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Article: Twins Prospect Spotlight Series: Ben Rortvedt

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#1 Tom Froemming

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Posted 12 December 2017 - 07:25 PM

As a way to look back at a great minor league season and look ahead toward the release of the 2018 Twins Prospect Handbook, I’ll be writing a series of features on prospects I seem to be especially high on. Next to receive the spotlight treatment is catcher Ben Rortvedt.Ranking prospects is a difficult task and everyone has a bit of a different methodology. This series isn’t meant to be critical of any of the other lists out there, it’s all about presenting a positive case for the featured player. We’re starting at the bottom of my list and working up from there. Here’s a look at what’s on deck:

Range 41-50 spotlight: Zander Wiel
Range 31-40 spotlight: Tom Hackimer
Range 21-30 spotlight: Lachlan Wells
Range 11-20 spotlight: Ben Rortvedt, No. 11
Range 1-10 spotlight: Coming Dec. 19

Yes, I have Ben Rortvedt just outside my top 10. I’d argue that no player in the Twins organization had the opportunity to grow more in 2017. Also, he is a catcher. There is no question about his ability to stick at the position or about how his personal and physical attributes will translate there. He’s already getting great reviews on his presence and leadership. At the time of the draft, Derron Johnson told Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com “the kid was born to catch.”

Being sent to Cedar Rapids to start the year was a challenging assignment. Not only was he tasked with trying to hit against a level of pitching much higher than he’d ever faced, but the pitching staff he handled was light years ahead of anything he had worked with. A lot of the pitchers he formed a battery with were college guys four or five years older than he is. I’m sure Rortvedt benefited greatly from being around those more experienced teammates, as well as having an entire summer under the wing of Tommy Watkins, J.P. Martinez and Brian Dinkelman.

It’s very rare to see a catcher this young play a full season. Here’s a quick look back at the Kernels primary catcher each year since becoming a Twins affiliate:
2017: Ben Rortvedt, age 19 season, 86 games caught
2016: A. J. Murray, 23, 45 games
2015: Brian Navarreto, 20, 84 games
2014: Mitch Garver, 23, 63 games
2013: Michael Quesada, 23, 51 games

So what about the bat? Well, don’t even bother looking at Rortvedt’s full-year stat line. Through May he was hitting just .139/.214/.174 (.388 OPS). Two months of absolutely horrendous hitting and the Twins let him endure that slump because they believed in him. Things eventually clicked, and he hit .273/.324/.397 (.721 OPS) over his final 54 games. Seth went down to Cedar Rapids and caught up with Rortvedt shortly after that turnaround started. That piece is well worth your time.

If that slash line above doesn’t catch your eye, consider this: That’s the exact same OPS teammate Lewin Diaz posted over the same stretch, and you don’t really see anybody questioning his future offensive potential. From June forward, Diaz hit .291/.328/.393. There’s also the fact that Rortvedt played the entire season at just 19-years-old. Other than Royce Lewis, he was the youngest player to appear for the Kernels last year. He and faced a pitcher younger than he was just eight times.

Rortvedt was a little older than the typical high school player in the 2016 draft class, but he still entered 2017 with roughly the same amount of professional experience as fellow ‘16 high school draftees Jose Miranda and Akil Baddoo. While Rortvedt played 89 games for Cedar Rapids, Miranda was at Elizabethton for 54 games and Baddoo split his season between the E-Twins (33 games) and the GCL (20 games). And those two obviously play much less demanding positions. I loved seeing how much confidence the Twins showed in Rortvedt and how he broke loose from that awful start with the bat. Here’s a video from the Kernels YouTube account where Rortvedt talks about the grind of the season and that breakout:



A big part of what moves the needle for me is definitely the fact that he’s a legit catcher, one who hits left-handed and has offensive upside, but I’m also encouraged about his physique and reports on his work ethic. Jeff Johnson, an excellent reporter for the Cedar Rapids Gazette, wrote this about Rortvedt in early April:

“The first thing you notice about him are his forearms. They’re huge.

He’s too young to understand the comparisons, but think Popeye or Steve Garvey here. Those kind of forearms.

‘I don’t know. I’m kind of a gym rat,’ Ben Rortvedt said with a sheepish smile. ‘I’m smaller, so I’ve always taken pride in being strong. Not being outworked in that way.’”

And here’s what Rortvedt’s former high school coach Brad D’Orazio told 2080 Baseball when asked what makes him so special:

“If he wasn’t sleeping, he was hitting the gym, hitting off of a tee, or harassing people to throw to him.”

It’s a good thing he’s developed that work ethic, because there are obviously a lot of things Rortvedt still needs to work on. Some of the numbers may not look like it, but I think he’s off to a great start. He threw out 36 percent of base stealers, only struck out in 17.9 percent of his plate appearances and crushed same-sided pitching, posting a .311/.400/.393 line (.793 OPS) against lefties.

For more on Ben Rortvedt and about 170 other Twins minor leaguers, be sure to pick up a copy of the 2018 Twins Prospect Handbook, which will be available later this winter.

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#2 mikelink45

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Posted 12 December 2017 - 07:38 PM

Thanks for the look at Ben - I do enjoy the popeye comparison!It would be terrific he he is another Mauer type of player who moves up quickly.Especially with Catchers it is nice to see them advance before their legs give in to the squats that they live with.I am recovering from a replaced Knee right now and the physically therapy I do is a tough reminder of what we expect out of the knees.The Popeye arms are great, but the wear and tear of daily games - even just warm ups - is a career damaging inevitability. 

 

 

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#3 jimmer

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Posted 12 December 2017 - 08:33 PM

Porthos: 'Rortvedt. Isn't that a smelly kind of cheese?'

 

:)

Edited by jimmer, 12 December 2017 - 08:33 PM.

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#4 Dman

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Posted 12 December 2017 - 09:26 PM

I think he is a good break out candidate for 2018.He took his hard knocks and has learned from them.All he needs to do is hit and he will make it.High A should be a piece of cake for him. 


#5 ashburyjohn

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Posted 12 December 2017 - 09:49 PM

One of the intangibles that scouts supposedly used to look for, in addition to all the tools and so forth, is the "good face". Ben Rortvedt IMO (not that I have the faintest clue what they actually look for) has the good face - he looks mature above his age. Personally I think it's likely a worthless observation, but I still like this photo (borrowed from his Adopt-A-Prospect page) which was a pretty typical look you'd find from him.

 

post-13-0-60577700-1491867788_thumb.jpg

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#6 terrydactyls1947

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Posted 12 December 2017 - 10:53 PM

The first thing I noiced when I saw the picture leading off the article is how unprotected his right shoulder is. As someone who had a total replacement of his left shoulder in 2012 and is getting the right shoulder replaced in two weeks, I might be a little sensitive to seeing a bare shoulder. I know that a catcher needs mobility in his throwing arm but that looks far too exposed to me. I felt sympathy pains and a little shudder when I saw the picture.

#7 nater79a

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Posted 12 December 2017 - 11:09 PM

One of my favorite Twins prospects.Sounds like he possesses great leadership qualities which is important for a catcher.Will be following him closely this summer as he continues his development.  

 

Thanks for the article, Tom.

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#8 Penthang

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Posted 13 December 2017 - 06:48 AM

I was interested to see him at 11 on your list. A few days ago when Seth posted his preliminary top 50 list and had him at 26 I was a little disappointed because in my mind I was hoping he was in the teen range…while finding another Mauer is an improbable thing I have hope that Rortvedt can be something close to that combo of great defense and good offensively that is so hard to find in a catcher. From your write up it sounds like he is progressing twords that. Looking forward to seeing what this season has in store for him.

--Twins Fan From Texas


#9 Doctor Wu

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Posted 13 December 2017 - 07:24 AM

We need more catching depth, and I'm encouraged by Ben's progress and his potential. Seems like he has those necessary intangibles like "good makeup" and the right attitude too. Keep on climbing that organizational ladder!


#10 ashburyjohn

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Posted 13 December 2017 - 10:09 AM

Quad Cities, near the end of that video clip? I love that ballpark!

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#11 Tom Froemming

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Posted 13 December 2017 - 12:25 PM

 

I was interested to see him at 11 on your list. A few days ago when Seth posted his preliminary top 50 list and had him at 26 I was a little disappointed because in my mind I was hoping he was in the teen range…

I'd be willing to bet Seth's opinion of Rortvedt isn't too different than mine, there are just a ton of guys in that 10-30 range who are really close. 


#12 rdehring

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Posted 13 December 2017 - 03:50 PM

Great article, Tom, always good to read about a sharp young man from Verona!  

 

The interesting question will be where he starts next year.Is it at Fort Myers or back at Cedar Rapids?

 

Castro has 2 more years on his contract.Could Ben be ready for backup duty by 2020?


#13 Tom Froemming

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Posted 13 December 2017 - 04:25 PM

 

Great article, Tom, always good to read about a sharp young man from Verona!  

 

The interesting question will be where he starts next year.Is it at Fort Myers or back at Cedar Rapids?

 

Castro has 2 more years on his contract.Could Ben be ready for backup duty by 2020?

I might let him start back in Cedar Rapids for a couple months just to get him rolling, but I wouldn't be shocked if he went to Fort Myers. Rortvedt's only going to be 22 when that Castro contract ends. Not many catchers that young holding down MLB gigs. Joe Mauer did, but he's a rare bird. I would avoid comparing those two. It's not fair to Ben.

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#14 Twinsfan12

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Posted 13 December 2017 - 04:57 PM

Ben Twins

One thing is for sure, Ben won't be out hustled or out worked by many. He's really putting in the time this off season in the gym! The kid really is 100% Baseball! 

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#15 AZTwin

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Posted 13 December 2017 - 05:32 PM

Is part of baseball flexibility? Especially from the catcher position. Hope he doesn’t bulk up too much more

#16 MN_ExPat

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Posted 14 December 2017 - 01:13 PM

He 50% catcher, 50% Gym Rat, 50% Mountain Man!

 

That's 150%!!! HE'S HUGE!!!!

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