of the prospect OFs up.  

    • Channing1964 likes this

The only problem with a catching duo of Garver & Jeffers is they both bat RH. It's one of the reasons why signing Avila was a really smart decision, being able to take advantage of a platoon split while resting your primary catcher. It's paid off fairly well: Avila might not be getting a lot of hits, but he's getting on base plenty.

 

But Jeffers is a rising guy and it doesn't look like he's in over his head, even if he got called up earlier than planned.

 

Man, I remember when I was super worried about catching for this franchise. Felt like there wasn't just a lack of options in MLB but no one coming along in the minors, and in three years we've got one of the best catching situations, franchise-wise in baseball. (I still think Rortvedt will make the majors, and as LH hitter could end up being a nice platoon partner in a few years)

    • rdehring, jkcarew, Channing1964 and 1 other like this

I don't think anybody is writing Avila off. It's that he's on a 1-year contract (in a weird season to boot).

 

This year, esp with Garver presumably not hanging around the clubhouse right now, Avila's veteran presence is essential for Jeffers. Catcher is one of those positions where you almost always want a craft veteran (i.e. Bull Durham).

 

A short-year of Avila paired with these two is great for their development.

    • Channing1964 and BeatTheRich like this

Given the possibility/probability of labor strife after 2021, I wonder if anyone will want to sign a contract that extends beyond next year.

    • Channing1964 likes this

If Garver can show some sign of hitting again, I would look to move him if possible.He is in his prime and will be under team control until he is out of his prime.If Jeffers is the primary catcher going forward as long as Garver has some value I would look to move him.I do not see a platoon with the two of them and why, if Garver is starter level and can get value in trade for him not do it.Of course this is only the Twins feel they are getting fair value.It is always nice to have two good catchers, even if both RH.The article suggested Jeffers may have better numbers against RH pitchers than LH in his career, assuming it is minor league numbers. 

    • Channing1964 likes this

Like JLease, I think Garver and Jeffers are potentially redundant longer term.

 

IMO, with Garver and Jeffers you likely have two right handed power bats with relatively high K rates...neither of whom figure to be above average overall behind the plate. Unless one or the other hits so well that you want to play them at 1B or DH at a high frequency...(not exactly likely given other options that should be available)...or there's a long-term injury for one or the other...otherwise, I see them as redundant long term. It's always good to have depth and assets, though.

    • Channing1964 likes this

 

If Garver can show some sign of hitting again, I would look to move him if possible.He is in his prime and will be under team control until he is out of his prime.If Jeffers is the primary catcher going forward as long as Garver has some value I would look to move him.I do not see a platoon with the two of them and why, if Garver is starter level and can get value in trade for him not do it.Of course this is only the Twins feel they are getting fair value.It is always nice to have two good catchers, even if both RH.The article suggested Jeffers may have better numbers against RH pitchers than LH in his career, assuming it is minor league numbers. 

The counter argument is that you can play both guys about half the time, thereby keeping both from getting beat up too bad during a 162-game season. Plus, both can be used as mid-game replacements or as pinch hitters. 

    • DocBauer and BeatTheRich like this

 

The counter argument is that you can play both guys about half the time, thereby keeping both from getting beat up too bad during a 162-game season. Plus, both can be used as mid-game replacements or as pinch hitters. 

I agree, that is why I would not just get rid of Garver for nothing, but if a good value trade comes along it would be worth taking it, and continue to use other back up catchers.There is value in having two good catchers that can split time pretty even.I would not give Garver away by any means, not like we did years ago to get Capps.Right now, I do not see what kind of trade that would be and to whom, but just keeping options open. 

We are in a very uncertain period in regard to 2021 and beyond. But for a moment let's pretend tbere will be a 2022 and beyond that is settled, somehow, through negotiations. I think, personally, that Astudillo is a solid catcher, and valuable multi positional player who can do some solid things. I think, healthy he is a solid hitter with pop. If you break down 2019, he hit when healthy. I really like him as the last guy on the player roster.

But Garver and Jeffers offer so much as a 1-2 that could be the envy of the league. And both are controlled for the next few years. Uncommon depth, especially how Rocco uses and rests his catchers. I believe that Rortvedt has a real future. But like so many, he's losingng a full year. But if the 40 man allow a it, or Avilla doesn't have better offers, I'd be in favor of his return in some capacity for depth and options.

Of course, if Jeffers continues to show and shine, this could be a moot arguement.
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Channing1964
Aug 26 2020 06:21 PM

At this point another 2-year deal for Cruz is a no-brainer.Marwan and Adrianza are good for depth, but I can only see one of them coming back...if at all.May is a key piece in the bullpen but someone could pay him more than we're willing.Other than Balazovic, I don't see a LOT of prime starting pitching in the pipeline, but there are a LOT of bullpen options that could make it tough to bring back May.I really don't see a spot for Astudillo.We have catching prospects, infield prospects and outfield prospects that all have far more potential than him.It's not that he's bad, it's that there's more talent than he has on the way.I'd still like to see Kiriloff this year instead of Wade.

True to all of that. Wade is kind of redundant. One of them between Wade and Cave will be around but there won't be room for both. I just don't see the Twins promoting Kiriloff or Larnach unless they are gonna start. Too bad they arent cf. In the meantime, we have to play the hand we are dealt. I guess its obvious we need cf and sp in the next draft. Sooner than later we will be talking about Celestino as a cf option i think. As far as the catching, this will be huge for Garver to have a better return. Every day he stays out, Jeffers gets more time. The lefty righty catching platoon system is not going away. Its clear the Twins like it. There is no way they start 2021 with Jeffers AND Garver on the 25 man. Most likely Jeffers is in Rochester. Either Avila or some other veteran lefty hitting catcher will be around. I did not mention Astudillo because barring injury, im afraid we have no room for him anymore.

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