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Have The Twins Mishandled Mitch Garver?

Posted by Tom Froemming , 25 August 2016 · 1,414 views

mitch garver
It has already been an interesting year in terms of how the Twins have deployed their players defensively. From Miguel Sano moving all over the place, to Jorge Polanco going from no reps a shortstop in the minors to the everyday guy there on the big club, there have been some decisions that have been worthy of questioning.

Well, the questioning seems to be never ending during a down season, and I'd like to pile on and add Mitch Garver's usage on to the list of head scratchers in the organization. If the Twins believe Garver can be a starting catcher, they sure have a funny way of showing it.

While in Chatanooga, fellow 2013 draftee Stuart Turner held a slight advantage over Garver in terms of reps behind the plate. Since his promotion, Garver holds a slight playing time advantage over John Ryan Murphy, but it's only eight starts vs. seven. Overall, Garver has played 107 games this year but has caught in just 54 of those contests.

This is nothing new. In 2014, on his way to being named Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Year, Garver caught 63 of his 120 games. Last year, the split was less extreme at 77 games caught and 127 total games. With just 12 games left in the Red Wings' season, when it's all said and done Garver will have caught right around 200 games over the past three seasons. Sounds like a decent amount until you compare him to other backstops.

A few of the most recent catchers to establish themselves as big league regulars are Philadelphia's Cameron Rupp, Miami's J.T. Realmuto and Cincinnati's Tucker Barnhart. Over their final three full years in the minors, each of them totaled over 280 games caught. Even prized Yankee prospect Gary Sanchez, who has always been more highly regarded for his bat, eclipsed 90 games caught in three separate MiLB seasons.

It seems these days you can't have a discussion about catching without also talking about concussions, especially in concern to the Twins. It's worth noting Garver has been placed on the DL twice for concussions, once in June of '14 and again this May. There is no such thing as a concussion that isn't a serious injury, but in both cases Garver was able to get back in the gear in a matter of weeks, so those injuries can't account for the lost reps behind the plate.

Garver has kept his bat in the lineup by playing first base or DH, but his skills at the plate have never been questioned as much as his ability play behind it (but we'll get to more on that later). With that being the case, you'd think the team would go out of its way to have Garver catching as much as possible.

Not buying the playing time being an issue? Okay, then let's go into the "Free Mitch Garver" portion of the discussion. Garver was called up to Rochester on Aug. 9, but what took so long? There's a valid argument to be made that Garver should already be on the big league club.

I understand that Turner was drafted ahead of Garver and started his career a level ahead. It's also valid to point out that the team invested resources into Murphy, who is on the 40-man roster, and they want to give him every opportunity to play his way out of his season-long slump. But why has Garver remained so low on the catching totem pole when his performance has been stellar and he's actually older than both Murphy and Turner?

At 25-years-old, I'm not sure if Garver can really even be called a prospect anymore. It's time to see what he can do, no matter what that means to Murphy, Turner, or even Kurt Suzuki or Juan Centeno.

Garver had a down year in 2015, but followed it up with an impressive showing in the Arizona Fall League. He had posted an above average OPS for the Southern League each month this season, ending his time in Chattanooga with a .257/.334/.417 slash line. Combine that with an excellent start in Rochester (.364/.404/.455) and you have a guy who has trended up for around 12 months now, and the glove work is catching up with his offense.

On Sunday's pregame radio broadcast, interim GM Rob Antony went out of his way to compliment the strides Garver has made with the mitt, and the numbers back it up. The University of New Mexico product has also thrown out an impressive 50% of base stealers this season and has received positive reviews on his pitch framing ability.

So ... if the bat was never in question and the numbers show he's been a phenomenal defensive catcher this season, then what gives? I suppose it's entirely possible the front offices does not, in fact, view Garver as an everyday catcher. The way he's been used over his career certainly makes you wonder.

  • mikelink45 likes this



Yet another example of disconnect somewhere in the organization. Polanco doesn't even play SS all season until he gets to the Twins. Garver has positive reports behind the plate, and is such a quality hitter he DH and plays 1B on off days. But for a team desperate for help behind the plate, they slow his defensive progress??? Makes no sense.

Now, he does have to be added to the 40 man this year, so there should be no reason not to be up in September for a look-see. If he's not, someone's head should roll.
    • Tom Froemming likes this
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Tom Froemming
Aug 25 2016 01:17 PM

 

Yet another example of disconnect somewhere in the organization. Polanco doesn't even play SS all season until he gets to the Twins. Garver has positive reports behind the plate, and is such a quality hitter he DH and plays 1B on off days. But for a team desperate for help behind the plate, they slow his defensive progress??? Makes no sense.

Now, he does have to be added to the 40 man this year, so there should be no reason not to be up in September for a look-see. If he's not, someone's head should roll.

Thanks for adding that, you're right there isn't any incentive for them to avoid adding him on the 40 man next week. They're going to have to do it this fall anyway.

I am still looking for some sense that this team has an idea what it is doing.  If the TWINS WAY is to not learn from other teams then this is consistent and the TWINS WAY still rules.

So what about Turner. I have always heard he was an MLB ready catcher defensively? And that Garver was a much better hitter, and not quite the catcher? Is Garvers glove and arm equal to Turners? I have saw what Suzukis arm does for a defense, and Centenos glove does for a pitcher. Please tell me one of these guys can catch and throw. Then tell me if he can hit.

Turner would be a good major league ready catcher if he catches a few more prospects that will be in the majors. He should be at Rochester next season. You can use him if you have someone else catching 90-100 games. Same with Mitch. With his time behind the plate, he is just a parttime catcher at this point and needs to learn to handle the major league staff, which may not be so hard in the immediate future as many of his minor league cohorts will be major league guys.

 

If Suzuki leaves, I would like to see Garver and Murphy continue to handle the catching duties, only now in Minnesota. Centeno is fine, but I would not keep a 40-man spot reserved for him. You may keep him into the winter in case you need a free agent spot, but you could probably resign him as a minor league option.

 

But there is NO room for Garver to be a DH or play 1B. And please don't have him play the outfield. He doesn't need to be...Chris Herrmannnnnnn!

Chris Hermann It is bad to be him

 

AVG .290 HR 6RBI 28R 21 ops .853

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The Wise One
Aug 27 2016 04:21 AM

Yet another example of disconnect somewhere in the organization. Polanco doesn't even play SS all season until he gets to the Twins. Garver has positive reports behind the plate, and is such a quality hitter he DH and plays 1B on off days. But for a team desperate for help behind the plate, they slow his defensive progress??? Makes no sense.

Now, he does have to be added to the 40 man this year, so there should be no reason not to be up in September for a look-see. If he's not, someone's head should roll.


As Dozier had tanked the last couple of half seasons maybe the plan was to move Dozier. I know that it would come as a great shock to many on Twins Daily but things do not always go as planned
As far as Garver goes, the may be that he is a part time player behind the plate as the more he caught, the more his batting dropped in Fort Meyers.
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jorgenswest
Aug 27 2016 10:31 AM
If reports are true that his defense is much improved to go with his bat that remains solid, wouldn't that suggest they have handled him well?

They might mishandle him by bringing him up before he has established his bat and glove in AAA over a long stretch. They shouldn't count on him for the start of 2017, but can hope he will be a contributor by midseason.

They can go ahead and give him some time in September but they must be cautious to read anything into the results.