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Let Me Talk About Catchers


the_neds

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The Minnesota Twins have four catchers in the conversation for the 2022 season that I can see - even if some of those conversations aren’t going to be very long. Let’s start with what I consider one of those quick ones. 

 

Willians Astudillo 

La Tortuga is a folk hero, and we love him. Everyone loves our relief pitching, chubby base-running, helmet losing backup-backup-backup catcher. But at this point, keeping him on the 40 man is pretty much just keeping someone else with more value off of it. He doesn’t have a defensive upside apart from being able to plug a hole at most fielding positions - not any of them particularly well - and batted at .238 in the Majors this year, which really isn’t good enough to leapfrog other waiting catchers with long term defensive upside. I just don’t see a realistic expectation that he is going to play out as an average or better member of the team, and should probably be signed to a Minors deal. The fact that he’s listed on the 40-man as a 1B is a pretty good indicator of how he ranks in terms of Minnesota catchers. 

 

2022 Prediction - Will not break camp with Twins, will not make 40-man roster.

 

Now onto the catchers that I figure will be involved in the plans for the Twins. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that I mean Garver, Jeffers and Rortvedt. I’ve included their stats for the year as a refresher (via FanGraphs). 

 

Offensive Stats 2021 

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Defensive Stats 2021

 

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Mitch Garver

Mitch is my Do Not Trade catcher. Whilst he pretty much grades out average in terms of catcher defense, his 2019 season and the  mid to latter half of the 2021 season (barring That Injury We Don’t Like To Think About) make him by far - and I mean far - the most productive catcher we have offensively. He ranked 13th amongst catchers in AVG (min 50 PA), 7th in OBP and 5th in slugging, finishing the year on .256/.358/.517. He was definitely struggling at the plate early on, but he did settle in and he was playing pretty darn well before he spent five weeks dealing with that groin injury and another four with back tightness. If someone honestly wants to take Garver off our hands, I see it taking an extremely sizeable haul because at the moment he’s our safest bet. Yes he’s older than the other two and has had some injury, and a veteran catcher to split time with them wouldn’t cost much if we do trade him, but like I’ve said - unless the promised return is huge I don’t see why we’d deal a catcher who hits like that. 

2022 Prediction - will not be traded, breaks camp as Opening Day catcher for the Twins.

 

Ryan Jeffers

Jeffers actually took the lion’s share of games this year thanks to Garver’s injuries and whilst he is projected to end up as the better defensive catcher (though this year Garver was ranked 93rd percentile in pitch framing per Baseball Savant to Jeffers’ 74), his bat just did not carry this year. To the point where - had we had another catcher ready - I imagine he would have been sent to St Paul to work it out. He managed an average of just .199 across 267 at-bats. I have faith though, that his bat will grade out to average and in my mind, he’s probably the one who will end up taking the most time behind the plate if the Twins attempt to rotate the DH role for the 2022 season (which I think they will). Let’s not forget he had a pretty darn good 2020 season with his bat, finishing with a stat line of .273/.355/.436/, which was a tick above league average. He’s got the goods, I just think he caught a bad case of the sophomore slump. Hard work required, but Jeffers will hang around long term.

2022 Prediction - he will break camp with the Twins and split catching duties with Garver. 

 

Ben Rortvedt

I’m just going to get this out of the way. He’s got huge arms, okay? We’ve seen them. And defensively, he’s projected to have the highest upside of all four catchers. But in terms of Major League production, he’s just not ready. Batting at .169 for the year (over 87 PA), his OBP was a paltry .227, far below the league average .317, and slugged at just .281. This places him second last in all Twins hitting categories with just Gilberto Celestino ranking lower in AVG and OBP, and Andrelton Simmons ranking last in SLG. His defense has him ranked above Jeffers in terms of overall WPA for the year, but the bat is going to need to improve drastically if he’s going to make league average, or even a low-offense/high-defense combo. There is the chance a team could carry a slightly below average hitter if he has a huge defensive upside (Simmons anyone?) but there’s not many that would take that kind of offensive shortage. He needs to start 2022 in the minors, have a solid spring, and work on his offense. 

2022 Prediction - he’ll probably make the 40-man, but will spend the year in St Paul working on his bat skills. 

 

Let me talk a minute on a Garver trade. As I already said, I don’t like the idea at all. And honestly, is he valuable enough to another team (apart from the Marlins, who Cody Christie wrote about already) for them to trade with proven, high quality pitching? Because that’s what the return needs to be. The Twins have a whole heap of prospect arms at/about to be tested in the Majors in the upcoming season but we need impact rotation pitching now. I don't know if Garver on his own would bring enough back for us... maybe if he was in a package deal?

 

If the 2022 season includes a universal DH, Mitch Garver becomes more valuable. His average this season was only just above league average, but his slugging percentage - when viewed with his 2019 Silver Slugger - mean he might draw interest from a National League team looking to possibly platoon through the DH, or who struggle to find a bat only DH at good value. He’s still in arbitration, made less than $2M this year, and is projected to make a hair over $3M next year. Compare that to the $13M we paid Nelson Cruz just to hit, and he becomes a much more valuable piece to a broader audience.

 

I like the combo of Garver and Jeffers for next year. They seem to have a decent balance sorted out and provided Jeffers can get his bat to click in 2022, there’s no need to create a problem at catcher when we have enough things we need to address. 

 

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I've commented on this several times as well.  With the Marlins as a trade target, the Twins have both Garver and Jeffers who should be VERY interesting to Miami.  MLB Trade values currently has Garver at 18.1 and Jeffers at 27.9.  If the Twins are looking for someone like Sandy Alcantara it would take Jeffers and Larnach.  I'd do that.  If the Twins are willing to go for someone like former Golden Gopher Max Meyer (28.1) Jeffers in a one-for-one swap pretty much does it.  If the Twins want to go BIG and ask for Meyer AND Sixto Sanchez (9.5) then a little something extra would need to be added with Jeffers.  The thing is, Jeffers is a solid defensive catcher with power (14 HR's in under 300 PA's) whose younger with more years of team control.  The Marlins catching situation is a disaster and one they will need to address this off season.  Is Jeffers really worth more than Garver ?  I don't think so either, but it depends what the Marlins think.  With Rortvedt about a year away, I see the Twins dealing Jeffers and picking up a Jason Castro type for a backup.  The Marlins have an embarrassment of riches with young pitching and a black hole at catcher.  Larnach is just the type of young hitter a team desperate for offense should take a chance on.  I'd hate to part with Larnach, been a fan ever since I saw him get clutch hit after clutch hit in leading Oregon state to an NCAA baseball title.  But his value is much higher than Kepler's, so Kepler is worth more to the Twins at his currently depressed value, making Larnach available.  Maybe Max figures out what he needs to do to hit better, maybe not, but the Twins can't trade guys like Kepler or Buxton when their current value is so low.

I trade Jeffers to the Marlins in a package for young SP.

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Totally agree with TopGun. You should be our GM.

33 minutes ago, TopGunn#22 said:

I've commented on this several times as well.  With the Marlins as a trade target, the Twins have both Garver and Jeffers who should be VERY interesting to Miami.  MLB Trade values currently has Garver at 18.1 and Jeffers at 27.9.  If the Twins are looking for someone like Sandy Alcantara it would take Jeffers and Larnach.  I'd do that.  If the Twins are willing to go for someone like former Golden Gopher Max Meyer (28.1) Jeffers in a one-for-one swap pretty much does it.  If the Twins want to go BIG and ask for Meyer AND Sixto Sanchez (9.5) then a little something extra would need to be added with Jeffers.  The thing is, Jeffers is a solid defensive catcher with power (14 HR's in under 300 PA's) whose younger with more years of team control.  The Marlins catching situation is a disaster and one they will need to address this off season.  Is Jeffers really worth more than Garver ?  I don't think so either, but it depends what the Marlins think.  With Rortvedt about a year away, I see the Twins dealing Jeffers and picking up a Jason Castro type for a backup.  The Marlins have an embarrassment of riches with young pitching and a black hole at catcher.  Larnach is just the type of young hitter a team desperate for offense should take a chance on.  I'd hate to part with Larnach, been a fan ever since I saw him get clutch hit after clutch hit in leading Oregon state to an NCAA baseball title.  But his value is much higher than Kepler's, so Kepler is worth more to the Twins at his currently depressed value, making Larnach available.  Maybe Max figures out what he needs to do to hit better, maybe not, but the Twins can't trade guys like Kepler or Buxton when their current value is so low.

I trade Jeffers to the Marlins in a package for young SP.

 

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Jeffers is not as good a catcher as Astudillo but Willians got few chances this year, while Jeffers was continually chasing balls that go by him.

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Garver is the best of the three and I would hazard a guess that other teams put a higher value on Garver than Jeffers. The hope is that the Twins are better next year, at least above .500 and hopefully in a dead heat for the AL Central lead. In order to improve the team needs starting pitching. Miami and Oakland seem to be two possible trade partners and I'm looking at Alcantar and Meyers from Miami and Montas or Bassitt from Oakland. The question is what do the other teams need and want. Garver, Larnach, Sands, + for Alcantara and Meyers? If the Twins can settle the Buxton contract, then Celestino or others to sweeten the deal? Miami fans are suggesting Lopez for Abrams and Campusino from San Diego. It all gets a little crazy as we play with who would benefit our Twins and what players would be attractive to another team from the Twins roster.

Garver is a good player and worth keeping, but at some point the Twins need to attempt to gain a pitcher. If Miami prefers Jeffers, who I believe will improve next year and beyond, then substitute Jeffers in the trade.

Lastly, Rortvedt is the best defensive catcher of the three and he can make some adjustments at the plate. He is a mighty strong dude and seems to want to crush everything. A little experience, manage the swing, and he can become a decent hitter, in my opinion.

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I agree tony&rodney.  Rortvedt may need a solid year at AAA but he's a Twins catcher going forward either in late 2022 but certainly for 2023.  Myself, I value Garver more than Jeffers because of the offensive ability but until MLB Trade Values places more value on Garver, I'm trading Jeffers and Larnach for Alcantara.  Or Jeffers and Larnach for Max Meyer and Sixto Sanchez and Anthony Bender/Dylan Floro (potential closers).  And I agree with the A's as a potential trade partner but they don't need a catcher.  I could see Arraez and Canterino for Frankie Montas.  

With Carlos Rodon's "shoulder issues" and his less than stellar 2nd half, I'm cooling on him as a potential Twin FA signing.  I'm leaning more toward an Eduardo Rodriguez type.  4-years and $15 million per year could possibly work.  If the Twins added Ed-Rod via FA and acquired Alcantara and Montas their starting staff would be Alcantara, Montas, Ed-Rod, Ryan and Ober.  If they brought back Pineda that's a 6th guy and they could conceivably limit Ryan and Ober's innings.  Throw Dobnak into the mix and there's the makings of some "depth."  I think a rebuilt pitching staff like that could put the Twins in the mix in 2022.  And the division is not Dodgers, Giants, Padres strong.  We SHOULD be able to compete.  Each of Alcantara, Montas and Ed-Rod are YOUNG.  If Balazovic, Duran and others develop then you have true pitching depth.   

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17 hours ago, RpR said:

Jeffers is not as good a catcher as Astudillo but Willians got few chances this year, while Jeffers was continually chasing balls that go by him.

are you just trolling in every thread now? Jeffers is a far superior defensive catcher by basically any possible metric, including the eye test. Astudillo got few chances at catcher this year because the Twins know he's not really any good back there. (Jeffers, even through his struggles, was a more valuable hitter at catcher as well)

Astudillo is a fun player and obviously a likable guy, but he's not any kind of solution at catcher and doesn't hit or defend enough to deserve a spot on the 40-man, let alone the MLB roster.

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2 hours ago, TopGunn#22 said:

I agree with the A's as a potential trade partner but they don't need a catcher.  I could see Arraez and Canterino for Frankie Montas.  

 

Yes, I agree the A's are not interested in a catcher. They want infielders and sluggers. I'm not sure what to add to Arraez and Rooker, but would give Duffey, maybe Dobnak  and a minor leaguer like Steer or Cavaco.

The idea we agree on - add pitching. I looked at the trade value site months ago but while it has some value the GM's almost certainly have totally different views on players. Garver is the perfect example. While I really think Jeffers will improve, Garver is clearly a better player for now and the next two to three years. The Twins could strike early with a few trades like what we hope to see and even overpay if necessary to complete the deals.

Buxton's contract, however, is a key and may put a hold on things. I'm afraid if the Twins need to trade Byron that they might find it difficult to return the value they need from losing his talent. The Twins would need to allow teams an opportunity to talk contract with BB to increase his value. Hopefully the Twins are on this right now because getting resolution is not too important for the player but is crucial for the team.

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Jeffers was a rookie in 2021 as he had only 55 at bats in 2020. He never played at the triple A season before this year when he made a total of 103 plate appearances. It was worth noting that Jeffers started 77 games at catcher for the Twins this year, more than Garver has started in any season at any level. Hopefully in 2022 he won't suffer a sophomore slump. This may be why he is rated higher than Garver.

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Honestly, the number of teams interested in a good defensive catcher who can OPS .900 is pretty long. There's a reason a 28 year old Realmuto got 5 years and $115MM.

Garver has the same issue as Buxton right now, missing half the year all the time. He just needs to put together 2 qualified seasons, keep playing like he has and Garver will be in line for a six figure deal.

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On 10/14/2021 at 2:00 PM, DJL44 said:

Both Atlanta and San Diego would be interested in Garver. Seattle might also want him.

Yes, but how interested? Ian Anderson interested? C. J. Abrams interested? 

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Thanks for the discussion guys! Like most of you, I think Garver is worth more to the Twins than he is to another team at the moment because Rortvedt isn't ready. Jeffers is younger, more team control, higher defensive upside. Basically if we trade Garver, they get him this year and then he hits free agency. I like (which means hate) the idea of a Larnach/Jeffers deal - I could see some bites for that. I think we'll see Arraez get some trade queries this offseason too, and as much as I'd hate to see him go, we need a pitcher. 

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19 hours ago, the_neds said:

 if we trade Garver, they get him this year and then he hits free agency.

No, it's two full seasons until Garver qualifies for free agency

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