What's the Pinto Back-Up Plan?
by, 12-19-2013 at 06:15 AM (865 Views)
Josmil Pinto is one of the top prospects in the Twins organization. Make sure to order the 2014 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook to learn more about the Twins minor league system. Click here to see more of what's in the book.
After the Twins and Joe Mauer announced the All-Star Catcher wouldn't be playing catcher moving forward, Minnesota's name was rumored to be involved with many of the top catchers on the free agent market. AJ Pierzynski and Jarrod Saltalamacchia were two of the most talked about names but both of these player decided to sign with other clubs.
This leaves Minnesota in a bit of a pickle. The club was impressed with rookie Josmil Pinto and his strong September performance. He hit .342/.398/.963 with four home runs and five doubles in 76 at-bats. This came on the heels of possibly his best minor league campaign as he slugged over .880 at Double-A and Triple-A.
Minnesota might be fine with heading into next season with Pinto as the primary catcher. He will turn 25 at the end of March and the team could be ready for him to take over a full-time role. It would be nice for him to have more than 75 plate appearances at Triple-A but the club might be out of other options.
Many fans will remember the poor start to last season by Aaron Hicks, another top prospect in the organization. Hicks was coming off a break-out season at Double-A and the team handed him the starting center field job after a strong spring. He would struggle through his rookie season and the team might now be questioning what his long-term value is to the organization.
One of the advantages for Pinto is he already has some major league experience under his belt. His success at the end of last year is something he can build off moving forward. There could still be some struggles at the start of next season so what will be the back-up plan if Pinto needs some time at Triple-A?
The Twins currently have two other catchers on the 40-man roster after the recent trade of Ryan Doumit to the Atlanta Braves. This leaves the Twins with little experience behind the plate. Chris Herrmann and Eric Fryer could also see some time at catcher. Herrmann offers some versatility as a corner outfielder while Fryer got a brief call-up at the end of last year.
Some veteran catchers are still available on the free agent market even with bigger names already under contract for next year. The Twins have checked in on Kurt Suzuki, who hit .232/.290/.337 in 94 games with the Nationals and Athletics last year. Minnesota has also shown interest in John Buck. Last season, Buck played for the Mets and the Pirates and he has averaged 16 home runs the past four seasons. He has also worked a lot with newly signed pitcher Ricky Nolasco so that could give the Twins a reason to sign him.
Before the Doumit trade, it seemed like Minnesota was comfortable heading into spring training with Pinto being Plan A with a veteran catcher not being part of the picture. The team will want Pinto to be an everyday player and adding a veteran back up might not be the best for Pinto's growth. The back-up plan at backstop seems to be one of the men on the 40-man roster but a veteran could be added in the coming days.
This leaves the Twins hoping Pinto can continue his offensive success from the end of last year.