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Front Page: Should Twins Consider Moving Mitch Garver to 1B?


For a decade, the Twins had the best catcher in baseball. Then 2011 came and Joe Mauer was forced to move away from catching. Should the Twins consider protecting Mitch Garver from the risks that ultimately forced Mauer to switch positions?During his first three seasons as a full-time first baseman, from 2014-16, Mauer went from an MVP-caliber player to an average hitter. Most of that was due to lingering issues caused by his previous injuries, especially the repeated concussions. A lot of people thought he was done.

 

Back in May of this year, Twins fans had a terrifying flashback of that situation, when Shohei Ohtani slid into home plate trying to score from second and hit Garver’s ankle on the base path. Garver went on to miss 16 games because of that play.

 

 

That was when many Twins fans started to think about the possibility of removing Garver from behind the plate. After all, he was hitting .329/.418/.747 (1.164) with a 198 wRC+. It’s obvious that Garver himself wants to keep catching, but should the Twins try to change his mind?

 

Increasing danger

MLB catchers are constantly at risk and some people argue that the league hasn’t done much to protect them. In 2015, a study showed that almost nine out of 10 times a catcher gets injured, it’s due to a foul ball or a bat to the head. There have been rule changes regarding home plate collisions, but that doesn’t seem to be working all that well. Just this year, some catchers have suffered hard hits at home, including this gruesome crash that nearly ended Jonathan Lucroy’s season.

 

 

We’re talking about human beings under constant danger and MLB should try to come up with a solution to protect all of them.

 

Other catchers to change positions

Hall of Famer Joe Torre gave up the catching after the 1970 season at age 29 after 11 full seasons behind the plate. His productivity barely changed. He won his one and only MVP award in 1971 as a full-time third baseman. Yogi Berra, another member of Cooperstown, also had a considerable drop in his playing time as a catcher. He averaged more than 572 PA per season as a catcher between 1950 and 1957. From 1958 until the end of his career in 1965, he averaged only 199 PA per season behind the plate. There are lots of other examples, which you can check here and here.

 

How and why the Twins could do it

Earlier this week, we discussed whether or not Minnesota should tender a contract to C.J. Cron. If they don’t, it’s hard to imagine a player that would be a better fit for first base. Some would argue that Miguel Sanó should be the first option, but then you would have to go after a replacement for him at third, like we discussed here.

 

Also, in this scenario, The Twins may not need to replace Jason Castro. Having the role of primary catcher available may increase the Twins chances of resigning Castro. You would have a very good catcher who is familiar with the organization and can contribute immensely to the team in every aspect.

 

Please share your thoughts in the comments below. Not registered? Click here to create an account. To stay up to date, follow Twins Daily on Twitter and Facebook.

 

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Something to think about.
I think it’s interesting that I’ve not seen anybody talk about our internal options for catcher. At AAA, Tom Tellis had an OPS of .854 and Wilin Rosario had an OPS of .843. I don’t know how good they are defensively, but I’d be curious to hear from someone with more knowledge of their defensive capabilities at catcher.
Garver seems like a really good bat to have in the lineup nearly every day.
And while so many are anxious to move Sano to first, Carlos Beltran had his best defensive years, and his 3 Gold Gloves, at 3rd base after his age 25 season. Sano may never be a Beltran at 3b, but he can get better.

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Rortvedt and Jeffers are both our catchers of the future. At best, either is a year away from being a backup. But, conceivably, both could be on the major league roster as soon as 2021. Screwing around with servicetime issues, you might not want them both until 2022.

 

If the Twins resign Cron as a continued stopgap via rbitration, they still have Rooker (and Raley) in the wings.

 

Comfortably, if they extend Sano, they could wait until 2021 to move the big guy to first. Ultiamtely, see Sano as being a DH who (if he stays fit) could also play both first and third in the field when necessary.

 

The big question is backup for 2020 at catcher. Garver has not started 90 games behind-the-plate (his top at Rochester was 66, his two seasons with the Twins were 73 and 75). How far can you push him. Idea would be 110-120, but is thata sking too much? Sure, would like to keep his bat in the lineup as much as possible, and his endurance behind-the-plate is necessary, too.

 

Concussion issues, injuries are always a concern. Players know that going into this vulnerable position. The days of seeing people behind-the-plate for a career may be going the way of a six inning start by a rotation arm, or a 2-inning stint by the bullpen, let alone anyone playing consecutive games ala Ripken.

 

Right now, have to have a strong second catcher on the roster (Willians would be fine if Garver caught 125-135 games). as well as a suitable backup at AAA Rochester for 2020.

 

 

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Sano will be the 1B in the next few years.  Twins cannot afford to have below average (well below) over the next couple of years. So Sano to 1B is to me a given.  Now Garver could play some there to give Sano some off days, but seems to be the Twins should sign a SS  and  move Polanco to 2B and Arrenz to 3B.

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to answer the question... no.... hell no... absolutely not. 

 

playing a little 1B to keep the bat in the linup sure... but moving there? No... You don't take someone that is playing at a near MVP level at a position such as C and move him to another position when you have nothing to replace him with. 

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The Twins need to play someone at catcher where the risk of repeated concussions is significant.

 

The logic here might be that Garver’s bat is not one that they should risk losing due to concussion. With that logic teams would never have a good bat at catcher.

 

They absolutely should move Garver on the advice of the medical team. Until then Garver at catcher gives them the best chance to win games.

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No - his value is at Catcher.  He gives us an advantage over other teams at that position and he has worked hard to improve his defense there.  He has had one really good season there in MLB - give him a few more.

 

If you want to find someone to fill a position, 1B is a lot easier than Catcher.  In two years our minor league catchers will be pushing to take over, let the process play out.

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Yadier Molina is 37 and still playing great ball as a catcher.  We cannot just assume that a player is going to have to move from catcher at a young age. 

 

From Fangraphs in 2013

"Good 34 year olds don’t regularly become bad 35 year olds. In general, you should expect players to decline at something like +0.5 per season. If they’re especially injury prone and their bodies are breaking down, limiting future playing time, maybe you knock off +0.75 WAR per season. A reasonable aging curve should return a decay of something in that range, for nearly any set of years. Whether a player is 30 or 35 should not drastically change the amount of aging you expect in the future.

And whether a player is a catcher or not should also not greatly affect our expectations for his future performance. In general, catchers age about how we’d expect any other position player to age. They get worse, but they don’t fall apart without notice. Expect decline, not collapse."  https://blogs.fangraphs.com/catcher-aging-is-a-curve-not-a-cliff/

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Regarding Berra, 1961 was the only season he played more games at other positions than he did behind the plate. He was in his age 36 season.

Regarding concussions, I googled Garver for concussions, multiple and repeated. The only report of repeated concussions I could find was a link back to this article. 

Anyway, while I think it would be wise to give him occasional starts at first, a position change now would be a waste of talent.

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I'd like him to play about 40 games at first this year, and 80-100 at catcher. Pinch hit in the rest of the games. but that bat should not play as little as it did this year.

 

Also, yes, I'd consider moving him. Just like I said they should move Mauer from behind the plate to preserve his health and bat......same exact reason.

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Regarding concussions, I googled Garver for concussions, multiple and repeated. The only report of repeated concussions I could find was a link back to this article.

I think to find this out you need to google just his name, with the word concussion, and then sift through. Most of the links deal with the big one in September 2018, but this one also mentions a 10-day DL stay back in 2014:

https://legacy.baseballprospectus.com/card/102593/mitch-garver

 

I thought there was another but haven't turfed it up yet. (I used to know of a link where player's injuries through the career were logged, but I seem to have misplaced it.)

 

Because concussion is believed to be a cumulative injury, the length of time between incidents may not be as benign as for something like a pulled hamstring, and may be the reason the incidents are referred to as "multiple".

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No - his value is at Catcher.  He gives us an advantage over other teams at that position and he has worked hard to improve his defense there.  He has had one really good season there in MLB - give him a few more.

 

If you want to find someone to fill a position, 1B is a lot easier than Catcher.  In two years our minor league catchers will be pushing to take over, let the process play out.

 

I agree.

 

Seems like we have about four articles a week on this site asking "Should we move Sano/Kepler/Garver/Astudillo to first base?"

 

I don't think any of those guys should go to first, at least not yet. It's a challenging position in its own right. How about we just put a first baseman at first?

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(I used to know of a link where player's injuries through the career were logged, but I seem to have misplaced it.)

In case someone else is interested in this tangent, I located what I remembered: MiLB.com has it. Here's the one for Garver:

http://www.milb.com/player/index.jsp?sid=t498&player_id=641598#/career/R/hitting/2019/ALL

It mentions a DL stint in June 2014, marked as "Concussion symptoms", and then another in September of that same year, without a notation other than being on the DL. Perhaps it was a recurrence of the symptoms, perhaps not. He then had another trip to the DL in 2016, again without a notation of the cause. The 2018 injury doesn't show up at all(?!?), whereas his ankle injury in 2019 does.

 

Ah, knowing there was an injury in 2016 at Chattanooga led me to this TD article shortly afterward, which stated it was a concussion that year too. So, the running total now is (at least) three: '14, '16, '18.

 

BTW, I also find that the Baseball Cube has a search tool for its transactions database, which includes injury information, and can be used for searches other than for just one player. Unfortunately, such a tool is only as good as the data entry that it was given, and for Garver the information is similarly spotty, so it has to be treated with care.

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It would be a good idea but then you first need to sign 2 catchers and decide what happens if they can't keep Sano at 3rd much longer.

 

I just don't want to see them waste Sano and turn him into a full time DH after Nelson Cruz leave MN. Too much talent if he can ever live up to even half his potential.

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GArver to 1B is probably inevitable...just like it was with Mauer. somehow the Twins will survive....but probably not necessary in 2020. Defensively...Telis was 'OK'; Rosario would be a liability behind the plate; Astudillo is 'OK" for a backup; Castro can start but not play more than 90 or 100 games. Sawyer is another possibility. Twins are not exactly bankrupt behind the plate...but Garver is still a bit young to move away from his primary position. But if his bat continues to be potent in 2020, his days behind the plate will most certainly be numbered at some point.

Edited by insagt1
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I bet the Pohlad/Falvey/Levine/Baldelli "quadrumverate" (I doubt that's a word) get a kick out of these discussions about the roster. Meanwhile what actually happens is completely different. Sano has to go to first eventually because he is a liability at 3rd over a 162 game schedule to say nothing of playoffs (playoffs? playoffs?). Garver should probably be worked out at first given that Sano has yet to play a full season and no one knows what will actually happen.

I still say work with the 2019 roster as much as possible, no huge free agent acquisitions (they are the kiss of death unless there is a performance clause and good luck with that).

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Three thoughts. First, catchers put too much confidence in their protective equipment. There are far more tag plays and potential for collisions at second base. The reason there are fewer collision injuries is that middle infielders know better than to try to block or obstruct the base. Second, foul tip concussions are similar to body impact issues in football/hockey. They can be lessened with advances in equipment but they are inherent to the game. Third, I am not ready to put Garver in the Joe Mauer category as a hitter after one partial year. His 2019 offense was great, but was clearly an outlier based on past performance. I have a strong suspicion that over a full year of daily play and exposure he will come back to earth. That said, I think he will remain an above average hitting catcher, but probably not when compared to first basemen/DH’s across MLB.

Leave him behind the plate unless his defense, or lack thereof, dictates otherwise. That is where his greatest value lies.

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