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A Dish of the Waiting Game

Posted by Ted Schwerzler , 23 July 2018 · 1,174 views

minnesota twins jason castro bobby wilson mitch garver
The Minnesota Twins employed the best catcher in baseball up until 2013, and over his tenure behind the plate, Joe Mauer proved to be one of the five or ten best to ever play the position. Since then however, the role has become somewhat of a black hole for the organization. With Jason Castro shelved in 2018 more question marks have surfaced. The biggest unknown going forward is what do Derek Falvey and Thad Levine do now?

Castro will return in 2019 on the final year of a three-year, $24.5 million deal. He'll be coming off a knee surgery that allowed him to play in just 19 games this season. At 32 years old he'll have spent 699 games behind the dish, and the likelihood that his best days are behind him remains real.

Initially billed as a framing wizard behind the dish, Castro ranked just 15th in baseball per Baseball Prospectus' Framing Runs metric for 2017. While not awful, that's hardly what the Twins had hoped given the hype around that being his best asset. Castro's .720 OPS last season was 29th among major league catchers with at least 130 plate appearances. To summarize, there was plenty to be desired on both sides of the game even before the injury.

Fast forward to 2018, and the Twins catchers have combined to post a .607 OPS. That number comes in 6th worst in all of baseball. Bobby Wilson, who has been the main starter behind the plate in Castro's absence, owns the 6th worst OPS among 55 catchers with at least 100 plate appearances (.507). Mitch Garver has been a significantly better bat, and Willians Astudillo profiles as such also, but neither have been trusted with the gear on.
The lack of belief behind the plate really points to the crux of the Twins issues.

Regardless of what form Castro is in when he returns, Minnesota has virtually no one else they're willing to turn to. Astudillo has posted strong framing numbers at Triple-A, and held his own throwing out 35% of would be base stealers. In seven games with the Twins (and nearly a month on the roster), he never once drew time behind the plate. Garver has been on the 25 man for the balance of the season, yet has been called upon to start at catcher just 45 times.

There's plenty of reason to believe that the Twins should compete immediately in 2019. Projecting another year of virtually everything going wrong seems like a poor bet, and the division should remain plenty open with the only other talented team being the Cleveland Indians. Before they get there however, the Minnesota front office needs to figure out a better blueprint at catcher.

Down the stretch, Garver should be prioritized over Wilson. Whether or not he's deemed an acceptable catcher shouldn't matter in a lost season. Figuring out to what degree he can be counted upon is a must. Astudillo seems like a career minor leaguer, and probably isn't the answer either. Should the results point towards a different direction than Garver, the Twins will need to get creative over the winter.

Castro could be presumed the starter out of the gate again, but a free agent could be brought in to take away those duties. Potential names on the open market include Yasmani Grandal, Wilson Ramos, and Devin Mesoraco. Should the Twins decide not to supplant Castro, another Chris Gimenez type might make sense in place of Garver.

Stepping further away from the situation, the reality is there's a ton of moving pieces and very few certainties for Minnesota. Catcher isn't a position rich in value across the big leagues right now, and while the Twins have two intriguing prospects in Ben Rortvedt and Ryan Jeffers, neither are close enough to make a difference any time soon. The role can't continue to be a revolving door for a team with postseason aspirations however, and driving towards a real answer needs to be a goal sooner rather than later.

For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz

  • Danchat, LA VIkes Fan, Platoon and 2 others like this



Definitely with you on the Garver situation, he needs to play and be evaluated so a decision can be made. Wilson is a known commodity. And while I would imagine that Astudillo is indeed at best a AAAA catcher, we as observers will likely never know. Which would normally lead me to a rant about the MOY, I just don't have that much ambition or passion right now. :(
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tarheeltwinsfan
Jul 23 2018 03:30 PM

I sure hope the FO understands what this article clearly states.The Twins needed a catcher and got Castro for 1 year. That was good enough for 1 year, but stuff happens and now the Twins need another, full time, above average framing, fielding, and hitting healthy catcher. If the FO expects this team to win next year, this must be a top priority. 

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tarheeltwinsfan
Jul 23 2018 03:33 PM

Why hasn't Astudillo caught some games while he was in the majors?He surely wasn't promoted for his speed...but he was a breath of fresh air when he played. 

    • sloopjont likes this
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theBOMisthebomb
Jul 23 2018 04:34 PM
Why dismiss Astudillo? He certainly deserves a chance at the MLB level in some fashion - a real chance. Why not at catcher? Especially if the Twins aren't all in on Garver. At this point the Bobby Wilson experiment seems pointless.
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Ted Schwerzler
Jul 23 2018 06:08 PM

 

Why hasn't Astudillo caught some games while he was in the majors?He surely wasn't promoted for his speed...but he was a breath of fresh air when he played. 

 

Why dismiss Astudillo? He certainly deserves a chance at the MLB level in some fashion - a real chance. Why not at catcher? Especially if the Twins aren't all in on Garver. At this point the Bobby Wilson experiment seems pointless.

 

You both inadvertently touch on the reality with Astudillo. He was up for a month, played something like 5 positions, and not once did he catch. If the Twins don't believe in Garver behind the plate, they think absolutely nothing of Astudillo. Disagree with it or not, that's the message they've sent.

    • sloopjont likes this

 

At this point the Bobby Wilson experiment seems pointless.

 

I 90% agree.There is 10% that wonders if the pitchers need Bobby if they want to develop and get the framing for calls or have the confidence that they can throw a breaking pitch with a man on third.It's those little things.

 

I'd like to see Garver evaluated for the rest of the season as well, but, if this sell thing happens, the Twins will need to evaluate Littell, Mejia, Slegers, Romero and possibly Gonsalves.That's harder to do, if they don't have confidence in their battery mate. It's even more of a problem if said battery mate doesn't have one of those calming yet take-charge personalities.Is Garver or Astudillo that guy? I don't know. Just ramblin' ....

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jorgenswest
Jul 24 2018 02:04 PM
Astudillo also did not catch in the 4 weeks prior to his first game in the majors. He started mainly at 3B with a few starts in the outfield. Prior to that he was the primary catcher.

The Twins have signed a series of fill ins at catcher for Rochester this year in Cameron Rupp, Jordan Pacheco and Juan Graterol. All were added after the Twins staff had a chance to see Astudillo at catcher in the minors for two months. I certainly didn’t expect that he would be catching upon his call up after following Rochester and seeing how they used him.

Garver is the hope for next year. There is a huge amount of prep work preparing to catch each game. They can probably increase his workload to 4 games a week but the work he is doing preparing for games and learning the league is an unseen piece that is critical to his development.