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Did the Real Mitch Garver Stand Up?


Ted Schwerzler

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Suggesting that 2020 was an awful year for Mitch Garver would be putting it lightly. Even with the small sample size, he left plenty to be desired going into the season. But now, where has the dust settled?

In trying to play a season through a global pandemic plenty was made regarding the small sample size even a full slate of games would provide. Offering players just 60 games of runway largely invalidated the length necessary for baseball statistics to normalize. For Minnesota Twins catcher Mitch Garver, the total was just 23 games and his .511 OPS looked like a far cry from his Bomba Squad contributions a year prior.

Shelved for the stretch run, Garver ceded time to rookie Ryan Jeffers. The 2018 draftee was selected for his bat and the .791 OPS through his first 26 games at the big league level made things interesting. It appeared that the Twins would either have a nice tandem if Mitch returned to form, or that their new pick would unseat the veteran.

Fast forward to where we are today, and the roles have reversed. Through 79 games this season Jeffers has just a .666 OPS and was demoted to Triple-A in favor of non-hitting defensive option Ben Rortvedt. Garver meanwhile has rebounded to the tune of an .880 OPS but again has been hampered by injuries and played in just 61 games.

Missing most of his time this season due to an unfortunate foul ball ricochet, it’s fair to suggest that Garver’s injury situation has been fluky at best. Recently a nagging back has kept him out, but a return to the lineup for the final two weeks has now commenced. The production itself has returned, but we’re dealing with a sample that would’ve been considered too small just a season ago.

That leaves Derek Falvey and Thad Levine in an interesting position going into the offseason. 2020 saw the Twins opting for a split with veteran backstop Alex Avila. It’d be unfortunate if the roster needs a player like that given Minnesota’s internal options. What needs to happen however, is that this version of Mitch Garver continues to present itself over the course of a full season in 2022.

The knock on Garver has always been his defensive ability. Ratcheting up his framing prowess and receiving skills took his game to new heights, and the bat that has always been his calling card has stood out since his true emergence on the big league roster. With an electronic strike zone looking more likely than not, the Twins need a thumping version of Garver to remain productive.

At 30-years-old there’s not much reason to worry about the expense side of the equation. Under team control until he’s entering his age-34 season, Garver could be carried through arbitration without ever truly needing a long-term extension. Minnesota certainly could opt to keep Garver around if his production warrants it past his prime, but the incentive to do so will be entirely results based as opposed to necessary projection.

There’s plenty up in the air when it comes to the Twins in 2022. A team that was supposed to compete should have never flopped this hard. It’s been great to see Mitch Garver take back the reigns on his career however, and looking for a full runway of games, the goal will be to replicate the offensive performance once again.

For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz

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I think Garver has shown who he is. A highly valuable bat in a super premium position. He's also shown he's injury prone. While fluke injuries can be just that, Garver has a long pattern of lots of fluke injuries, somewhat similar to Buxton. I think 350 plate appearances and 90 games a year is about what to expect from Garver. A tick more than Buxton, but not much. Garver missed time to a foul ball shot in the nether regions, came back for a game or two, then departed on paternity leave. Then came back for a few games, then went out for 20 more games.

I'm not sure Garver is likely to be under team control until age 34. I suspect changes to free agency rules in the new CBA will limit team control over him, as well they should. Time will tell.

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Giving Jeffers 90ish starts at C and starting Garver for 60ish games behind the plate plus 80 games at DH is my ideal scenario going forward. Pencil in Rortvedt for another 15ish games at C and you have catcher covered for the next couple seasons.

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an unfortunate foul ball ricochet

You have a talent for understatement, Mr. Scwerzler.

In 2019 the Target Field vendors were out of Garver jerseys when I visited.  I settled for a Kepler shirt, and have been mildly disappointed ever since. Indications are that Garver can be every bit as good in '22 as he was in '19.  Hope we get to see that come true.

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to keep Garver healthier, I see his rotation at the DH spot crucial.  Now that opens up a can of worms.  Let's say Kiriloff and Sano are rotating at 1st base/DH... Garver and Jeffers are rotating at Catcher... I think we have DH covered in that scenario but the spreadsheet loving Rocco could be the issue to the solution.  Now if Miranda is the 3b of choice and rotates in with Donaldson because we know his legs will dictate DH time... we have DH issue with getting everyone at bats consistently

 

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If his bat is that valuable that it should be in the lineup more than 100 games a year, he will likely have to stop catching.  The problem is how do the Twins do that? And who catches then?

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I would hate to lose Garver, but he is probably one of the best trade commodities on the team. He is a good hitting catcher with power and  a decent defender. He can also fill in at first or DH. Since it doesn't really look like the Twins are going to be able to compete for a playoff position next year they may be able to swap him for some top pitching prospects. A team that trades for him would also have 3 years of team control.

From the Twins side they having 2 good catching prospects in Jeffers and Rortvedt that are both 6 years younger than Garver. The risk of course is they may never hit as well as Garver. Garver will be 31 next year with an injury history that has so far prevented him from catching more than 70-75 games a year at any level.

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