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  • Twins Future Position Analysis: Catcher


    Cody Christie

    Entering the 2021 season, Minnesota hoped to have one of baseball's best catching duos. That plan didn't work perfectly, so where does the organization sit when it comes to the catching spot?

     

    Image courtesy of Jesse Johnson, USA Today Sports

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    Current Catchers: Mitch Garver and Ryan Jeffers
    Like most of the Twins roster, Garver and Jeffers struggled out of the gate before the team decided to make some changes. Garver ended April with a .644 OPS while Jeffers sat with a .393 OPS and a Triple-A demotion. In May, Garver raised his OPS by nearly 200 points, with Jeffers out of the picture. Unfortunately, he suffered a gruesome groin injury at the beginning of June that forced him to the sidelines until July 19. 

    Jeffers took advantage of the opportunity to post a .905 OPS in his first 15 games after the Garver injury. The hot streak didn't last as he hit .191/.269/.382 (.651) in his final 59 games. Garver returned from injury with two home runs in his first game back. He looked like the 2019 version of Garver for the season's final 27 games as he posted a .927 OPS.

    With two MLB caliber catchers, Minnesota has an opportunity to trade one of their controllable assets this winter. However, keeping both catchers allows the team a chance to do what they planned in 2021. Jeffers has an opportunity to prove his season was a fluke, and Garver can continue to mash. 

    40-Man Roster Options
    Outside of Garver and Jeffers, Ben Rortvedt is the only other catcher on the 40-man roster. Last season, he made his big-league debut and hit .169/.229/.281 (.510) in 39 games. Rortvedt's scouting report is a defense-first catcher as he has a career .672 OPS in five seasons. Last season, he threw out seve4n of a potential 16 runners for a 44% caught stealing percentage while the league average was 23%. Rortvedt should spend most of 2022 at Triple-A while filling in when needed at the big-league level.

    On the Farm Options
    Not all of the players listed below are guaranteed to be on the team's roster at the start of next season. Still, it offers some insight into the organization's catching depth. Minnesota has a slough of veteran catching options populating the rosters in the upper minors. 

    Besides Rortvedt, all four of the projected Triple-A catchers are eligible for the Rule 5 Draft. David Bañuelos, Stevie Berman, Caleb Hamilton, and Chris Williams all saw catching time, with multiple players also getting time at first base. Berman was acquired last August from the Dodgers for LHP Andrew Vasquez. Obviously, there won't be five catchers on the Triple-A roster, so some of these players will be used at other levels. 

    At Double-A, Jair Camargo and Jeferson Morales have the potential to be a very good catching duo. Camargo joined the Twins as part of the Kenta Maeda trade, and he collected 21 extra-base hits in 71 games last year. Morales combined for an .808 OPS last season with 12 home runs and 24 doubles between Low- and High-A. Both players will be 23 years old to start next season, and it seems more likely for them to end the season at Double-A. 

    There are a few other names to watch in the minor's lower levels. Charles Mack was Minnesota's 6th round pick in the 2018 MLB Draft out of high school in New York. Last year as a 21-year-old, he spent the entire season at Low-A with a .738 OPS in 73 games. Patrick Winkel and Noah Cardenas were taken in last year's draft's 8th and 9th rounds. Each should debut at Low-A next season. 

    Overall, Minnesota has catching strength at the MLB level with a few prospects to watch during the 2022 campaign. What do you think about the organization's depth at catcher? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. 

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    I like rortvedts defende the best of the 3 catchers , he blocks the ball better than garver and jeffers and has a better arm for throwing out base stealers  ,,, Hope he can hit a league average and stay ,,, 

    It's a strength we can trade from and teams covet catchers ,

    I'm sure teams have contacted the twins on catchers rortvedt because of his defense and garver because he can hit , jeffers needs more to put it all together and 2022 should be the telling year for jeffers ...

    like the depth of catchers in the minors , there is t!lent there

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    Don't discount Rortvedt's bat, Cody.  Yes, he is a defense first catcher because his D is very, very good.  But he should have begun last year at AA, moving to AAA mid-season.  Everyone, including the Twins, knew he wouldn't hit when forced up to the Twins.  But it was a great experience and he had real nice stretches with the bat when finally moved back to St. Paul.

    Agree that he will/should begin 2022 at St. Paul and be ready to move back to the Twins when needed due to injury or a trade.  Unlike most, I see this Verona, Wisconsin native as a future Twins catcher who will either share the job or be the #1 guy.

    Agree that there isn't a lot of recognizable prospects behind him, probably something they should be working on in this year's draft and International signings. 

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    Jeferson Morales was written up by Jeffrey Paternostro in BPro a couple months ago as a sleeper prospect for 2022 (Petty was named by someone else). Morales caught his eye with "an unusually pretty right-handed swing with above-average bat speed." Sneaky athletic, defense a work in progress but should stick at catcher.

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    When I see 191 and 169 BA, 269 and 229 OBP I am not as overwhelmed by depth at this position as the essay emphasizes.  Until Jeffers rediscovers his bat, Garver is the only one worth having in the lineup.  Rortvedt should not be a starter, but could be a defensive backup like we have seen in the past if one of the top two are traded.  

    If the AAA catchers are really talented they should be picked up by other teams.  I have heard rumors that the Rule 5 draft will not happen.  I would be sorry for that.  It is good for the players and I would even make the rules more lenient.  Getting stuck in the minor league merry-go-round has to be frustrating.  

    Would Niko Goodrum, Akil Baddoo, Wells, or others who moved on with the drafting be on the active roster for the Twins?  I doubt it, but now they have a chance.  Open up that draft and let it go, I love the stories of opportunity and success. 

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    In a perfect world this kid needs some more time at AAA. If he can duplicate last year's AAA stats again this year and contributes close to that at the major league level the Twin's have something. With his defense and energy behind the plate that is all the hitting the Twin's need out of him. When he becomes our every day catcher our pitching stats will improve noticeably.

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    We have great depth at catcher so it makes sense to trade Jeffers for much needed pitching. IMO it's counter productive to have both Garver & Jeffers as RH hitters. Garver is a more established hitter and better arm plus some teams would love the years of control that they'd have with Jeffers. LH hitter Rortvedt is our catcher of the near future, I believe his hitting will come around, he'll need just a little bit more time in AAA. So if we trade Jeffers we'll need a Castro type to fill in. Our other minor league catchers are pretty good too.

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    I hope to see David Banuelos spend some time with the Twins.  We acquired him for international spending capacity from Seattle during the Ohtani chase.  I will feel like we got something for nothing if he can be a backup catcher or part of a trade for a pitcher.....

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    If only Jeffers hadn't been a rookie last year we could all act like he was a 6 year major leaguer. Shame on him for trying to play in the majors this year with only 140 at bats above single A. He should have known better.

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    I think fans need to remember that catcher is a position that you normally do not get a lot of offense from.  The catchers that are good on offense normally lack defense and do not stay at catcher by time they get to MLB level.  Only the few do both well.  

    What will be interesting to see is if an electronic zone starts being used, if that will change how people look at catchers.  The framing part will no longer be a thing, and really you should just need someone who can throw out runners and call a good game.  However some catchers still look to dugout for pitch calls sometimes. 

    That being said, I hope Jeffers can hold his own at the plate for a few years.

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    Twins have been a little spoiled in past years with catchers who could also hit pretty well (Earl Battey, Brian Harper, Tim Laudner, Joe Mauer, Garver to name a few). I don't see them settling for a defense-only catcher as their #1.

    I'd like to see the Twins go with Garver starting, Rortvedt as their #2 and play Jeffers every day in AAA until his bat comes around, then look at various trade options (whether it includes Jeffers, Garver, or Rortvedt) to try acquiring more pitching at midseason. 

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    remember a catcher and pitcher are just pitch away from the injury list. The life span is relatively short and the regression turn down curve starts sooner. I prefer to to keep Jeffers & Rortvedt let Garver split time between catching, 1b, pinch hitter off the bench. I prefer trading some 1 & lower 2 skilled players like Sano, Arraez,  Larnach, Sabal, Sands, Vallimont to “A” for Bassitt, Chapman, Manaea & Pisscoty. Sano & Pisscoty would be a salary dump as both are in the last year of their contract. Twins would save $2m.

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    I am content with the 40-man catching situation, with two young'uns still having minor league options so that you can stash a (hopefully) good replacement at AAA in case of injury, and/or go with the hot bat between those two at any given moment in the long season.  Barring major injury, we're set for 2022-23.

    I like having an unfair advantage over the opposing team at as many spots in the lineup as possible, and I think there's a good argument that we have that at catcher - particularly on days when the other team plays their backup.   Someone would have to knock me over with blue chip starting pitching, to interest me in a trade.

    The FO needs to continue seeding higher-end catching prospects at the lower levels of the farm system.  The 40-man is good but we're thin at the higher minor league levels - neither Hamilton nor Banuelos inspires me - and it's best to build from within.  Two years of potential stability on the big club should not be wasted.  Cardenas and Winkel are potentially a good start. I wanna see two more.

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    21 hours ago, mikelink45 said:

    When I see 191 and 169 BA, 269 and 229 OBP I am not as overwhelmed by depth at this position as the essay emphasizes.  Until Jeffers rediscovers his bat, Garver is the only one worth having in the lineup.  Rortvedt should not be a starter, but could be a defensive backup like we have seen in the past if one of the top two are traded.  

    If the AAA catchers are really talented they should be picked up by other teams.  I have heard rumors that the Rule 5 draft will not happen.  I would be sorry for that.  It is good for the players and I would even make the rules more lenient.  Getting stuck in the minor league merry-go-round has to be frustrating.  

    Would Niko Goodrum, Akil Baddoo, Wells, or others who moved on with the drafting be on the active roster for the Twins?  I doubt it, but now they have a chance.  Open up that draft and let it go, I love the stories of opportunity and success. 

    Good rum was a minor league free agent, not a rule v

     

    Baddoo and Wells would have gotten their chances with the Twins last year with how far they reached for OF and relievers.  I can’t recall any other rule v players drafted from the Twins. 

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    A lot of times, veteran catchers on the down side of their career (thinking the Jason Castro types) who are "competent" but not "good" sort of hang around until spring training begins or so, and then they latch onto a team once said team identifies a need not yet addressed.  Teams ALWAYS need catchers.  This is why I really wanted the Twins to use the leverage they had with Jeffers in a trade for a SP. Jeffers has his flaws, but his value is rated such that he really projects as a "catcher of the "Now" and "future" for a catching needy ballclub.  The hope of trading Jeffers to Miami for a Max Meyer evaporated when the Marlins acquired Stallings from the Pirates.  However, the Brewers could use a catcher.  So could the Yankees.

    Jeffers carries a value of 19.2.  Luis Severino carries an 11.4.  Maybe a trade of Jeffers for Severino and Zach Britton where the Yanks pick up some of the salary would work.  Someone, not long ago wrote an article about how the Twins could make trades taking on some other team's bad contracts (guys like Myers and Hosmer from the Padres).  It was an interesting idea now that the Twins are left with a pile of money to spend a few worthy FA's to spend it on.  Severino would be an interesting Top of the Rotation guy and Britton could be a potential closer.  I think both still have excellent upside and could be key pieces in 2022.  Then I sign a Jason Castro type LH hitting catcher while Rortvedt develops at AAA.

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    1 hour ago, old nurse said:

    Good rum was a minor league free agent, not a rule v

     

    Baddoo and Wells would have gotten their chances with the Twins last year with how far they reached for OF and relievers.  I can’t recall any other rule v players drafted from the Twins. 

    But you can see what can happen when you look at Johann Santana who was picked by the Marlins and traded to the Twins. 

    And then there is our pickup of Shane Mack from the Padres. 

    I am just saying the Rule V draft is a good thing for players and gets them playing time.  Who really knows if Baddoo and Wells would have been called up?  But it does not matter, they are pursuing their opportunity and I am all for more minor league movement. 

     

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    I would keep Garver and Jeffers much as it pains me to keep a catcher who can’t catch. The robo ump would help Garver somewhat, since he could abandon that idiotic one legged stance and block a few pitches. While this will help him, I imagine it will help every other catcher also, maybe him more as his athleticism is wanting. 
     

     Come trading g deadline time would be the time to decide between Jeffers, Garver  and Rortvedt. Our place in the standings, our end of the year needs, and our future would direct which way to go. 
     

    Normally I abhor hitters who can’t catch, and prefer a mediocre hitter, who is an excellent defensive catcher. NeitherRortvedt or Jeffers qualify as mediocre. So it is what it is. That said unless the FO does the unimaginable on the SP front, I doubt little of this matters anyway.  

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    3 hours ago, mikelink45 said:

    But you can see what can happen when you look at Johann Santana who was picked by the Marlins and traded to the Twins. 

    And then there is our pickup of Shane Mack from the Padres. 

    I am just saying the Rule V draft is a good thing for players and gets them playing time.  Who really knows if Baddoo and Wells would have been called up?  But it does not matter, they are pursuing their opportunity and I am all for more minor league movement. 

     

    Santana and Mack are ancient history

    Some players that get returned go downhill.  Mostly what seems to get selected and stick are relievers. Whitlock is an exception. Baddoo was an exception. Baddoo made as good of first impression as one could make. As the season wore on the statistics sort of caved in. 

    Players with a ceiling get chances. Rule V lets a few get an earlier chance. Most fail and are never heard from again. Maybe being selected and failing derailed them. Maybe not

    The excess of AAA catchers can be trade bait for yet another Shaun Anderson

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    19 hours ago, Finlander said:

    Twins have been a little spoiled in past years with catchers who could also hit pretty well (Earl Battey, Brian Harper, Tim Laudner, Joe Mauer, Garver to name a few). I don't see them settling for a defense-only catcher as their #1.

    I'd like to see the Twins go with Garver starting, Rortvedt as their #2 and play Jeffers every day in AAA until his bat comes around, then look at various trade options (whether it includes Jeffers, Garver, or Rortvedt) to try acquiring more pitching at midseason. 

    You had me until you mention Timmy Laudner as a catcher that could hit "pretty well". He's a career .225 hitter with 77 HR's over 9 seasons. He did make the All Star team in 1988 by batting .251 with 13 HRs. but would call him one of out better hitting catchers. I do agree with everything else you said, I just would have swapped Laudner for someone like AJ Pierzynski or Terry Steinbach 🙂

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    20 hours ago, old nurse said:

    Santana and Mack are ancient history

    Some players that get returned go downhill.  Mostly what seems to get selected and stick are relievers. Whitlock is an exception. Baddoo was an exception. Baddoo made as good of first impression as one could make. As the season wore on the statistics sort of caved in. 

    Players with a ceiling get chances. Rule V lets a few get an earlier chance. Most fail and are never heard from again. Maybe being selected and failing derailed them. Maybe not

    The excess of AAA catchers can be trade bait for yet another Shaun Anderson

    It does not matter how many prosper, what matters is that they got a chance.  Baddoo caving is not what I see.  He had a 2.1 WAR - good for a rookie, great for a rule V pick.  That puts him behind only Polanco, Buxton, Arraez for the Twins.  But I am not even upset by our loss, my posts are simply a support to any system that allows players to get a chance at the bigs. 

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