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  • Twins Future Position Analysis: Catcher


    Cody Christie

    The Twins might have baseball’s best catching duo following a season that saw Ryan Jeffers emerge to go along with Mitch Garver. Garver struggled through most of 2020, but it’s hard to ignore his production from 2019 when he had one of the best offensive performances in catching history. Minnesota is lucky to have these two under team control for multiple years, but there is also some strong depth in the organization.

    Image courtesy of © Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports (Garver), Brad Rempel, USA TODAY Sports (Jeffers), William Parmeter (Rortvedt)

    Current Catchers: Mitch Garver and Ryan Jeffers

    Garver was limited to 23 games in 2020 and he hit .167/.247/.264 with three extra-base hits. It was going to be hard to live up to his 2019 season when he posted a .995 OPS with 31 home runs and 16 doubles in 93 games. While it’s unlikely for Garver to replicate those totals, his 2020 season was impacted by a right intercostal strain. He will be 30-years old next year and the Twins have team control over him for three more seasons.

    Jeffers impressed in his first taste of the big leagues, especially on the defensive side of the ball. His Strike Rate was the highest in the American League and he was especially good at getting strike calls on the edges of the zone. His offensive numbers weren’t too shabby either as he posted a .791 OPS with three home runs. Many scouts saw him as a bat-only catcher coming out of college, so it shows how much the Twins have been able to do with him since he joined the system in 2018.

    40-Man Options

    Garver and Jeffers figure to get the bulk of the time behind the plate in 2021, but the Twins have other options that add depth to the organization. Willians Astudillo still has options remaining so the Twins can stash him at St. Paul and then bring him up when needed at the big-league level. Since joining the Twins, he has hit .294/.319/.428 with only 13 strikeouts in over 317 plate appearances.

    Before this year’s Rule 5 Draft, the Twins added Ben Rortvedt, a 2016 second-round pick, to the 40-man roster. He finished the 2019 season at Double-A and his OPS has risen in every professional season. He will likely start the year at Double-A, especially with some of the other more veteran catchers in the organization.

    On the Farm Options

    Outside of the options mentioned above, there are other catching options in the minor leagues including some strong prospects.

    ccs-25-0-61154300-1608483437_thumb.jpg

    Telis has over 120 games played at the big-league level and he did well during his first year in the Twins organization. At Triple-A, he hit .330/.364/.490 with 31 extra-base hits and a 33 to 16 strikeout to walk ratio. Hamilton, a 2016 draft pick, reached Triple-A in 2019 and he has shown the ability to play multiple defensive positions. He ended 2019 with a .660 OPS and 26 extra-base hits in 99 games.

    Williams spent time at Low- and High-A in 2019 and he was limited to a .192 batting average. However, he got on base over 33% of the time and ended with a .749 OPS after collecting 26 extra-base hits in 74 games. Casanova was a 2018 draft pick and he spent 2019 at the same levels as Williams. His 2019 strikeout percentage is the highest among all the catchers in the system.

    Minnesota took Isola out of college in 2019 and he made it all the way to Low-A in his professional debut. He destroyed the ball in seven games with the E-Twins as he went 10-for-25 and posted a 1.029 OPS. Salva has been in the organization since 2016 and he spent his first three years in the GCL. Last season at E-Town, he posted a .710 OPS, his highest total of his professional career. Morales made his stateside debut in 2019 and he will have a chance to move to Low-A in 2021.

    What do you think about the future of catcher in Minnesota? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

    OTHER POSTS IN THE SERIES

    -Second Base

    -First Base

    -Shortstop

    -Third Base

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    I'm still a fan of Rortvedt, even if Jeffers has clearly flown past him in the rankings. Defensively, he's good enough to play right now, so if he can hit enough he'll be a great backup for the Twins in the future as a lefty bat to give either Garver or Jeffers a break.

     

    Catcher is an area of strength right now, which is a huge turnaround from just a few years ago. It's a great example of how position depth can change rapidly. in 2017 Garver wasn't seen as much of a prospect, we had nothing in the system that anyone was high on, we were signing FA catchers in their 30's to start in MLB...we were so thin back then people were concerned that Stuart Turner got taken in the Rule 5 draft. Now? Catcher looks strong.

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    I would like to agree with the statements above, but it is not a position of strength until we see 2021.

    • Does Garver come back?
    • Does Jeffers have a sophomore slump?
    • Is the turtle really a viable option or has his time passed?
    • Why have so many clubs passed on Tomas?
    • Can Rortvedt hit?  
    • Can anyone below Tomas on the chart hit?

     

    We have catchers, but at this time all the cream is at the top.

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    With youth of Jeffers, barring any injury it looks like we should be set for years to come.  He looked MLB ready.  He may not be the best around, but will be fine.  Garver, may bounce back, but at his age he is not someone to be counted on for years to come.  If we can flip him for value I would be open to that. 

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    I've been a fan of Garver being a key trade bait this offseason, preferably to a team like TB in need of catching help and who is willing to give up a top starter like Snell.  But after looking at our "catching depth", trading Garver doesn't look so hot.  No one ready behind Garver/Jeffers and relying heavily on Jeffers is risky for a playoff caliber team.  

     

    Better bet is to let Garver reestablish himself in 2021, Jeffers solidify his potential to be a starting backstop in a full season and hope that Rortvedt continues his improvement.

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    I would like to agree with the statements above, but it is not a position of strength until we see 2021.

    • Does Garver come back?
    • Does Jeffers have a sophomore slump?
    • Is the turtle really a viable option or has his time passed?
    • Why have so many clubs passed on Tomas?
    • Can Rortvedt hit?  
    • Can anyone below Tomas on the chart hit?

     

    We have catchers, but at this time all the cream is at the top.

     

    And what happens if Garver gets another concussion?

     

    Depth is always good.

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    I would like to agree with the statements above, but it is not a position of strength until we see 2021.

    • Does Garver come back?
    • Does Jeffers have a sophomore slump?
    • Is the turtle really a viable option or has his time passed?
    • Why have so many clubs passed on Tomas?
    • Can Rortvedt hit?  
    • Can anyone below Tomas on the chart hit?

     

    We have catchers, but at this time all the cream is at the top.

     

    Doesn't this kind of worst-case scenario assumption mean that no position group is an area of strength? You can do this same exercise for every position group. But in comparison to other teams in MLB, the Twins catching situation is a strength: they have two players that have shown they can start consistently. They have backup options in AA & AAA and if things start going catastrophically bad, they have La Tortuga available to jump in and carry some weight, even if the team doesn't see him as a regular. Heck the Twins even have an A-ball guy with some promise.

     

    How many other teams are in this position? Half of MLB last year had garbage backups.

     

    The hated Yankees are more worried than the Twins are at catcher, and they have a 2-time all-star there. But Sanchez was as bad as Garver at the plate and worse in the field, and they don't have anything worth talking about as a backup. 

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    Doesn't this kind of worst-case scenario assumption mean that no position group is an area of strength? You can do this same exercise for every position group. But in comparison to other teams in MLB, the Twins catching situation is a strength: they have two players that have shown they can start consistently. They have backup options in AA & AAA and if things start going catastrophically bad, they have La Tortuga available to jump in and carry some weight, even if the team doesn't see him as a regular. Heck the Twins even have an A-ball guy with some promise.

     

    How many other teams are in this position? Half of MLB last year had garbage backups.

     

    The hated Yankees are more worried than the Twins are at catcher, and they have a 2-time all-star there. But Sanchez was as bad as Garver at the plate and worse in the field, and they don't have anything worth talking about as a backup. 

    I do not deny that we have quality at the top, but I do not see quality below.  1B has a young starter in Sano, and Rooker, Larnach, Kiriloff behind him - that is strength of position which also covers the corner OF positions, but catcher has excellent MLB strength and some fill in strength, but as we look beyond Rortvedt I do not have any faith. 

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    I do not deny that we have quality at the top, but I do not see quality below.  1B has a young starter in Sano, and Rooker, Larnach, Kiriloff behind him - that is strength of position which also covers the corner OF positions, but catcher has excellent MLB strength and some fill in strength, but as we look beyond Rortvedt I do not have any faith.

     

    Absolutely understand this viewpoint 100%. I think having Astudillo as an extra option for the Twins as well as St Paul is a bit of a luxury. Telis much the same, but as a catcher only. He's really an emergency type, but has ML experience and at least hasn't embarrassed himself in his time.

     

    Beyond Rortvedt things do appear at first glance to be weak lower in the system. The problem is youth. Hamilton has been converted to catcher fairly recently and has position flexibility. I have serious doubts about his bat. The other guys are just young/inexperienced and right now we just have no idea if they have any real potential. And now missing a whole season just keeps the book of questions wide open. I think they need to add another good looking prospect or two here, no question. But I think if we actually have a full season in 2021, a couple of these guys could take a step forward. Unfortunately, that's true at almost every position.

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      I'm not an expert, but I really liked what I saw of Ryan Jeffers.  If Garver can just meet somewhere in the middle of 2019 Good Mitch and 2020 Bad Mitch, they will have one of the top catching situations in MLB.

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    I laughed at Good Mitch/Bad Mitch.

     

    Jeffers is a big league starting catcher.  Finally, we have a catcher that produces and plays defense on roster for years to come.  Haven't had that since Mauer, and Jeffers will hit more dingers.

     

    I like Mitch a lot, but this season, that we hold relevant, wasn't great for him.  I'd love a bounce back from him and we make things work with him and Jeffers for 2-4 years to come.  Fun fact, Mitch is the same age Jason Castro was when we signed him as a "veteran catcher" w/pop.  He seems so much younger...No one's path is the same.

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