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Article: Twins 2018 Position Analysis: Catcher

jason castro mitch garver
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#1 Nick Nelson

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Posted 04 March 2018 - 08:43 PM

In the coming weeks, leading up to the start of the regular season, we'll take an in-depth look at every position for the 2018 Twins, breaking down the strengths, weaknesses, depth, and outlook for each.

Today we kick off this new series by analyzing the catcher position, where Minnesota's reigning Minor League Player of the Year will be seeking to make a major impact.Projected Starter: Jason Castro
Likely Backup: Mitch Garver

Depth: Bobby Wilson, Willians Astudillo, Brian Navarreto
Prospects: David Banuelos, Ben Rortvedt

THE GOOD

By signing Jason Castro to a three-year deal within his first few weeks on the job, GM Thad Levine was laying groundwork for a sustained platoon set-up at the catcher position. This year, we'll see that plan come to fruition.

Mitch Garver, one of the best catching prospects developed by the Twins in some time, was nearing readiness a year ago but not quite there. Chris Gimenez was signed as a stopgap so Garver could continue growing in the minors.

And grow he did.

The 26-year-old enjoyed a breakout season at Rochester, with his offensive production elevating from good to great for the first time. He was especially effective against left-handed pitchers, slashing .290/.408/.530 with a 17% walk rate. That of course makes him an ideally suited complement to the lefty-hitting Twins incumbent.

Castro actually didn't hit very well against right-handed pitchers in 2017, batting .234 with a .379 slugging percentage, but that's a departure from his career norm. And despite the overall struggles he still managed a 12.5% walk rate.

In a potentially stacked Twins lineup, production at catcher figures to be a relative luxury. If Castro and Garver stay healthy, there's enough OBP floor here to suggest they'll at least keep the position from being a liability.

Catcher is a punishing, brutal assignment however. The likelihood of both players avoiding the disabled list all summer is not high, and that's where things get a little dubious here.

THE BAD

The Twins are showing a ton of confidence in Garver, despite his .636 OPS during a brief MLB debut last year. They've given him a clear and unobstructed path to a roster spot as Castro's caddy – a significant role that should yield 200-300 plate appearances, and perhaps more if performance warrants.

This is nice to see. The Twins are going all-in on a homegrown player who has absolutely earned the opportunity. But the degree to which they've put their eggs in the Garver basket borders on brazen.

We're still in the first week of March, and both of Minnesota's top two catchers on the depth chart have already experienced minor health issues. Castro's been kept out of the lineup in recent days by migraines. Garver tweaked his knee last week seriously enough to require tests, but got good news from his scans, which showed no significant damage.

If either player encounters a more substantial injury this month and needs to open the season on the disabled list, the Twins are presently lined up to go with Bobby Wilson on the 25-man roster. He's 34, hasn't surfaced in the majors since 2016, and owns a .587 big-league OPS. The two other guys getting reps in camp, Willians Astudillo and Brian Navarreto, have never played in the majors.

Astudillo, I will say, is a little intriguing. He's never been much of a prospect but batted .342 in 36 games with Arizona's Triple-A affiliate last year, and more recently had an excellent showing in the Venezuelan Winter League. He never strikes out and is still only 26. Maybe there's something there.

But, intrigue aside, the Twins have little in the way of established, viable MLB depth behind Castro and Garver. Navarreto has a .203 lifetime average in the minors, and the club's top upcoming prospects at the position – Rortvedt and Banuelos – have yet to reach Double-A.

Possible injuries aren't the only concern stemming from Minnesota's lack of proven catching contingencies. Garver himself is unproven. He hit .196 in a month-long stint with the Twins last year and we hardly saw him tested defensively at the highest level. (He caught only 50 innings in six weeks with the club.)

Because he'll have a low-pressure role, a high concentration of at-bats against southpaws, and plenty of days off from catching to rest his legs, Garver is being given almost ideal circumstances for a smooth transition into the majors. But he's still gotta do it. And if he's not up to the task, the Twins really don't have much in the way of fallback options at this point.

THE BOTTOM LINE

As you'll see throughout this series, the Twins have done well to build ample depth at almost every position. Catcher is an exception. If Garver gets overwhelmed, or gets hurt, or Castro gets hurt, this team could be in a tough spot. And, realistically, one of those things is probably going to happen at some point.

At the same time, their ability to address this issue is limited. The Twins seem to be telling Garver, "The job is yours, you don't need to 'earn' it with your play in spring training, we're giving you a full shot here so go get it." Which is great! But it makes Minnesota an unappealing destination for any prospective addition who deserves to be in the majors. Even if a remaining free agent like Geovany Soto, Carlos Ruiz or Jonathan Lucroy reaches a point where he's willing to settle for a low-stakes minor-league contract, it won't be with a team that gives him almost zero opportunity to win even a backup job.

Castro is a well established commodity at this point. He's a safe bet for an OPS around .700 with steady defense behind the plate. In 2017 he anchored a position that collectively finished with a .703 OPS, good for 10th in the American League.

Garver represents the team's best chance to move the needle. He brings more to the table than Gimenez skill-wise, so if things click Garver could fuel big improvement for this unit.

But right now, he's an unknown, and one of the biggest wild cards on the roster.

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#2 slash129

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Posted 04 March 2018 - 08:58 PM

Rainis Silva is also a prospect, but he'll probably be in A-A+-ball.

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#3 Vanimal46

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Posted 04 March 2018 - 09:08 PM

Boy, the depth is paper thin at C this year. Good thing Castro is durable.

#4 Deduno Abides

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Posted 04 March 2018 - 10:15 PM

Some of Navarreto’s defensive stats are crazy good. If he could only hit as well as Drew Butera, he’d have a good career.
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#5 Riverbrian

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Posted 04 March 2018 - 10:18 PM

Catchers typically don't hit that well to begin with. 

 

If we need a fill in... somebody will fill in without that much of a drop off. 

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#6 Danchat

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Posted 04 March 2018 - 10:40 PM

I'm glad they're giving the backup catcher job to Garver. I think he'll provide some value on offense and be a solid pinch hitter late in games when Castro's catching. Hopefully Garver can improve his defense too. 

 

I wonder how Stuart Turner (Garver's counterpart) is doing. I see he provided -1.2 WAR of value in just 89 PAs for the Reds last year. I wonder if he'll be on the Reds 25 man roster this season?

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#7 Duke Powell

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Posted 04 March 2018 - 11:13 PM

The Twins attempted to reassign Gimenez to the minors and he refused, declaring free agency. Joe Madden had Gimenez at Tampa and the Cubs signed him to a minor league deal. He has had a hot early spring as a non-roster invitee.


While always a career backup, Gimenez has been around a long time. Hard to figure why the Twins would give up a known (albeit aging) quantity and leaving themselves with two back-ups with scant MLB experience.

Joe Madden sees value while the Twins now struggle to find backup catchers better than the Fryer/Hermann/Pinto/Doumit era.

#8 KirbyDome89

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Posted 05 March 2018 - 12:29 AM

 

The Twins attempted to reassign Gimenez to the minors and he refused, declaring free agency. Joe Madden had Gimenez at Tampa and the Cubs signed him to a minor league deal. He has had a hot early spring as a non-roster invitee.


While always a career backup, Gimenez has been around a long time. Hard to figure why the Twins would give up a known (albeit aging) quantity and leaving themselves with two back-ups with scant MLB experience.

Joe Madden sees value while the Twins now struggle to find backup catchers better than the Fryer/Hermann/Pinto/Doumit era.

There have plenty of moves to question this offseason but letting Gimenez go isn't one of them.

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#9 TL

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Posted 05 March 2018 - 05:12 AM

A Drew Butera type is always available for almost nothing if needed. Good to see them with an actual strategy behind the plate at the MLB level (Garver on tough lefties) with potential to make the position a strength.
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#10 Splash

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Posted 05 March 2018 - 07:04 AM

I think our offense will be good enough that we could have someone like Navarreto fill in for a while without hitting much as long as they play solid defense. I also don’t think it’s very likely that both Castro and Garver go down, so a 3rd catcher is more of a luxury than requirement.
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#11 Platoon

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Posted 05 March 2018 - 07:23 AM

Those SS innings behind the plate from Garver were less than impressive defensively. We better hope it was just butterflies he felt, instead of it looking like he was trying to catch one! :)
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#12 adorduan

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Posted 05 March 2018 - 09:03 AM

 

The Twins attempted to reassign Gimenez to the minors and he refused, declaring free agency. Joe Madden had Gimenez at Tampa and the Cubs signed him to a minor league deal. He has had a hot early spring as a non-roster invitee.


While always a career backup, Gimenez has been around a long time. Hard to figure why the Twins would give up a known (albeit aging) quantity and leaving themselves with two back-ups with scant MLB experience.

Joe Madden sees value while the Twins now struggle to find backup catchers better than the Fryer/Hermann/Pinto/Doumit era.

Because it's time to give Garver his shot, he's earned it. Gimenez hasn't going to settle for 3rd string catcher waiting in AAA. Sometimes you have to roll the dice a little.

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#13 JLease

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Posted 05 March 2018 - 10:23 AM

I dont think it's unusual to have these hiccups in a system where you dont have the smooth pipeline at every position. I'd love to have the next version of Mitch Garver be coming off some solid time at AA and being seriously considered for promotion to AAA, but there's always a few hiccups there.

 

Castro is set to start, Garver looks ready to be the number #1 backup and get some extra ABs against LHPs. Twins are betting that if Castro goes down for a short period of time that Garver can step up and handle it, and that's not an unreasonable bet. Lets be honest: how great is the catching depth in MLB?

 

I wouldn't be surprised if the Twins comb the waiver wire coming out of Spring Training to shore up a little AAA depth, which is probably the right choice.

 

I'm intrigued by Rortvedt and it'd be ideal if hes starting to press his way up the system by the time Castro's contract is up and they can swing him onto the roster the same way they are bringing Garver along.


#14 TNTwinsFan

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Posted 05 March 2018 - 11:02 AM

Rainis Silva is also a prospect, but he'll probably be in A-A+-ball.


I read a Top Prospect Ranking that had Silva as a Top 2 or 3 prospect in the entire system!!! Could he be a Sleeper this year and arrive in a big way on other Prospect Rankings?! Has he figured out how to hit? I believe the report also said his defense was MLB caliber NOW. Anyone else even mildly as high on him as this?
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#15 twinfan

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Posted 05 March 2018 - 11:19 AM

Castro will probably hit .235 with 14-18 home runs. Garver is an unknown quantity but cannot be counted on for much over .250 at this time. The main thing is staying healthy because Castro does more to help our pitchers than most catcher could. A good defensive catcher is a must for us to win. I'm sure management will name or find a number 3 catcher to be ready at Rochester just in case.


#16 ahart10

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Posted 05 March 2018 - 11:26 AM

This is Garver’s sink or swim moment. He’ll either find his stroke or drown between now and May/June.

I wonder how much Lucroy will cost for a 1 yr deal.

#17 Dave The Dastardly

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Posted 05 March 2018 - 11:27 AM

Twill be interesting to see if any one of the minor league catchers really "catch" on this year. Don't know why, but I'm keeping an eye on Rortvedt. Although this Silva guy also sounds interesting.


#18 caninatl04

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Posted 05 March 2018 - 02:56 PM

Well, there is hope on the (very distant) horizon. There are two catchers: Mason Denaburg and Will Banfield who are slotted around the Twins' first pick in this years draft.

So, I write sarcastically, all should be well in, say, 2024.

#19 Thrylos

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Posted 05 March 2018 - 06:42 PM

FWIW Garver hit 238/.333/.429 (.762 OPS, 105 OPS+, .326 wOBA) against LHP last season in the majors.That is not bad.If he gets all LHPs and about 1/4 of the RHPs the Twins should be fine in 2018.

 

Just don't play him at the OF or 1B...

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#20 Thrylos

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Posted 05 March 2018 - 06:46 PM

 

I read a Top Prospect Ranking that had Silva as a Top 2 or 3 prospect in the entire system!!! Could he be a Sleeper this year and arrive in a big way on other Prospect Rankings?! Has he figured out how to hit? I believe the report also said his defense was MLB caliber NOW. Anyone else even mildly as high on him as this?

 

I don't know who had him in the top 3, but unless you can find that, you might be talking about my ranking, where I had him 6th.Ranking and reasoning here.And, yes, he has been MLB-ready with the glove for a couple seasons now.His issue used to be that he (like Navarreto now and always btw) could not hit his way out of a paper bag.

 

Catchers do develop later unless they are freaks like Mauer or Posey

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