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How Dire is the Twins Catching Situation?


Twins Daily Contributor

The Minnesota Twins are awaiting the return of Ryan Jeffers to their active roster, and while he’s targeting a late-September return, there’s no guarantees. The outlook now is bleak, and there doesn’t seem to be any answers coming soon.

Image courtesy of Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

This offseason Derek Falvey traded Mitch Garver to the Texas Rangers for Isiah Kinger-Falefa. Eventually Minnesota found their backstop when sending Josh Donaldson to the New York Yankees and bringing back Gary Sanchez. The hope was that a change of scenery may help the one-time slugger regain his ability but that hasn’t happened.

There’s no denying that the 29-year-old Sanchez has to be feeling less pressure in Minnesota, but as a free agent after the year, he should see the same struggles in finding a team that wants him. With the Twins, Sanchez has posted a .677 OPS through 99 games, coming in with a below-league-average 95 OPS+. He’s still a poor receiver behind the plate, and while he has made some defensive strides, it’s not enough to make him much of an asset.

Needing an alternative following Jeffers’ thumb injury, the Twins dealt for Sandy Leon from the Cleveland Guardians. He’s now played 16 games for Minnesota, after spending most of his time this season at Triple-A, and he’s been largely unusable. With Caleb Hamilton being thrust into action, a veteran was the preferred option. Leon, save for an outlier 2016 season with the Red Sox, has never been an offensive asset, and the 42 OPS+ here echoes that.

Looking to return with a 93 OPS+, Jeffers has actually posted worse numbers than Sanchez this season. The saving grace is that he appeared to be turning it around prior to the injury. Across his last 21 games before hitting the injured list, Jeffers owned an .871 OPS and had blasted four homers. That 21-game sample size is not unlike the 26-game stretch in 2019 that resulted in a 119 OPS+ and had the Twins intrigued by making him their full-time option.

No matter how this season ends, whether Jeffers makes it back or not, Minnesota looks to be at a loss when it comes to the position. Both Sanchez and Leon will be gone, and Jeffers returns to a massive amount of uncertainty. He’ll be given every opportunity to win the role, and it’s hard to fathom seeing a large amount being spent on the position behind him. That said, we’ve never seen him actually establish himself at the plate in anything but short bursts.

It’s hard to create longevity and certainty at every position across the diamond, but Minnesota has seen black holes for quite some time up the middle of the diamond. Carlos Correa gave them a massive boost at the shortstop position, an area that has been a revolving door for years, but he doesn’t represent longevity. Garver and Jeffers manned the plate for a while, but now we’re left wondering again. Up-the-middle issues are hard to cover up, and both will be necessary to address this winter.

Without a true answer on the farm, and not knowing where they’ll turn in free agency, how comfortable are you believing that Jeffers can be the answer behind the plate when he returns and beyond?

 


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Sanchez and Leon are both better behind the plate than Jeffers; Jeffers bat is similar to Sanchez.

Twins need catcher defense so they should let Jeffer out until next year and he can then show if he has gotten any better against any one/s else the Twin Org. want a look-see with.

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Sanchez will not be worth the money he may be seeking. But he may be worth the money he is worth.

Chris Williams is showing some...grace. But the last thing the Twins need is a catcher that can play other positions. They need a catcher who can catch.

Be interesting to see the status of Ben Rortvedt in the off-season. Does he remain on the Yankees 40-man. Not that would be turning cartwheels to bring him back.

Man, that Sandy Leon can sure...bunt.

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Not that it’s ok to settle for what they have, you always look to improve, but compared to other ML catchers I believe Sanchez is above average in regards to catchers wrc +. I’d be interested to see how Twins catchers combined compare 
Catcher production over MLB is just bad

I think of bigger concern is how so many Twins hitters have dropped off in the 2nd half. Maybe having a hitting coach who last year worked in A ball wasn’t such a good idea

If the big hitters were hitting nobody would notice the catchers 

 

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I like the defense of Leon better than Sanchez and jeffers ...

He blocks better and that is what is lacking in major league catchers  ...

To many passed balls or wild pitches as there scored tend to lead to runners scoring from third base  ...

I want defense  , Average is a plus 

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This is a mess and reflects a lack of real planning for the long term.  Sanchez was a hoped for solution, but his history and pending free agency meant he was short term.  Leon is dreadful at the plate - can we just have him bunt every time.  Are there any minor leaguers that are close?  I thought I read about two on TD recently.

 

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If Sanchez was good defensively, you could live with his bat.  Same for Jeffers.  But as it stands, the catching situation is the #1 problem for the Twins looking to 2023 and beyond.  And the fix doesn't appear to be there in the minors, at least the high minors where someone might be available come next year.  Love Isola's bat,s but can he play D?

Hopefully, they will take some of the #35.1M they will save if Correa walks and use it behind the plate.  Unfortunately, some have indicated previously that there isn't a lot available in this winter's free agent market.  Does it have to be a trade?  Will agree with the above comment, wouldn't it be great if the Yankees DFA's Rortvedt and he found his way back to Minnesota?

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I agree with the sentiment that if the rest of the lineup was doing its job, whether the catcher can hit or not is normally not that important. But the rest of the lineup has pretty much ended up in the IL or gone south for an early winter. That leaves the Twins hoping that their pitching could carry the load.

They can't. Whats the solution? Probably 2023, because it sure doesn't look like any of the hitters are snapping out of it. I boggles my mind that Correa has fewer than 50 RBI at this point in the season. He was signed to be an offensive threat and that just hasn't happened. Polanco is having a terrible year. Buck has 28 HR's and thats it. He has been hurt, as advertised, all season long and it took a toll. He strikes out like Sano...hardly a compliment. Is anyone happy with Kepler? Larnach went down for good, early. Kirilloff may never make it back. Arraez should have been penciled in as the AL batting champ. But then August hit and Arraez didn't. Best one could say is his bat is now 'tired'.

Some bright spots in Miranda and Gordon, but its not enough. So while catching is very weak, it shouldn't have been in such a spotlight. Jeffers will get one more shot, and it might not even be for a whole season.

Still, Twins somehow have managed to stay in the 'race' (such as it is) and if they can figure out how to beat the Guardians and Sox, they could still steal the division. And even if your division stinks, its better to win it than to go home early. But right now, its pretty safe to say the Twins are playing poorly.

 

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I think we are pretty stuck with Jeffers and possibly Leon next year as we have nothing our system.

The below list of 2023 FA Catchers doesn't excite me either:

Yadier Molina C 40.1 R R STL $10,000,000 -
Willson Contreras C 30.2 R R CHC $9,625,000 -
Gary Sanchez C 29.8 R R MIN $9,000,000 -
Roberto Perez C 33.7 R R PIT $5,000,000 -
Martin Maldonado C 36.0 R R HOU $5,000,000 -
Omar Narvaez C 30.5 L R MIL $5,000,000 -
Christian Vazquez C 32.0 R R HOU $7,000,000 -
Tucker Barnhart C 31.7 L R DET $7,750,000 -
Austin Hedges C 30.0 R R CLE $4,000,000 -
Jason Castro C 35.2 L R HOU $4,750,000 -
Mike Zunino C 31.4 R R TB $7,000,000 $9,645,521
Curt Casali C 33.8 R R SEA $2,600,000 -
Kevin Plawecki C 31.5 R R BOS $2,250,000 -
Kurt Suzuki C 38.9 R R LAA $1,750,000 -
Sandy Leon C 33.4 S R MIN $1,000,000 -
Robinson Chirinos C 38.2 R R BAL $900,000 -
Stephen Vogt C 37.8 L R OAK $850,000 -
Austin Romine C 33.8 R R CIN $700,000
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Sanchez in August and September .222/.309/.403 wRC+ 107. 
Season wOBA .333 (average), xwOBA .355 (good)
Historical his wOBA and xwOBA have been right in line with each other.

Sanchez is above average with pitch framing this year +1 runs, but of course, Jeffers is better at that with +3 runs in fewer innings.

Sanchez is well above average with controlling the run game at 33% caught stealing vs. 25% league average. It comes from Sanchez having a strong arm and fast pop time.

Jeffers is well below average with controlling the run game at 17% caught stealing vs. 25% league average. His pop time is league average and his arm is weak. His weakness in the run game is well known and teams actively take advantage of his limitations.

Sanchez goes approximately 23 innings between having a passed ball or wild pitch. Jeffers is better at 25 innings. Both are slightly better than league average, ranking 21st and 19th, respectively, of 42 catchers with 400+ innings this year.

To put it bluntly, Sanchez is a solid defensive catcher this year with no obvious flaws in his catching game. He's universally better than average. His bat comes with a lot of power, but a lot of swing and miss, too. He's about a league average hitter. That said, he's a free agent after this year. I doubt Leon is better than Caleb Hamilton.

Jeffers is the only legitimate MLB caliber catcher we have on the roster beyond this year, and I'm not sure he's a legitimate starter. So beyond this year, the Twins are in very rough shape. This year, the Twins need Sanchez to stay healthy and they'll be "okay."

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7 hours ago, RpR said:

Jeffers bat is similar to Sanchez.

Agreed.

If the Twins have an internal cap (which I think they do) and will spend elsewhere when saving money, Jeffers $713K is much better than spending $9 million on Sanchez as they have been almost identical overall this year. I think Sanchez just won't get better and I think Jeffers will improve (others disagree) but I'm no longer sure he will improve enough to be a #1 catcher, especially with the increase in base size.

Minors - we have some great hitters in the upper minors who catch (Williams, Isola). The problem is that they play other positions more than half the time. I just don't agree with this unless the Twins know they are never going to be MLB catchers. We have hopes for the younger guys - Camargo, Winkel and especially Cardenas - but they are a long ways away.

A majority of MLB catchers actually hit worse than Jeffers and Sanchez. I would keep Jeffers for one more year and find a left-handed hitting catcher who plays good defense (has to be someone out there better than Leon hits right?) to go with him. 

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We have two "offensive" catchers who can't hit, but play defense like bat-first catchers. Use some of the Correa money to get Wilson Contreras. Or failing that, bring up one of the 'guys playing other positions' (not sure why that is a problem as long as they hit substantially better than what we have). They might get something out of Jeffers still, but they certainly shouldn't plan around it.

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I'm just not going to get in to a debate about Jeffers and his value other than a couple comments. I think he calls a good game and has the trust of his staff. I still think that's the most important element to being a backstop. And I know some of his defensive numbers are lower this year than last. These things happen, and are fluid, like a lot of numbers. And while I don't know how good he will ultimately be offensively, I don't believe we've seen him hit his mark yet. Personally, I like him and he's part of 2023 for sure.

It's beyond that, that is the issue.

Despite defensive improvement and a good arm, and apparently a good teammate with experience,  Sanchez is just not a good hitter. And he had greatly declined before coming to the Twins. In Jeffer's case, there is optimism to be better. But the initial ML hitter Sanchez showed earlier in his career is not who he is now. I had been impressed enough with him during portions of the season to be interested in his re-signing as the co-catcher, or however you want to look at it. I'm just not so sure any longer, especially considering how he may price himself. 

But what FA option out there is the right one to target? Right now, I have no clue for a better option, and that really frustrates me.

Buenolas, (sp) has defensive chops but can't hit. Carmago is really stepping forward and showing some life, but won't be ready for 2023 IDK. Isola and Williams have the bats, but spend as much time at 1B/DH as they do behind the plate. Either MIGHT still develop well enough defensively to be legitimate. But right now, at this moment, each is more of a LeCroy 3rd catcher which we don't need or have room for.

Leon back on a milb deal might be nice as an insurance policy. But AAA is going to be very crowded already with all the "potential" catchers who need more time and aren't ready to step in for 2023.

A trade or guessing right in FA is going to be an under the radar but very important part of the 2023 roster. Maybe Sanchez on a lower than expected deal is the answer. I wish I knew.

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7 hours ago, farmerguychris said:

The below list of 2023 FA Catchers doesn't excite me...

image.png.3cdf1e4aafcadd2f25f9f44c36d995ba.png

Kurt Suzuki - 16 years in the majors with 6 clubs.  Not that he doesn't belong, but the fact that this guy can continue to find Major League work at 39 says something about the thinness of the player pool.  A lot of guys (Jason Castro) on that list are pretty long in the tooth, particularly for the catching role.

Hip and knee orthopedic specialists, take note!

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Not a single free agent that stirs the soul.   Twins need to look for a minor league catcher stuck behind an established player who is major league ready but can't move due to someone in front of him.    Similar to what Washington did several years ago by grabbing Wilson Ramos who could not move due to Joe Mauer.

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15 hours ago, bean5302 said:

Sanchez in August and September .222/.309/.403 wRC+ 107. 
Season wOBA .333 (average), xwOBA .355 (good)
Historical his wOBA and xwOBA have been right in line with each other.

Sanchez is above average with pitch framing this year +1 runs, but of course, Jeffers is better at that with +3 runs in fewer innings.

Sanchez is well above average with controlling the run game at 33% caught stealing vs. 25% league average. It comes from Sanchez having a strong arm and fast pop time.

Jeffers is well below average with controlling the run game at 17% caught stealing vs. 25% league average. His pop time is league average and his arm is weak. His weakness in the run game is well known and teams actively take advantage of his limitations.

Sanchez goes approximately 23 innings between having a passed ball or wild pitch. Jeffers is better at 25 innings. Both are slightly better than league average, ranking 21st and 19th, respectively, of 42 catchers with 400+ innings this year.

To put it bluntly, Sanchez is a solid defensive catcher this year with no obvious flaws in his catching game. He's universally better than average. His bat comes with a lot of power, but a lot of swing and miss, too. He's about a league average hitter. That said, he's a free agent after this year. I doubt Leon is better than Caleb Hamilton.

Jeffers is the only legitimate MLB caliber catcher we have on the roster beyond this year, and I'm not sure he's a legitimate starter. So beyond this year, the Twins are in very rough shape. This year, the Twins need Sanchez to stay healthy and they'll be "okay."

No disrespect but a little chuckle from the geezer. wOBA and xwOBA sound like the thing I strapped to my face in the Navy when I needed to breath clean oxygen. wRC+ sounds like the cola that finishes a distant 3rd to Coke and Pepsi. Man, I'll never understand all these initials. I appreciate what the analytics try to tell us, but for me, they tell us too much that clogs the baseball arteries. Catcher...catch the ball; throw the ball; pick the pitches; swing the bat. Some do it better than others. In Twins case, many feel our guys don't do it better than others. Certainly up for discussion. Meanwhile I'll shine up my Oxygen Breathing Apparatus and have another RC Cola thank  you!

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20 hours ago, roger said:

If Sanchez was good defensively, you could live with his bat.  Same for Jeffers.  But as it stands, the catching situation is the #1 problem for the Twins looking to 2023 and beyond.  And the fix doesn't appear to be there in the minors, at least the high minors where someone might be available come next year.  Love Isola's bat,s but can he play D?

Hopefully, they will take some of the #35.1M they will save if Correa walks and use it behind the plate.  Unfortunately, some have indicated previously that there isn't a lot available in this winter's free agent market.  Does it have to be a trade?  Will agree with the above comment, wouldn't it be great if the Yankees DFA's Rortvedt and he found his way back to Minnesota?

The amazing thing is that a year ago we thought we had the best catching situation in the majors - Rortvedt, Jeffers, Garver - now all three are on the IL and none look like they can really improve our situation.  We have to hope Jeffers continues to develop and someone from the minors - not Hamilton, can rise to at least back up. 

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16 hours ago, bean5302 said:

Sanchez in August and September .222/.309/.403 wRC+ 107. 
Season wOBA .333 (average), xwOBA .355 (good)
Historical his wOBA and xwOBA have been right in line with each other.

Sanchez is above average with pitch framing this year +1 runs, but of course, Jeffers is better at that with +3 runs in fewer innings.

Sanchez is well above average with controlling the run game at 33% caught stealing vs. 25% league average. It comes from Sanchez having a strong arm and fast pop time.

Jeffers is well below average with controlling the run game at 17% caught stealing vs. 25% league average. His pop time is league average and his arm is weak. His weakness in the run game is well known and teams actively take advantage of his limitations.

Sanchez goes approximately 23 innings between having a passed ball or wild pitch. Jeffers is better at 25 innings. Both are slightly better than league average, ranking 21st and 19th, respectively, of 42 catchers with 400+ innings this year.

To put it bluntly, Sanchez is a solid defensive catcher this year with no obvious flaws in his catching game. He's universally better than average. His bat comes with a lot of power, but a lot of swing and miss, too. He's about a league average hitter. That said, he's a free agent after this year. I doubt Leon is better than Caleb Hamilton.

Jeffers is the only legitimate MLB caliber catcher we have on the roster beyond this year, and I'm not sure he's a legitimate starter. So beyond this year, the Twins are in very rough shape. This year, the Twins need Sanchez to stay healthy and they'll be "okay."

Good post. Thanks.

 

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Next year could be a major problem at catcher due to the possibility of expanding the size of the bases. If they expand by 3 inches, that will mean a 4-1/2 inch difference from 1st to 2nd. Think about how close these SB attempts have been. IMO teams will run wild on Jeffers. If Sanchez wants to stay here on a much more reasonable deal he may be better for this team! On a side note, the Twins may be wise to find some more base stealers! 

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Pix of the 2023 base. 3" square differential,  99" more total area.....

I am skeptical the change will have a significant impact on steal attempts. The resistance to steal attempts seems more strategic/philosophical for  most mgrs. I dont care for it myself, I think steal attempts are more entertaining and just as strategic, if not more so, than waiting on power, so if it does end up generating more steals, I'd be good with it. Just have my doubts that this alone will do it. 

FNW4z6DUYAEKdPH.jpg

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2 hours ago, insagt1 said:

No disrespect but a little chuckle from the geezer. wOBA and xwOBA sound like the thing I strapped to my face in the Navy when I needed to breath clean oxygen. wRC+ sounds like the cola that finishes a distant 3rd to Coke and Pepsi. Man, I'll never understand all these initials. I appreciate what the analytics try to tell us, but for me, they tell us too much that clogs the baseball arteries. Catcher...catch the ball; throw the ball; pick the pitches; swing the bat. Some do it better than others. In Twins case, many feel our guys don't do it better than others. Certainly up for discussion. Meanwhile I'll shine up my Oxygen Breathing Apparatus and have another RC Cola thank  you!

Yeah, all the acronyms and abbreviations can seem pretty ridiculous. Different sites use different factors. It's honestly a big pain to learn them.

wOBA = weighted on base average. It's basically a stat designed to combine everything a player does offensively into on base percentage equivalent. .300 stinks, .325 is okay, .350 is good, .375 is great .400 is elite. Something like that.

xwOBA = the expected wOBA a player should have based on batted balls. Essentially, how hard and far balls were hit. It tries to take out the "balls with eyes" factor.

wRC+ = weighted runs created plus, which is basically a really complicated, and slightly more accurate version of the much older and still usually very good OPS (on base + slugging percentage), but wRC+ is adjusted for park factors. It's just a rating which compares total expected offensive output relative to other batters where 100 is league average.

 

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@Blyleven2011, i'm right there with you.   Backstop is a defensive position first and foremost.  To get + fielding and + hitting in one player is very rare--in fact, Mauer, Posey, Molina, Bench, Fisk, Yeager----all HOF's who could do both.  They are monumental and in today's world---far beyond what the twins would pay for a FA.  Concentrate on the defense and tolerate the offense.  With new MLB rules, especially if a pitch clock is coming, catcher is very important to control the pace of the game while keeping pitchers calm.  The larger bases and limiting the number of step-offs is meant to encourage more steals, too.

I don't think Jeffers is terrible, but you can certainly see he doesn't command the field from behind the plate and Sanchez's arm really exposed how less than average Jeffers' arm is.   Plus, he is a big and tall guy--they tend to have back and lower body problems more than shorter catchers.  I think he is fine, but he should have to compete for his spot every year and really is a backup caliber catcher.   

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On 9/8/2022 at 1:37 PM, roger said:

Hopefully, they will take some of the #35.1M they will save if Correa walks and use it behind the plate.  

If they just re-allocate the $9M they're paying Gary Sanchez they can find a better catcher.

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