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Article: Backup Backstop Battle Royal?

chris gimenez mitch garver john ryan murphy
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#1 Tom Froemming

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Posted 18 May 2017 - 08:00 PM

The Twins new catching duo has helped elevate the pitching staff to respectability, but is it time to break up the backstop tandem of Jason Castro and Chris Gimenez? The veteran pair has drawn rave reviews for their leadership and ability to manage a pitching staff, but both are struggling to provide much offensive value.Castro has had some nice stretches, but overall his batting line heading into Thursday was .202/.304/.360. That should come as no surprise, however, as that’s nearly identical production to his 2016 campaign. Castro is who he is, the Twins knew exactly what they were getting into. He has his flaws, but he’ll certainly be the primary catcher for the foreseeable future.

Being a career .257/.355/.391 hitter against left-handers, Gimenez looked like a logical platoon mate for Castro. His defensive flexibility was also a plus when the Twins opened the year with a three-man bench, and his ability to pitch in an emergency doesn’t hurt his cause, either. After going 1-for-4 Thursday afternoon, however, the 34-year-old has a .195/.327/.268 line for the season. Altogether, Twins catchers ranked 20th in wRC+ (80) and 23rd in OPS (.646) heading into Thursday’s games.

By all accounts there are a lot of intangibles Gimenez has added to the Twins. It’s also worth noting that the team is 5-6 in games he’s started behind the plate, so it’s not like he is crippling the team. But considering how the Twins Triple-A catchers are performing, you have to wonder if maybe there is a better option to back up Castro.

Rochester One-Two Punch

Down in Rochester, Mitch Garver and John Ryan Murphy have split playing time right down the middle at 18 games each. Both are off to strong starts, as they rank as the top two hitters in OPS among current players on the Red Wings’ roster.

Garver, who is actually a few months older than Murphy, has been particularly impressive, hitting .255/.397/.473. If he had enough plate appearances to qualify, his .870 OPS would rank just outside the top 10 in the International League.

Murphy has looked much better than last season, posting a .232/.306/.446 (.780 OPS) line. His biggest advantage over Garver comes in terms of experience, having 141 big league games under his belt.

Murphy also has some better defensive numbers than Garver so far, besting him in caught stealing percentage (42 to 29) and passed balls (3 to 5), though Murphy has committed two errors and Garver zero. While neither is considered a liability in terms of pitch framing, they also don’t have reputations of being elite in that discipline either.

Three Catchers?

If the Twins were to replace Gimenez, I would expect Murphy would be the guy who got the call. It’s easy to forget he hit .267/.311/.374 over 284 plate appearances with the Yankees prior to falling on his face for the Twins last year. The team is trying to stay competitive, and Murphy is probably better suited to step in and contribute right away considering his familiarity with the league and the MLB pitching staff.

But, if the Twins were looking to add a third catcher, I’d imagine Garver would be the guy. If the Twins were looking to add a right-handed bat to the bench, you’d be hard pressed to find a better option than Garver down on the farm right now. Sure, it’s great to see ByungHo Park back, but he’s still not on the 40-man roster and has hit just .179/.179/.321 in seven games since returning from injury.

As much as I like the defensive upside of Ehire Adrianza, it doesn’t make a ton of sense to have him and Eduardo Escobar on the same bench. Swapping Garver for Adrianza would give the bench some more offensive firepower and provide Paul Molitor with flexibility. Adrianza would likely get claimed on waivers, but the Twins do have Engelb Vielma, who is another similar player, on the 40-man roster.

I know a lot of people hate the idea of having three catchers, but Castro is so vulnerable against lefties (career .192/.254/.289 hitter off southpaws) that having the ability to pinch hit for him late in games could be a big asset. You’re never going to see Paul Molitor do that when he’s only got two catchers on the roster because the very last thing he ever wants to do is put his emergency catcher, Escobar, behind the dish.

Forgotten Man

It’s easy to forget the Twins could also be getting Stuart Turner back at any moment. The former third-round pick of the Twins was taken by the Reds in the Rule 5 draft this year, but he’s only gotten 27 plate appearances in Cincinnati's 39 games this season.

Turner was basically brought in to be insurance, but Devin Mesoraco is healthy and has caught back-to-back games a few times this month. Tucker Barnhart has filled in admirably as the Red’s primary catcher in Mesoraco’s absence the past two seasons. For now, the Reds are sticking with three catchers, but Turner’s days there could be numbered.

The Reds had to give the Twins $50k to acquire Turner, and if they were to remove him from their 25-man roster the Twins could get him back for $25k. Maybe the Twins would prefer to work out a trade and let the Reds keep Turner, who knows, but I suspect at some point they will have the opportunity to re-acquire him if they so desire.

Bottom Line

The Twins are off to a better start than expected and there seems to be a positive vibe in the clubhouse. Certainly much more so than last year. Gimenez has contributed to both those factors, so it’s probably premature to be talking about jettisoning him from the roster. But, if the team decides to go another direction, they have no shortage of options to back up Castro.

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#2 jokin

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Posted 18 May 2017 - 09:24 PM

To remove some of the catcher clutter, perhaps maybe the Yankees would offer to trade Aaron Hicks to get back JR?

Edited by jokin, 18 May 2017 - 09:24 PM.

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#3 Shaitan

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Posted 18 May 2017 - 09:43 PM

If Stuart is returned to the Twins, does he have to be added to the 40 man?


#4 DaveW

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Posted 18 May 2017 - 10:56 PM

To remove some of the catcher clutter, perhaps maybe the Yankees would offer to trade Aaron Hicks to get back JR?


Who?
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Aaron Hicks 2017 stats so far (5/17/17): .326 BA .464 OBP .616 SLG 1.080 OPS  7 HR 19 RBI 6 SB 22 BBs 1.8WAR
 


#5 kab21

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Posted 18 May 2017 - 11:51 PM

I think you let this play out for another month or two (i.e. closer to the trade deadline).

 

- there could be an injury (C or MI)

- Escobar or Dozier are a prime trade chip for a MLB for MLB type trade (for a SP) if the right situation aligns. Don't be in a hurry to get rid of a good utility IF (Adrianza)

- Gimenez's 45 PA (vs Castro's 100+) are not exactly killing the team

- Garver shouldn't be relegated to a non-catching role (3rd catcher/PH/DH) this early in the season

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Is 2016 2017 2018 the year that a good pitching prospect is truly blocked by 5 good pitchers in the starting rotation? 

Offseason (noun) - a time to propose trades assuming opposing GM's can't do the same basic analysis


#6 HitInAPinch

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Posted 19 May 2017 - 12:53 AM

At some point, the Twins do need to see what Mitch Garver and John Ryan Murphy can do in the MLB.

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It's not my fault !


#7 David HK

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Posted 19 May 2017 - 01:08 AM

 

I think you let this play out for another month or two (i.e. closer to the trade deadline).

 

- there could be an injury (C or MI)

- Escobar or Dozier are a prime trade chip for a MLB for MLB type trade (for a SP) if the right situation aligns. Don't be in a hurry to get rid of a good utility IF (Adrianza)

- Gimenez's 45 PA (vs Castro's 100+) are not exactly killing the team

- Garver shouldn't be relegated to a non-catching role (3rd catcher/PH/DH) this early in the season

In that case, I'd bring up Murph, and let Garver get even more ABs and steady catching work- some of it with pitchers who may be Twins before long themselves.

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#8 mlhouse

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Posted 19 May 2017 - 05:05 AM

I think any claims about the Twins pitching staff being elevated are a bit exaggerated.  Phil Hughes 5.23 ERA, Kyle Gibson 8.20, Meija 5.79.  Hector Santiago 3.80 ERA is a reasonable surprise, but is almost exactly his career 3.84 ERA.  Amongst the starting rotation only Ervin Santana who had a career start to the season is doing better than their career average.

 

In the pen, the pretty much the same story.

 

I will buy the anecdotal evidenence that the catchers are working well with the pitchers but I think most of that is the pitching coaches job and I also doubt it makes up for these two players hitting 200 or below.

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#9 mikelink45

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Posted 19 May 2017 - 05:36 AM

I would like to see Garver come up.  We have had Ryan in enough games to diminish any hopes we might have.  The Yankee years are long gone and Garver has worked hard to earn a chance.  Garver is not young and more seasoning is not to the benefit of a catcher since we all know that most catchers regress in their 30s.  

 

I agree with mlhouse posting - the pitcher numbers are not showing that big Castro boost.  The pitch framing is not a cureall when the pitches are so far off that the people in the bleachers can call balls and strikes.

 

Let Garver sink or swim.  We all hope Rotverdt(?) will the the eventual answer, but by then it would be nice to see who can split time or back him up.


#10 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 19 May 2017 - 05:39 AM

They should call up the catcher that buys into the front office's plans and goals the best.

And if that catcher is Chris Gimenez right now, well then I guess he stays a bit longer.
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#11 spycake

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Posted 19 May 2017 - 05:40 AM

If Stuart is returned to the Twins, does he have to be added to the 40 man?


No, a returned Turner would not have to go on the 40-man.
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#12 Han Joelo

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Posted 19 May 2017 - 06:04 AM

Nice piece, Tom.  I kind of like the your idea to go with three catchers, with the idea that it is an apprenticeship.  If Garver is going to be a part of the next winning Twins org, he needs to be up and participating.  Yeah, it would suck to have three, but the way you describe it kind of works for me, especially if Garver could DH a bit.  Didn't the Cubs roster 3 last year?  Anyway, this project wouldn't start quite yet anyway.

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#13 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 19 May 2017 - 06:16 AM

For some reason I had it stuck in my head that Garver was a lefty but he's not.

 

In that case, another month or so in Rochester might be in order to see if his bat is legit and then consider giving him a bench spot. I don't like the idea of carrying three catchers but if one of them has the ability to hit, it's not such a problem. Still kinda hard to fit in another (essentially) no position player, though.

 

Garver's stat line looks nice but he still has only about ~150 PAs in Rochester and his career MiLB OPS, even with the nice AAA run, is still only .769.


#14 diehardtwinsfan

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Posted 19 May 2017 - 06:47 AM

I like Garver as a prospect and think he could be an above average catcher, but I'd probably bring up JRM first.One, JRM has had ML success, and two, Garver hasn't spent much time in the high minors. 

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#15 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 19 May 2017 - 07:29 AM

 

I like Garver as a prospect and think he could be an above average catcher, but I'd probably bring up JRM first.One, JRM has had ML success, and two, Garver hasn't spent much time in the high minors. 

Yeah, I just don't have a strong opinion on this. Murphy *should* be a capable hitter but his defense is middling. Garver has a better reputation as a defender, though Murphy earned his reputation in MLB while Garver did it in MiLB. Hard to get a read on that with any kind of accuracy.


#16 goulik

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Posted 19 May 2017 - 08:11 AM

I like the idea of having Garver up with Castro to mentor him on the advance stats part of receiving while we still have Castro. My guess is that they (Falvey/Lavine) are trying to introduce the same systems in Rochester as we have recently heard about in the majors. My vote is to bring up Garver when he has learned some new things defensively so as to get mentored, get ready to take over and trade a catcher at the All Star Break...Just need one of the catchers to build enough value to get some value back...


#17 Mike Sixel

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Posted 19 May 2017 - 08:13 AM

I'd probably call up Murphy right now. Giving Garver another month in AAA, or two, isn't the end of the world.

 

but, I'd like Garver up this year at some point (no later than August, since September is a fake month unless you are in contention), because I believe he's the future catcher, and would like him splitting time with Castro next year, and probably taking over more fully in 2019. I know some don't want Garver up and sitting, but he'll be sitting a lot in 2018 too. At some point, he has to come up (assuming you think he's the future).

 

I agree, having Escobar and Adrianza on the roster seems redundant right now. If Murphy or Garver can hit at all, they can be a PH if one is needed.

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I don't know, it is a site to discuss sports, not airline safety.....maybe we should take it less seriously?


#18 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 19 May 2017 - 08:17 AM

 

I agree, having Escobar and Adrianza on the roster seems redundant right now. If Murphy or Garver can hit at all, they can be a PH if one is needed.

Man, I just don't see it that way. Maybe they're redundant right this moment but I'm still not sold that this infield will be here in July, either due to trade or injury. Having both Adrianza and Escobar gives a lot of leeway in case of injury. Escobar can step in as starter at 3B, SS, or 2B and likely hold his own, leaving Adrianza as the futility guy.

 

It'd be nice if the Twins had an acceptable futility guy ready in the minors and Vielma might become that guy but he was only promoted to Rochester a few days ago. I'd stand pat with most of this roster for the time being.

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#19 Mike Sixel

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Posted 19 May 2017 - 08:25 AM

 

Man, I just don't see it that way. Maybe they're redundant right this moment but I'm still not sold that this infield will be here in July, either due to trade or injury. Having both Adrianza and Escobar gives a lot of leeway in case of injury. Escobar can step in as starter at 3B, SS, or 2B and likely hold his own, leaving Adrianza as the futility guy.

 

It'd be nice if the Twins had an acceptable futility guy ready in the minors and Vielma might become that guy but he was only promoted to Rochester a few days ago. I'd stand pat with most of this roster for the time being.

 

So, no calling up a 3rd catcher until the trade deadline? I could live with that, and understand it. But you have way more confidence that trades will happen than I do. Way more. I'm also not sure Adrianza is any better then Vielma (at least not enough more that it matters).

 

Interestingly, I think it more likely Escobar is traded than Dozier.

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I don't know, it is a site to discuss sports, not airline safety.....maybe we should take it less seriously?


#20 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 19 May 2017 - 08:33 AM

 

So, no calling up a 3rd catcher until the trade deadline? I could live with that, and understand it. But you have way more confidence that trades will happen than I do. Way more. I'm also not sure Adrianza is any better then Vielma (at least not enough more that it matters).

 

Interestingly, I think it more likely Escobar is traded than Dozier.

I'm also not sure whether Adrianza is any better than Vielma but the front office has obviously taken a shine to Adrianza. I'm not saying that's necessarily a bad thing because Vielma is reportedly a polished infielder but if he came to Minnesota and started booting the ball and making stupid mistakes, he wouldn't be the first guy to do so (we all remember Hicks' early fielding difficulties in MLB).

 

All in all, I'm far more concerned with what's (not) happening in the bullpen than I am the catching situation. Gimenez is on track to finish the season with 200 plate appearances. Even if you replace a .600 OPS with an .800 OPS over that time, the actual win difference isn't a whole lot. Not that I'm saying the Twins shouldn't be looking for an advantage here and there, only that the likely difference between Garver and Gimenez is rather small, and that's assuming Garver is the defensive equivalent of Gimenez (a rather big assumption).

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