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  1. No-hitters and perfect games certainly are some of the most entertaining games to watch in baseball. Pitchers have a stressful job on the mound, but they are complemented by another position that sits behind the plate and helps them to get through those moments and games. The catcher is often the forgotten unsung hero of the no-hitters, perfect games, and game-day preparation. Image courtesy of Brad Rempel; USA Today 2018 The battery is an essential component of the game, and catchers are the magicians who orchestrate it all. Let's look at what a catcher does and which Minnesota Twins catchers were the best at each job that a catcher does behind the plate. Terry Steinbach - The Toughest Catcher It's one of the most demanding positions to play on the baseball field: Catchers are constantly beaten up and hit with bats, balls, and sometimes players. They must squat down on their knees for nine or more innings, catching hundreds of pitches of varying speeds, movements, and breaks. A catcher must be in peak physical shape to stay in the game. MLB made a change to emphasize player safety in 2011 after a collision at home plate that saw star catcher Buster Posey suffer a season-ending ankle injury. Before the rule change where a player could no longer run through a catcher, Terry Steinbach was one of the best but most beat-up-on catchers during his time in MLB. Steinbach was no stranger to catching injuries. In 1988 he was hit by a thrown ball during batting practice, suffering five fractures around his left eye and requiring surgery. He also had a collision with future teammate Kirby Puckett just four days after returning from the injured list. Steinbach took a forearm to the jaw from Hall of Famer Cal Ripken during a collision and, later in the season, was hospitalized after taking a hit to the head from pitcher Bobby Thigpen in a contentious, tied late game. Steinbach, a Minnesota native who started his career on the west coast but ended with the Twins, spent 14 seasons behind the plate. As one of the Twins' best catchers, he also had his best season when he came to join the Twins in 1996 with 34 home runs, and his 100 RBI were the most by an Athletics catcher since Mickey Cochrane in 1932. He also caught Eric Milton's no-hitter in May of 1999 before retiring. Joe Mauer - The Best Defensive Catcher The catcher helps dictate the game because they touch the ball on nearly every pitch. They help set the players before the game and let players know where to stand based on different hitters. Crouched behind home plate, they call and receive pitches from the pitcher, frequently field bunts, and throw out runners trying to steal bases. Catchers frame close strikes, blocks balls in the dirt, and react with lightning quickness as the entire game plays out before them. The position requires a rare combination of spryness, strength, durability, and leadership. Joe Mauer, the best Minnesota Twins catcher in history, won three consecutive gold glove awards from 2008 through 2010. He had a lifetime .995 fielding percentage as a catcher and a caught-stealing percentage of 33%. Mauer led AL catchers multiple times in caught-stealing and fielding percentages. Brian Harper - The Modest Catcher It may seem cruel and unfair, but it's the truth. When watching a game, the focus will always be on the pitcher and their performance. Being able to put aside ego and pride is a huge thing for someone in this position. They have to know that while they contribute heavily in many ways, it's ultimately about the pitcher and helping them succeed. Having humility and the ability to selflessly support the staff, unseen, takes a special person, Brian Harper was that Minnesota Twin. Harper spent six of his 16 MLB seasons with the Minnesota Twins. One of the best catchers in the organization, he was the primary catcher behind the plate for the Twins during the early 90s. He and Jack Morris created a duo in two games that would be integral in the Twins winning the 1991 World Series. In Game 4, Harper stood out when he received a perfect relay throw from Puckett and Chuck Knoblauch and endured a massive collision with Lonnie Smith at home plate. He held on to the ball through the clash to secure the out. In Game 7, Harper not only caught all 10 innings of Jack Morris' legendary shutout but also turned the pivotal 3-2-3 double play with Kent Hrbek to end the eighth inning and squelch the Braves' most dangerous scoring threat of the game. Other catchers that have stood out for the Twins are guys like Mitch Garver and A.J. Pierzynski, rare examples of backstops who can really bring it with the bat. As we get ready for 2023, looking at what is coming up, do you think the Twins will ever have another catcher that can do what any of these three brought to the table? View full article
  2. The battery is an essential component of the game, and catchers are the magicians who orchestrate it all. Let's look at what a catcher does and which Minnesota Twins catchers were the best at each job that a catcher does behind the plate. Terry Steinbach - The Toughest Catcher It's one of the most demanding positions to play on the baseball field: Catchers are constantly beaten up and hit with bats, balls, and sometimes players. They must squat down on their knees for nine or more innings, catching hundreds of pitches of varying speeds, movements, and breaks. A catcher must be in peak physical shape to stay in the game. MLB made a change to emphasize player safety in 2011 after a collision at home plate that saw star catcher Buster Posey suffer a season-ending ankle injury. Before the rule change where a player could no longer run through a catcher, Terry Steinbach was one of the best but most beat-up-on catchers during his time in MLB. Steinbach was no stranger to catching injuries. In 1988 he was hit by a thrown ball during batting practice, suffering five fractures around his left eye and requiring surgery. He also had a collision with future teammate Kirby Puckett just four days after returning from the injured list. Steinbach took a forearm to the jaw from Hall of Famer Cal Ripken during a collision and, later in the season, was hospitalized after taking a hit to the head from pitcher Bobby Thigpen in a contentious, tied late game. Steinbach, a Minnesota native who started his career on the west coast but ended with the Twins, spent 14 seasons behind the plate. As one of the Twins' best catchers, he also had his best season when he came to join the Twins in 1996 with 34 home runs, and his 100 RBI were the most by an Athletics catcher since Mickey Cochrane in 1932. He also caught Eric Milton's no-hitter in May of 1999 before retiring. Joe Mauer - The Best Defensive Catcher The catcher helps dictate the game because they touch the ball on nearly every pitch. They help set the players before the game and let players know where to stand based on different hitters. Crouched behind home plate, they call and receive pitches from the pitcher, frequently field bunts, and throw out runners trying to steal bases. Catchers frame close strikes, blocks balls in the dirt, and react with lightning quickness as the entire game plays out before them. The position requires a rare combination of spryness, strength, durability, and leadership. Joe Mauer, the best Minnesota Twins catcher in history, won three consecutive gold glove awards from 2008 through 2010. He had a lifetime .995 fielding percentage as a catcher and a caught-stealing percentage of 33%. Mauer led AL catchers multiple times in caught-stealing and fielding percentages. Brian Harper - The Modest Catcher It may seem cruel and unfair, but it's the truth. When watching a game, the focus will always be on the pitcher and their performance. Being able to put aside ego and pride is a huge thing for someone in this position. They have to know that while they contribute heavily in many ways, it's ultimately about the pitcher and helping them succeed. Having humility and the ability to selflessly support the staff, unseen, takes a special person, Brian Harper was that Minnesota Twin. Harper spent six of his 16 MLB seasons with the Minnesota Twins. One of the best catchers in the organization, he was the primary catcher behind the plate for the Twins during the early 90s. He and Jack Morris created a duo in two games that would be integral in the Twins winning the 1991 World Series. In Game 4, Harper stood out when he received a perfect relay throw from Puckett and Chuck Knoblauch and endured a massive collision with Lonnie Smith at home plate. He held on to the ball through the clash to secure the out. In Game 7, Harper not only caught all 10 innings of Jack Morris' legendary shutout but also turned the pivotal 3-2-3 double play with Kent Hrbek to end the eighth inning and squelch the Braves' most dangerous scoring threat of the game. Other catchers that have stood out for the Twins are guys like Mitch Garver and A.J. Pierzynski, rare examples of backstops who can really bring it with the bat. As we get ready for 2023, looking at what is coming up, do you think the Twins will ever have another catcher that can do what any of these three brought to the table?
  3. Ryan Jeffers hasn’t inspired confidence in being the catcher of the future for many reasons, but now a question has been raised that’s out of his control: Should the Twins be making an effort to line up his replacement this offseason? Image courtesy of Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports The catcher position is incredibly demanding, which is why we commonly see either a gold glove caliber defender with no offense or a relatively great hitting catcher who struggles defensively. It’s hard to do both. Ryan Jeffers has leaned more towards the former so far in his career, as his bat hasn’t played for more than short flashes at a time. With changes to how the game of baseball is played, however, could Jeffers’ carrying tool become obsolete? Jeffers has flashed some thump in his bat so far throughout his career, though never consistently at the MLB level. He also hasn’t made enough contact or reached base at a high enough clip to be considered an offensive contributor as shown in his .210/.285/.390 line in 591 plate appearances thus far. Instead Jeffers makes his impact with his defense, though not in a traditional sense. Jeffers has only caught 24% of baserunners trying to steal in his career. Though not all blame can be assigned to the catcher in such a measure, it’s safe to say catching baserunners isn’t Jeffers’ specialty. Instead his defensive reputation comes from stealing strikes on borderline pitches, and we’ve seen plenty of examples of him doing so in his three years. Jeffers has been in the 60th percentile or better for framing in every year of his career so far. Stealing strikes is his #1 skill, and he does it well. Converting a first-pitch ball into a strike for example can lower an opposing hitters’ OPS from .916 in a 1-0 count to .827. Or from .842 to .382 going from a 1-1 count to 0-2. There’s no doubt that Jeffers' pitch framing has helped Twins pitchers when he’s been on the field. The issue however is that the robo-umpire idea doesn’t appear to be a question of if, but rather when. No longer will catchers be able to stage pitches to sway umpires, as they’ll be measured objectively. The timeline of when we’ll see the electronic strike zone debut is unclear, but for the current version of Ryan Jeffers, this is very bad news. It’s possible that Jeffers has more development to make. He has missed his fair share of time with injury. But for the Twins, who lack another catcher even within their top 30 prospects, this should create some worry for the future. We appear to be on the fence regarding whether Jeffers can be “the guy” behind the plate for future Twins teams, but taking away his biggest strength would answer the question for us. The Twins need a long-term backup plan. There are several routes the Twins can go. Signing free agent Willson Contreras is undoubtedly the most fun scenario. Going from Jeffers to the electric former Cubs backstop who seemingly does it all would no doubt be an upgrade. Contreras however will likely require a massive deal after hitting free agency at 30 following a season in which he posted an incredible 132 wRC+ at the plate. Such a deal wouldn’t be the Twins' style and they have needs elsewhere. The rest of free agency doesn’t inspire much confidence in the long term. The Twins could also make a concerted effort to address the position in the draft. The bright side of their disappointing season in 2022 is the higher draft pick they hold. They haven’t drafted a first-round catcher since Joe Mauer in 2001 and of course the talent has to be worth the pick. If a catcher isn’t available that’s worthy of a 1st round selection, consider for example that Mitch Garver was drafted in the 9th round because of defensive concerns. They could beat the rush and target bat first catchers now rather than waiting until receiving and framing are no longer considered skills. The Twins love their “market inefficiencies” and they can take advantage of one that won’t be around much longer during the 2023 draft. Independent of the upcoming strike zone changes, Jeffers had enough question marks. The Twins have been fortunate in recent history with catchers such as Garver breaking through after not carrying a high prospect pedigree. It’s time to shore up the future with a lacking pipeline of catchers. This is the offseason for the Twins to set themselves up for a possible future without Ryan Jeffers View full article
  4. The catcher position is incredibly demanding, which is why we commonly see either a gold glove caliber defender with no offense or a relatively great hitting catcher who struggles defensively. It’s hard to do both. Ryan Jeffers has leaned more towards the former so far in his career, as his bat hasn’t played for more than short flashes at a time. With changes to how the game of baseball is played, however, could Jeffers’ carrying tool become obsolete? Jeffers has flashed some thump in his bat so far throughout his career, though never consistently at the MLB level. He also hasn’t made enough contact or reached base at a high enough clip to be considered an offensive contributor as shown in his .210/.285/.390 line in 591 plate appearances thus far. Instead Jeffers makes his impact with his defense, though not in a traditional sense. Jeffers has only caught 24% of baserunners trying to steal in his career. Though not all blame can be assigned to the catcher in such a measure, it’s safe to say catching baserunners isn’t Jeffers’ specialty. Instead his defensive reputation comes from stealing strikes on borderline pitches, and we’ve seen plenty of examples of him doing so in his three years. Jeffers has been in the 60th percentile or better for framing in every year of his career so far. Stealing strikes is his #1 skill, and he does it well. Converting a first-pitch ball into a strike for example can lower an opposing hitters’ OPS from .916 in a 1-0 count to .827. Or from .842 to .382 going from a 1-1 count to 0-2. There’s no doubt that Jeffers' pitch framing has helped Twins pitchers when he’s been on the field. The issue however is that the robo-umpire idea doesn’t appear to be a question of if, but rather when. No longer will catchers be able to stage pitches to sway umpires, as they’ll be measured objectively. The timeline of when we’ll see the electronic strike zone debut is unclear, but for the current version of Ryan Jeffers, this is very bad news. It’s possible that Jeffers has more development to make. He has missed his fair share of time with injury. But for the Twins, who lack another catcher even within their top 30 prospects, this should create some worry for the future. We appear to be on the fence regarding whether Jeffers can be “the guy” behind the plate for future Twins teams, but taking away his biggest strength would answer the question for us. The Twins need a long-term backup plan. There are several routes the Twins can go. Signing free agent Willson Contreras is undoubtedly the most fun scenario. Going from Jeffers to the electric former Cubs backstop who seemingly does it all would no doubt be an upgrade. Contreras however will likely require a massive deal after hitting free agency at 30 following a season in which he posted an incredible 132 wRC+ at the plate. Such a deal wouldn’t be the Twins' style and they have needs elsewhere. The rest of free agency doesn’t inspire much confidence in the long term. The Twins could also make a concerted effort to address the position in the draft. The bright side of their disappointing season in 2022 is the higher draft pick they hold. They haven’t drafted a first-round catcher since Joe Mauer in 2001 and of course the talent has to be worth the pick. If a catcher isn’t available that’s worthy of a 1st round selection, consider for example that Mitch Garver was drafted in the 9th round because of defensive concerns. They could beat the rush and target bat first catchers now rather than waiting until receiving and framing are no longer considered skills. The Twins love their “market inefficiencies” and they can take advantage of one that won’t be around much longer during the 2023 draft. Independent of the upcoming strike zone changes, Jeffers had enough question marks. The Twins have been fortunate in recent history with catchers such as Garver breaking through after not carrying a high prospect pedigree. It’s time to shore up the future with a lacking pipeline of catchers. This is the offseason for the Twins to set themselves up for a possible future without Ryan Jeffers
  5. The Minnesota Twins will soon be without the services of Carlos Correa. Once he opts out of his contract, there is little inclination that he will return for 2023 on a new deal. Needing to replace the production, could Minnesota look behind the plate? Image courtesy of Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports Despite what looked to be like a quality lineup on paper, the 2022 Minnesota Twins found themselves struggling to put runs on the board. This issue only worsened as the injuries mounted, but losing one of their best offensive players in Carlos Correa certainly isn’t going to help things. Needing to replace his presence and improve upon what returns, maybe the Twins look to make a splash behind the dish. Last spring, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine swung a deal that sent Mitch Garver to the Texas Rangers. Ultimately that made it possible to pivot from Josh Donaldson and land former slugger Gary Sanchez from New York. The hope was that a fresh start could bring better production. It flopped miserably as Sanchez posted a career-worst 89 OPS+. With Ryan Jeffers missing a substantial amount of the season due to injury, there was little offense from the catching position. As he returns in 2023, there remains plenty of promise in a bat that was his calling card when drafted. We have seen it produce in short bursts, and the front office is undoubtedly hoping 2023 is the breakout season. However, he needs someone to work alongside him, or potentially in front of him. Catcher doesn’t seem like a position the Twins will splurge on, and there are not a ton of options. Grabbing the best catcher available, Willson Contreras, could make some sense. There have been indications that the club would prefer a left-handed bat to platoon with Jeffers behind the plate, but the only free-agent options available are Omar Narvaez, Jason Castro, and Tucker Barnhart. Although Contreras is the same handedness as Jeffers, he would immediately represent a substantial upgrade at the position and give the Twins something similar to that of Garver’s Silver Slugger winning season. Contreras owns a career 115 OPS+ and has routinely launched 20 homers a season while producing a .349 career on-base percentage at a position that does not typically provide offensive production. Contreras is bucking the trend. The Twins signing Contreras would fulfill a need in the form of a big bat, and take them out of having to rotate in veteran retreads as they did with Sandy Leon a season ago. Contreras will be 32 next season, and he has spent a considerable amount of time behind the plate, but positional flexibility is something he has also shown over the course of his career with the Cubs. Ultimately it would seem like a longshot for the Twins to grab the top player on the market at a position, although it just happened eight months ago in the form of Correa. Contreras could help to soften that blow and bring stability to a position where the Twins haven’t had any since Joe Mauer moved to first base. View full article
  6. Despite what looked to be like a quality lineup on paper, the 2022 Minnesota Twins found themselves struggling to put runs on the board. This issue only worsened as the injuries mounted, but losing one of their best offensive players in Carlos Correa certainly isn’t going to help things. Needing to replace his presence and improve upon what returns, maybe the Twins look to make a splash behind the dish. Last spring, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine swung a deal that sent Mitch Garver to the Texas Rangers. Ultimately that made it possible to pivot from Josh Donaldson and land former slugger Gary Sanchez from New York. The hope was that a fresh start could bring better production. It flopped miserably as Sanchez posted a career-worst 89 OPS+. With Ryan Jeffers missing a substantial amount of the season due to injury, there was little offense from the catching position. As he returns in 2023, there remains plenty of promise in a bat that was his calling card when drafted. We have seen it produce in short bursts, and the front office is undoubtedly hoping 2023 is the breakout season. However, he needs someone to work alongside him, or potentially in front of him. Catcher doesn’t seem like a position the Twins will splurge on, and there are not a ton of options. Grabbing the best catcher available, Willson Contreras, could make some sense. There have been indications that the club would prefer a left-handed bat to platoon with Jeffers behind the plate, but the only free-agent options available are Omar Narvaez, Jason Castro, and Tucker Barnhart. Although Contreras is the same handedness as Jeffers, he would immediately represent a substantial upgrade at the position and give the Twins something similar to that of Garver’s Silver Slugger winning season. Contreras owns a career 115 OPS+ and has routinely launched 20 homers a season while producing a .349 career on-base percentage at a position that does not typically provide offensive production. Contreras is bucking the trend. The Twins signing Contreras would fulfill a need in the form of a big bat, and take them out of having to rotate in veteran retreads as they did with Sandy Leon a season ago. Contreras will be 32 next season, and he has spent a considerable amount of time behind the plate, but positional flexibility is something he has also shown over the course of his career with the Cubs. Ultimately it would seem like a longshot for the Twins to grab the top player on the market at a position, although it just happened eight months ago in the form of Correa. Contreras could help to soften that blow and bring stability to a position where the Twins haven’t had any since Joe Mauer moved to first base.
  7. The Minnesota Twins had a less-than-ideal catching situation at times throughout the 2022 season. As they turn the page to 2023, it’s become clear that the front office views Ryan Jeffers as the guy they’re all-in behind. Image courtesy of Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports Prior to 2022, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine made a somewhat surprising move in dealing Mitch Garver to the Texas Rangers. Garver has had injuries throughout his career but was a Silver Slugger-winning backstop, and among the best offensive producers in the game when healthy. That left Ryan Jeffers and Ben Rortvedt as the only catchers on the 40-man roster. Not long after, Minnesota pivoted again when they sent Josh Donaldson and Rortvedt to the New York Yankees for Gio Urshela and Gary Sanchez. The hope was that Sanchez would benefit from a change of scenery. He’s never been a good defensive player, but the Twins have done a great job coaching catchers, although Tanner Swanson was a leader in that department and is now with the Yankees. Sanchez had once flashed a big bat, however, and there was hope that it would return. Fast forward to where we are now, and Jeffers is the lone catcher on Minnesota’s 40-man roster. Sanchez will be a free agent after the World Series, as will Sandy Leon. Sanchez posted a career-worst season and shouldn’t be entertained as an option. Leon found himself injured down the stretch and wound up on the 60-day injured list. With Caleb Hamilton being designated for assignment and subsequently claimed by the Boston Red Sox, no immediate backup presents itself. Ultimately, the starting option is the way Falvey and Levine would have it. Jeffers was seen as a reach in the Major League Baseball draft, with some analysts not knowing if he could ever stick behind the plate. Since, he’s become a solid to above-average defender and the carrying tool has always been his bat. The .648 OPS in 2022 is not good by any means, but the .756 OPS across 24 games prior to his injury suggested the bat was heating up. Catcher is not traditionally a position of great offensive production across the Major Leagues. Only 10 teams generated more than 2.7 fWAR in 2022 from their backstops. Even with as bad or rotating as Minnesota’s situation was, the 1.8 fWAR from the catching position ranked 13th in the sport. It’s really a situation of a few haves, and a ton of have-nots. The have-nots come in varying degrees of success, however, and the Twins would like to remain in the middle of the pack, if not move up that list. With Jeffers, Rocco Baldelli has upside offensively while getting a strong defensive option. Behind him in 2023, it’s almost a guarantee that Minnesota will need another Leon type. There isn’t a single prospect in the Twins' Top 30 that calls behind the plate home, and the best-case player with upside is Jair Camargo, who experienced a breakout year at Single and Double-A as a 22-year-old. However, Camargo can be a free agent following the World Series too. There’s more than a handful of capable veterans to spell Jeffers on the open market, and while Willson Contreras is the gold standard, it would seem odd for the Twins to spring for such an expense behind the plate. Ultimately, this is now the 25-year-old Jeffers' position to be in for 120-plus games per season, and the front office wants to cash in on their belief from the 2018 draft. View full article
  8. Prior to 2022, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine made a somewhat surprising move in dealing Mitch Garver to the Texas Rangers. Garver has had injuries throughout his career but was a Silver Slugger-winning backstop, and among the best offensive producers in the game when healthy. That left Ryan Jeffers and Ben Rortvedt as the only catchers on the 40-man roster. Not long after, Minnesota pivoted again when they sent Josh Donaldson and Rortvedt to the New York Yankees for Gio Urshela and Gary Sanchez. The hope was that Sanchez would benefit from a change of scenery. He’s never been a good defensive player, but the Twins have done a great job coaching catchers, although Tanner Swanson was a leader in that department and is now with the Yankees. Sanchez had once flashed a big bat, however, and there was hope that it would return. Fast forward to where we are now, and Jeffers is the lone catcher on Minnesota’s 40-man roster. Sanchez will be a free agent after the World Series, as will Sandy Leon. Sanchez posted a career-worst season and shouldn’t be entertained as an option. Leon found himself injured down the stretch and wound up on the 60-day injured list. With Caleb Hamilton being designated for assignment and subsequently claimed by the Boston Red Sox, no immediate backup presents itself. Ultimately, the starting option is the way Falvey and Levine would have it. Jeffers was seen as a reach in the Major League Baseball draft, with some analysts not knowing if he could ever stick behind the plate. Since, he’s become a solid to above-average defender and the carrying tool has always been his bat. The .648 OPS in 2022 is not good by any means, but the .756 OPS across 24 games prior to his injury suggested the bat was heating up. Catcher is not traditionally a position of great offensive production across the Major Leagues. Only 10 teams generated more than 2.7 fWAR in 2022 from their backstops. Even with as bad or rotating as Minnesota’s situation was, the 1.8 fWAR from the catching position ranked 13th in the sport. It’s really a situation of a few haves, and a ton of have-nots. The have-nots come in varying degrees of success, however, and the Twins would like to remain in the middle of the pack, if not move up that list. With Jeffers, Rocco Baldelli has upside offensively while getting a strong defensive option. Behind him in 2023, it’s almost a guarantee that Minnesota will need another Leon type. There isn’t a single prospect in the Twins' Top 30 that calls behind the plate home, and the best-case player with upside is Jair Camargo, who experienced a breakout year at Single and Double-A as a 22-year-old. However, Camargo can be a free agent following the World Series too. There’s more than a handful of capable veterans to spell Jeffers on the open market, and while Willson Contreras is the gold standard, it would seem odd for the Twins to spring for such an expense behind the plate. Ultimately, this is now the 25-year-old Jeffers' position to be in for 120-plus games per season, and the front office wants to cash in on their belief from the 2018 draft.
  9. 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? View full article
  10. 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?
  11. In 2019 and 2020 the former Guardians veteran became one of baseball’s best at the hot corner. Gio Urshela posted a .310/.359/.523 slash line and hit 27 homers across 175 games. The Yankees made him a fixture in their lineup and he was seen as a key contributor after taking the position from Miguel Andujar. Urshela went through it for the first time since his breakout last year. After posting a 134 OPS+ in 2019 and 2020, he contributed a below league-average 95 OPS+. Given his dealings with Covid multiple times, as well as suffering injury, it was explainable why the production had dipped. The hope for Minnesota was undoubtedly that a change of scenery and clean bill of health would result in rebounding to where he was at his peak. Now 30-years-old, Urshela is 27 games into his Twins career and the 83 OPS+ is a bottoming out of sorts. He hasn’t dropped to the irrelevance of his time in Cleveland, but at a time when offense is down across the board, he’s finding ways to contribute even less. Urshela is not a hulking slugger by any means, but across nearly 100 plate appearances he has just three extra-base hits and only one homer. If there’s a silver lining for Urshela, it’s that we may just be dealing with a small sample. His expected batting average is 30 points higher at .263 and his xwOBA sits near the 2019 mark at .338. He’s at his career average when it comes to hard-hit rate, and Urshela still has a good process at the plate posting just a 12/9 K/BB. Rocco Baldelli is certainly hoping his third basemen figures it out, otherwise, that could be an avenue for someone like Royce Lewis or Luis Arraez to steal playing time. Behind the dish was never going to be a calling card for Gary Sanchez, regardless of a new change in scenery. He’s a rough backstop, but his bat used to carry him. Coincidentally, Sanchez’s 83 OPS+ is the exact same mark as his trade partner, Urshela. There was a time the Dominican native was competing for Rookie of the Year awards and picking up All-Star game selections. 2019 and his .841 OPS seem like a distant memory at this point, however. The last two seasons in New York equated to a 90 OPS+ for Sanchez, and he’s now dipped well below. Across 80 plate appearances, Sanchez owns a .203/.263/.338 slash line. He is a power producer but has homered only once while tacking on seven doubles. Unlike Urshela, Sanchez’s expected batting average is actually worse than what he’s generated and although the xwOBA is better, it’s insignificant with just an eight-point swing. Sanchez is still hitting with a similar hard-hit rate to when he was at his best in 2019, but he’s bumped the fly all rate up to 53% and halved a very solid 20% line drive rate from that season. Getting too far under the baseball, and being bit by a ball that’s deadened, Sanchez has just a 3.6% HR/FB ratio after seeing a whopping 26.4% ratio in 2019. Although he’s making the most contact of his career, pitchers are also forcing him to chase at a career-worst rate. For Sanchez the bat has to play for there to be any value. He’s been worth -0.3 fWAR because it hasn’t and his time behind the dish will always be flawed. Minnesota doesn’t have other options at catcher and that makes the leash extremely long here. Still, getting him anything more than rotational at-bats becomes unnecessary if this is the production Baldelli can expect. It was a fine move to swap out Josh Donaldson. His place in the clubhouse may not have been ideal, and the move freed up the opportunity to sign Carlos Correa. That said, the Twins can’t afford to have a lineup with two players producing so little offensively. New York has bit Minnesota plenty over the years, and right now it’s happening from within. How long are you willing to wait and find out if these two find it?
  12. This offseason, after dealing Mitch Garver to the Texas Rangers, Minnesota flipped Josh Donaldson and Ben Rortvedt to the New York Yankees for Gio Urshela and Gary Sanchez. They filled two starting lineup spots with the trade, but there’s yet to be production from either player. In 2019 and 2020 the former Guardians veteran became one of baseball’s best at the hot corner. Gio Urshela posted a .310/.359/.523 slash line and hit 27 homers across 175 games. The Yankees made him a fixture in their lineup and he was seen as a key contributor after taking the position from Miguel Andujar. Urshela went through it for the first time since his breakout last year. After posting a 134 OPS+ in 2019 and 2020, he contributed a below league-average 95 OPS+. Given his dealings with Covid multiple times, as well as suffering injury, it was explainable why the production had dipped. The hope for Minnesota was undoubtedly that a change of scenery and clean bill of health would result in rebounding to where he was at his peak. Now 30-years-old, Urshela is 27 games into his Twins career and the 83 OPS+ is a bottoming out of sorts. He hasn’t dropped to the irrelevance of his time in Cleveland, but at a time when offense is down across the board, he’s finding ways to contribute even less. Urshela is not a hulking slugger by any means, but across nearly 100 plate appearances he has just three extra-base hits and only one homer. If there’s a silver lining for Urshela, it’s that we may just be dealing with a small sample. His expected batting average is 30 points higher at .263 and his xwOBA sits near the 2019 mark at .338. He’s at his career average when it comes to hard-hit rate, and Urshela still has a good process at the plate posting just a 12/9 K/BB. Rocco Baldelli is certainly hoping his third basemen figures it out, otherwise, that could be an avenue for someone like Royce Lewis or Luis Arraez to steal playing time. Behind the dish was never going to be a calling card for Gary Sanchez, regardless of a new change in scenery. He’s a rough backstop, but his bat used to carry him. Coincidentally, Sanchez’s 83 OPS+ is the exact same mark as his trade partner, Urshela. There was a time the Dominican native was competing for Rookie of the Year awards and picking up All-Star game selections. 2019 and his .841 OPS seem like a distant memory at this point, however. The last two seasons in New York equated to a 90 OPS+ for Sanchez, and he’s now dipped well below. Across 80 plate appearances, Sanchez owns a .203/.263/.338 slash line. He is a power producer but has homered only once while tacking on seven doubles. Unlike Urshela, Sanchez’s expected batting average is actually worse than what he’s generated and although the xwOBA is better, it’s insignificant with just an eight-point swing. Sanchez is still hitting with a similar hard-hit rate to when he was at his best in 2019, but he’s bumped the fly all rate up to 53% and halved a very solid 20% line drive rate from that season. Getting too far under the baseball, and being bit by a ball that’s deadened, Sanchez has just a 3.6% HR/FB ratio after seeing a whopping 26.4% ratio in 2019. Although he’s making the most contact of his career, pitchers are also forcing him to chase at a career-worst rate. For Sanchez the bat has to play for there to be any value. He’s been worth -0.3 fWAR because it hasn’t and his time behind the dish will always be flawed. Minnesota doesn’t have other options at catcher and that makes the leash extremely long here. Still, getting him anything more than rotational at-bats becomes unnecessary if this is the production Baldelli can expect. It was a fine move to swap out Josh Donaldson. His place in the clubhouse may not have been ideal, and the move freed up the opportunity to sign Carlos Correa. That said, the Twins can’t afford to have a lineup with two players producing so little offensively. New York has bit Minnesota plenty over the years, and right now it’s happening from within. How long are you willing to wait and find out if these two find it? View full article
  13. Shortly after the lockout ended, the Twins engaged in a frenzied activity to reshape their roster and prepare for the 2022 season. One of the first moves they made, was trading fan favorite Mitch Garver to the Texas Rangers for Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who eventually was flipped to the Yankees to shed Josh Donaldson’s contract. Trading an aging catcher, with a lengthy injury history, made a lot of sense, even if Twins fans didn’t like the move. How the trade would be reflected upon, depended largely on the development of Ryan Jeffers and what he could offer offensively in 2022. Early in the 2022 season, the returns are promising. Jeffers’ development since being taken in the second round of the 2018 draft out of UNC Wilmington has been remarkable. At the time, the pick was immediately labeled a reach from Minnesota. The Twins, however, saw a solid power bat and a cerebral player they felt they could develop defensively, despite not having had a college catching coach. Jeffers was essentially self-taught defensively. Let’s dig into his offensive and defensive production in 2022 to see what’s under the hood. Offense When Jeffers was first called up in 2020, hitting .273/.355/.436 and managed a 120 wRC+ in a small, 26-game sample. 2021 was, by comparison, a disaster. Jeffers lost his strike zone control, walking less and striking out more, and struggled to get bat to ball, managing 0.6 fWAR in 86 games. In 18 games in 2022, Jeffers has already matched his season-long fWAR from 2021, hitting .228/.302/.456 to go along with a 125 wRC+. Looking at Jeffers’ Statcast profile tells its own interesting and encouraging tale. Jeffers ranks in the 96th percentile for Barrel % and 89th percentile for xSLG, those are elite numbers. You may not like the profile of hitter, but Jeffers is settling in on being a slugger that will strike out a lot but make a ton of hard, effective contact. That’s valuable in and of itself, for a catcher, even more so. There are a number of factors that hurt the perception of Jeffers’ offensive profile and production. Firstly, Mitch Garver’s 2019 season. It was a unicorn season, both for Garver and in the history of the position. Combine it with Garver’s approach at the plate, which combined elite power and strike-zone control, and it’s easy to wave away Jeffers’ low OBP as uninteresting and lacking value. Let’s put his numbers early in 2022 in some positional context. Jeffers ranks fifth in fWAR among all MLB catchers, seventh in SLG, seventh in wRC+, and ninth in wOBA. He just doesn't get on base a lot, and that’s OK. If Jeffers maintains his offensive production and a wRC+ of slightly above 100, he’s going to have an incredibly valuable 2022 season for the Twins. Defense Let’s start with the obvious, Ryan Jeffers is not good at throwing out runners. He ranks fifth last in this category among catchers in 2022. Also, who cares? Jeffers has had four bases stolen on his watch in 2022, and has thrown out one runner, for a CS% of 20%. Yadier Molina is at 29%. Base stealing has become such an irrelevant part of the game that this area of weakness is inconsequential. Measuring defense is difficult, for catchers, it’s almost impossible. There are no effective metrics to help understand the effectiveness with which a catcher ‘calls’ a game. Here’s what we do know about Jeffers. Per Statcast, he’s in the 84th percentile for framing among MLB catchers. Per Baseball Prospectus, he’s seventh-best in baseball. Rdrs/yr measures the number of runs above or below average a fielder would save over 1,200 innings (approximately 135 games). Jeffers sits at 36, that’s good for second-best among catchers in baseball. This is reflected in the eye test for Jeffers. How many run-saving blocks has he already made this year? While the defensive numbers can’t paint the full picture, the outline is clear. Jeffers is a defensive standout. All of this, of course, is a relatively meaningless sample of around 20 games. There’s plenty of season left to go right or go wrong. The early indicators point to Ryan Jeffers as an extremely valuable long-term commodity for the Minnesota Twins.
  14. It’s early in the 2022 season, but Ryan Jeffers’ strong start should give Twins fans reason for optimism. He's a top ten catcher in MLB right now. Shortly after the lockout ended, the Twins engaged in a frenzied activity to reshape their roster and prepare for the 2022 season. One of the first moves they made, was trading fan favorite Mitch Garver to the Texas Rangers for Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who eventually was flipped to the Yankees to shed Josh Donaldson’s contract. Trading an aging catcher, with a lengthy injury history, made a lot of sense, even if Twins fans didn’t like the move. How the trade would be reflected upon, depended largely on the development of Ryan Jeffers and what he could offer offensively in 2022. Early in the 2022 season, the returns are promising. Jeffers’ development since being taken in the second round of the 2018 draft out of UNC Wilmington has been remarkable. At the time, the pick was immediately labeled a reach from Minnesota. The Twins, however, saw a solid power bat and a cerebral player they felt they could develop defensively, despite not having had a college catching coach. Jeffers was essentially self-taught defensively. Let’s dig into his offensive and defensive production in 2022 to see what’s under the hood. Offense When Jeffers was first called up in 2020, hitting .273/.355/.436 and managed a 120 wRC+ in a small, 26-game sample. 2021 was, by comparison, a disaster. Jeffers lost his strike zone control, walking less and striking out more, and struggled to get bat to ball, managing 0.6 fWAR in 86 games. In 18 games in 2022, Jeffers has already matched his season-long fWAR from 2021, hitting .228/.302/.456 to go along with a 125 wRC+. Looking at Jeffers’ Statcast profile tells its own interesting and encouraging tale. Jeffers ranks in the 96th percentile for Barrel % and 89th percentile for xSLG, those are elite numbers. You may not like the profile of hitter, but Jeffers is settling in on being a slugger that will strike out a lot but make a ton of hard, effective contact. That’s valuable in and of itself, for a catcher, even more so. There are a number of factors that hurt the perception of Jeffers’ offensive profile and production. Firstly, Mitch Garver’s 2019 season. It was a unicorn season, both for Garver and in the history of the position. Combine it with Garver’s approach at the plate, which combined elite power and strike-zone control, and it’s easy to wave away Jeffers’ low OBP as uninteresting and lacking value. Let’s put his numbers early in 2022 in some positional context. Jeffers ranks fifth in fWAR among all MLB catchers, seventh in SLG, seventh in wRC+, and ninth in wOBA. He just doesn't get on base a lot, and that’s OK. If Jeffers maintains his offensive production and a wRC+ of slightly above 100, he’s going to have an incredibly valuable 2022 season for the Twins. Defense Let’s start with the obvious, Ryan Jeffers is not good at throwing out runners. He ranks fifth last in this category among catchers in 2022. Also, who cares? Jeffers has had four bases stolen on his watch in 2022, and has thrown out one runner, for a CS% of 20%. Yadier Molina is at 29%. Base stealing has become such an irrelevant part of the game that this area of weakness is inconsequential. Measuring defense is difficult, for catchers, it’s almost impossible. There are no effective metrics to help understand the effectiveness with which a catcher ‘calls’ a game. Here’s what we do know about Jeffers. Per Statcast, he’s in the 84th percentile for framing among MLB catchers. Per Baseball Prospectus, he’s seventh-best in baseball. Rdrs/yr measures the number of runs above or below average a fielder would save over 1,200 innings (approximately 135 games). Jeffers sits at 36, that’s good for second-best among catchers in baseball. This is reflected in the eye test for Jeffers. How many run-saving blocks has he already made this year? While the defensive numbers can’t paint the full picture, the outline is clear. Jeffers is a defensive standout. All of this, of course, is a relatively meaningless sample of around 20 games. There’s plenty of season left to go right or go wrong. The early indicators point to Ryan Jeffers as an extremely valuable long-term commodity for the Minnesota Twins. View full article
  15. 15: Jim Thome: 21 HR Thome became a home run legend during his Hall of Fame career. He hit the first walk-off home run in Target Field history, and it is still one of the best moments in Minnesota Twins history. 13. Oswaldo Arcia/ Kennys Vargas: 22 HR Arcia and Vargas were supposed to be part of the first wave of prospects that helped the Twins turn things around at the big-league level in the 2010s. That didn't come to fruition, but they each were known for their power in their prospect careers. 12. Mitch Garver: 27 HR During the Bomba Squad season, Garver had multiple important home runs. He broke Earl Battey's Twins single-season home run record, which stood since 1963. He also hit the home run that broke the season home run record. 11. Eduardo Escobar: 28 HR Escobar became a beloved figure in Twins history, and he has gone on to have a solid big-league career. His most valuable home run at Target Field came with the Twins trailing by two in the bottom of the eighth inning. Which home run do you remember the most? Which player do you think hits Minnesota's 1,000th home run at Target Field? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  16. As we countdown the days to Target Fields's 1000th home run, let's countdown the Twins who made it happen. Here are the 11th through 15th best home run hitters in Target Field history and their biggest hits. 15: Jim Thome: 21 HR Thome became a home run legend during his Hall of Fame career. He hit the first walk-off home run in Target Field history, and it is still one of the best moments in Minnesota Twins history. 13. Oswaldo Arcia/ Kennys Vargas: 22 HR Arcia and Vargas were supposed to be part of the first wave of prospects that helped the Twins turn things around at the big-league level in the 2010s. That didn't come to fruition, but they each were known for their power in their prospect careers. 12. Mitch Garver: 27 HR During the Bomba Squad season, Garver had multiple important home runs. He broke Earl Battey's Twins single-season home run record, which stood since 1963. He also hit the home run that broke the season home run record. 11. Eduardo Escobar: 28 HR Escobar became a beloved figure in Twins history, and he has gone on to have a solid big-league career. His most valuable home run at Target Field came with the Twins trailing by two in the bottom of the eighth inning. Which home run do you remember the most? Which player do you think hits Minnesota's 1,000th home run at Target Field? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. View full article
  17. One question that I have been asked frequently over the past couple of offseasons was, “How would you split up the catcher position between Mitch Garver and Ryan Jeffers?” It was a great question and one I enjoyed answering. In my mind, there was a great answer. Play both of them half of the time. Keep them both fresh. Keep them both playing often. Help both of them keep their legs underneath them. The two backstops are so similar in so many ways offensively and defensively in such a way that should allow for continuity for the pitchers. Physically, Mitch Garver and Ryan Jeffers are both big catchers. Garver is about 6-1 and 230 pounds. Jeffers stands 6-4 and about 240 pounds. I think in some ways, their size gave both of them a perception of poor defense. Garver certainly acknowledged his defensive deficiencies early in his career and set out to improve behind the plate with the help of then-minor-league catching coordinator Tanner Swanson. True to the hard work, over one season he went from the worst pitch framer in baseball to league average. That’s more impressive when you consider that it was becoming a huge focus in the game and the overall framing numbers were improving. Like Garver, Jeffers was drafted as an offense-first catcher, at least in the eyes of national sources. However, the Twins scouts saw something in Jeffers that told them he can be a very good catcher. When he got into pro ball and started having the technology and analysis to determine such things, it showed that he was a plus-pitch framer. And he has continued to rank highly even in his first two big-league seasons. Jeffers and Garver are both very smart away from the baseball field. Garver went to the University of New Mexico to become a chiropractor and play a little baseball. Jeffers was a physics major at UNCW. Aside from general intelligence, both have a very high Baseball IQ. Both are analytical and study the game. They put in the time before the game to understand what the opposing hitters like and how that day’s pitcher could use their repertoire to get each hitter out. As important, both are tremendous communicators. They work well with their pitchers and their coaches. They both have talked about their communication with each other on pre-game scouting reports and planning. And yes, both are fantastic with the media too. And then there is the offense. Yes, both can mash. Both have had rough spots in their careers, but overall, these guys can really hit Mitch Garver posted an OPS over 1.000 in his junior and senior seasons at New Mexico. He was the Twins Daily Minor League Hitter in 2014 when he played at Cedar Rapids, and in 2017 with the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings. He made his MLB debut late that season. He has been in the big leagues since. He earned the American League’s Silver Slugger Award in 2019 when he hit .273/.365/.630 (.995) with 16 doubles and 31 home runs. Yes, he struggled and was hurt in the shortened 2020 season. But after a slow April in 2021, he was back. Overall, he hit .256/.358/.517 (.875) with 15 doubles and 13 home runs in 68 games. Jeffers posted an OPS over 1.000 in all three seasons he played at UNC-Wilmington. Along with power, he walked more than he struck out, something that was important to him. After being drafted in 2018, he crushed the ball at both Elizabethton and Cedar Rapids. He split the 2019 season between Ft. Myers and Double-A Pensacola. He was invited to the Twins’ alternate site in St. Paul, and when Garver was hurt, the Twins went directly to Jeffers. In 26 games, he hit .277/.355/.436 (.791) with three homers. He had a rough season offensively in 2021 as Garver began the season by getting significantly more playing time. While he hit just .199, he still provided the team with 10 doubles and 14 home runs. His power is legit. Following the lockout, the Twins front office traded Garver, 31, to the Texas Rangers which started a series of moves. A week later, Ben Rortvedt was included in a deal with the New York Yankees. After having the question about how to split up playing time between Garver and Jeffers for a couple of years, there were questions about the Twins’ sudden lack of catcher depth behind Jeffers. Yes, they acquired veteran Gary Sanchez from the Yankees, but he will certainly do less catching and more DHing. That’s why they added minor-league veteran Jose Godoy on a waiver claim to provide another body, a guy who can play good defense. And, after Jeffers’ disappointing .199 batting average in 2021, it is fair for some Twins fans to question the decision of handing him the reins behind the plate. However, if one thing is clear, it’s that the Twins front office has complete confidence in the abilities behind the plate and at the plate of 24-year-old Ryan Jeffers. When a team is looking for a catcher, there is a mental checklist that a front office marks up in their mind as they evaluate a player. For a catcher, that list includes defense, framing, leadership, communication, and then offense, quality plate appearances, power, etc. While needing to show more consistency, Jeffers is a guy who checks all the boxes. So why even bring up Mitch Garver in this article? Why not just speak on the accolades and talents of Jeffers? I think it's important for a couple of reasons. First, it's OK for Twins fans to miss Mitch Garver. He was great with fans and media alike. And, he was a senior sign who made it big, against the odds, to be a Top 5 player at his position. Second, and certainly more important to the Twins and their fans going forward, I think it showed the similarities. Just because players are similar does not mean that the results will be similar. However, it is important to understand what kind of potential Ryan Jeffers has. In 2022, Ryan Jeffers will start getting that opportunity to prove it on a larger scale, as the Twins’ primary catcher. He will likely be able to hit toward the bottom of the lineup which may help take a little bit of the pressure off of his bat. He will be challenged with a pitching staff with three new veteran starters and two pitchers with less than one year of service time. That is a lot to take on, to be sure, but Jeffers is certainly up for the challenge.
  18. When Twins manager Rocco Baldelli announced that Joe Ryan will be making the Opening Day start for the Twins next week, it showed how much the team and front office believe in Ryan. Speaking of belief in Ryan, when the Twins traded catchers Mitch Garver and Ben Rortvedt last month, they showed their belief in Ryan Jeffers. One question that I have been asked frequently over the past couple of offseasons was, “How would you split up the catcher position between Mitch Garver and Ryan Jeffers?” It was a great question and one I enjoyed answering. In my mind, there was a great answer. Play both of them half of the time. Keep them both fresh. Keep them both playing often. Help both of them keep their legs underneath them. The two backstops are so similar in so many ways offensively and defensively in such a way that should allow for continuity for the pitchers. Physically, Mitch Garver and Ryan Jeffers are both big catchers. Garver is about 6-1 and 230 pounds. Jeffers stands 6-4 and about 240 pounds. I think in some ways, their size gave both of them a perception of poor defense. Garver certainly acknowledged his defensive deficiencies early in his career and set out to improve behind the plate with the help of then-minor-league catching coordinator Tanner Swanson. True to the hard work, over one season he went from the worst pitch framer in baseball to league average. That’s more impressive when you consider that it was becoming a huge focus in the game and the overall framing numbers were improving. Like Garver, Jeffers was drafted as an offense-first catcher, at least in the eyes of national sources. However, the Twins scouts saw something in Jeffers that told them he can be a very good catcher. When he got into pro ball and started having the technology and analysis to determine such things, it showed that he was a plus-pitch framer. And he has continued to rank highly even in his first two big-league seasons. Jeffers and Garver are both very smart away from the baseball field. Garver went to the University of New Mexico to become a chiropractor and play a little baseball. Jeffers was a physics major at UNCW. Aside from general intelligence, both have a very high Baseball IQ. Both are analytical and study the game. They put in the time before the game to understand what the opposing hitters like and how that day’s pitcher could use their repertoire to get each hitter out. As important, both are tremendous communicators. They work well with their pitchers and their coaches. They both have talked about their communication with each other on pre-game scouting reports and planning. And yes, both are fantastic with the media too. And then there is the offense. Yes, both can mash. Both have had rough spots in their careers, but overall, these guys can really hit Mitch Garver posted an OPS over 1.000 in his junior and senior seasons at New Mexico. He was the Twins Daily Minor League Hitter in 2014 when he played at Cedar Rapids, and in 2017 with the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings. He made his MLB debut late that season. He has been in the big leagues since. He earned the American League’s Silver Slugger Award in 2019 when he hit .273/.365/.630 (.995) with 16 doubles and 31 home runs. Yes, he struggled and was hurt in the shortened 2020 season. But after a slow April in 2021, he was back. Overall, he hit .256/.358/.517 (.875) with 15 doubles and 13 home runs in 68 games. Jeffers posted an OPS over 1.000 in all three seasons he played at UNC-Wilmington. Along with power, he walked more than he struck out, something that was important to him. After being drafted in 2018, he crushed the ball at both Elizabethton and Cedar Rapids. He split the 2019 season between Ft. Myers and Double-A Pensacola. He was invited to the Twins’ alternate site in St. Paul, and when Garver was hurt, the Twins went directly to Jeffers. In 26 games, he hit .277/.355/.436 (.791) with three homers. He had a rough season offensively in 2021 as Garver began the season by getting significantly more playing time. While he hit just .199, he still provided the team with 10 doubles and 14 home runs. His power is legit. Following the lockout, the Twins front office traded Garver, 31, to the Texas Rangers which started a series of moves. A week later, Ben Rortvedt was included in a deal with the New York Yankees. After having the question about how to split up playing time between Garver and Jeffers for a couple of years, there were questions about the Twins’ sudden lack of catcher depth behind Jeffers. Yes, they acquired veteran Gary Sanchez from the Yankees, but he will certainly do less catching and more DHing. That’s why they added minor-league veteran Jose Godoy on a waiver claim to provide another body, a guy who can play good defense. And, after Jeffers’ disappointing .199 batting average in 2021, it is fair for some Twins fans to question the decision of handing him the reins behind the plate. However, if one thing is clear, it’s that the Twins front office has complete confidence in the abilities behind the plate and at the plate of 24-year-old Ryan Jeffers. When a team is looking for a catcher, there is a mental checklist that a front office marks up in their mind as they evaluate a player. For a catcher, that list includes defense, framing, leadership, communication, and then offense, quality plate appearances, power, etc. While needing to show more consistency, Jeffers is a guy who checks all the boxes. So why even bring up Mitch Garver in this article? Why not just speak on the accolades and talents of Jeffers? I think it's important for a couple of reasons. First, it's OK for Twins fans to miss Mitch Garver. He was great with fans and media alike. And, he was a senior sign who made it big, against the odds, to be a Top 5 player at his position. Second, and certainly more important to the Twins and their fans going forward, I think it showed the similarities. Just because players are similar does not mean that the results will be similar. However, it is important to understand what kind of potential Ryan Jeffers has. In 2022, Ryan Jeffers will start getting that opportunity to prove it on a larger scale, as the Twins’ primary catcher. He will likely be able to hit toward the bottom of the lineup which may help take a little bit of the pressure off of his bat. He will be challenged with a pitching staff with three new veteran starters and two pitchers with less than one year of service time. That is a lot to take on, to be sure, but Jeffers is certainly up for the challenge. View full article
  19. I have been watching baseball for as long as I can remember. I have always loved everything about baseball; the sounds of the park, the food, and every play on the field. I learned a lot watching what happens on the field, in the dugout, and the bullpen, but one thing that I had yet to learn was that the struggle to get to that place meant putting a lot of stuff on hold, including relationships. Since they were in high school, Allie and Sarah have been with their husbands, Brent Rooker and Mitchell Garver, respectively. While the couples have been together for over ten years, "together" is a relative term when you're in a baseball family. The term "grind" was mentioned frequently in the interview because that's what being a baseball player is. When the guys aren't playing, they are training. There is never a time when they aren't getting ready for the next game. Because the guys are always on the go, independence has always been important to the wives. All women have their own lives, careers, and individuality, which is empowering. At the same time, they are proud to be Mrs. Cave, Mrs. Garver, and Mrs. Rooker. Saige, Sarah, and Allie are friends, daughters, career women, and mothers. The time they spent growing up while they supported their spouses, Allie and Sarah didn't know in high school or even early into college that the guys would play baseball outside of college. Contrary to popular belief, the women with their spouses from an early age genuinely don't rely on their spouses "being drafted ." The reality of players making it into the majors is that Less than eleven in 100, or about 10.5 percent, of NCAA senior male baseball players, will get drafted by a Major League Baseball (MLB) team. Approximately one in 200 or roughly 0.5 percent of high school senior boys playing interscholastic baseball will eventually be drafted by an MLB team. Allie and Sarah knew that their individuality and success were just as crucial as their husband's baseball careers. Allie and Brent Rooker went to different colleges out of high school, and long-distance didn't stop until after the Minnesota Twins drafted Brent in the 1st round (35th overall pick) of the 2017 amateur draft. Along with Brent being drafted, he and Allie got engaged in 2017. Still, there was no time to get into family mode because Allie graduated as an RN and started working in her field after college. And for Brent, the grind toward the majors began immediately. When the Minnesota Twins drafted Mitch Garver in the 9th round of the 2013 amateur draft, Sarah was in the middle of Veterinary School. They spent more time apart as Mitch found himself playing minor league ball with the Twins and Sarah finished her degree in Oregon. They had been together at the University of New Mexico, but Sarah had goals of becoming a vet, and she knew that would mean more time apart to attend school in Oregon, so while Mitch went off to play baseball in Florida, Sarah went to OSU to complete Vet school and graduated in 2018 with her Doctorate. Even though she graduated, she couldn’t join Mitch yet on the road as she started working in New Mexico. She officially joined Mitch in 2020, just in time for the pandemic. Saige and Jake Cave met when they were a little bit older. Saige had just graduated from college in Florida, and Jake was playing in the New York Yankees minor league system in Tampa. Saige was out walking her dog when they crossed paths, and that is the story. The simplicity of the story is as genuine as they are. She had already graduated college and was a nanny full-time. As a former D2 athlete, Saige vowed that she would never marry an athlete because she knows the grind and the demand, but she couldn't say no to Jake's charm, and the rest is history. They spent a lot of time as a new couple bouncing back and forth in Pennsylvania in the minor-league system. The travel was arduous, but luckily, Saige is from Pennsylvania and had family there. Their lives collided together in 2018 when Jake was traded from New York to Minnesota. The three women were very close and confided in me when I asked, "How important is this circle?" "It's incredibly important." Says Sarah. "I don't know what I would have done without these two," says Saige. "They literally are so welcoming and loving, and we spend all day texting and snap chatting back and forth. Allie sends the funniest stuff." "It's nice to know that someone gets it," Allie says, "Jake and Brent are also really close, and there is a picture of them from Brent's first day on the field smiling and Jake congratulating Brent." The women genuinely care for each other and look out for each other. None of the wives got the opportunity to travel with their husbands to games in 2020, which subsequently was the pandemic year, making 2021 their first full-time travel year. It blew my mind to think about that. These couples put their heart and soul into not only themselves but also grinding through rookie-ball, minor league ball, trades, and finally landing on your feet with a team, and life throws you a literal curve-ball. Their lives aren't all glam and cash-flow, which is how some people think it happens. It's not. The three of them, while they show their strong sides, show concern for what happens on the field. Sarah said that baseball is a day-to-day job. There is no guarantee, as demonstrated by the pandemic and the current lockout. If they don't have their careers, when baseball stops, so does the income, and that's a terrifying idea. All three wives recall their husbands having scary, possibly career-ending injuries and the fear that went into those moments. Brent suffered a displaced fracture of his right forearm on September 13th, 2020, when a pitch hit him against Cleveland. Jake played with a broken back in 2021 and ended up on the sixty-day injured list for rehab. And Mitch took a foul tip to the groin on June 1st, 2021, during a game with Baltimore and ended up on the injured list after emergency surgery late that night. Sarah and Allie both told me that the scariest thing for them was that they were not only not at the games where their husbands were injured, but their phones were blowing up with people asking if their husbands were okay. Having to take in that emotion and sort through the truth and what is being said in the media is very frustrating. "I am already VERY pregnant at this point and very emotional," says Sarah, "and I can't do anything for him right now, and that got to me. Thank God for the medical team." "Yes! The trainers, the Twins medical staff, they are our best friends," pipes in Allie, "They are there waiting for the guys in the waiting room to give us updates and reassure us." "They are literal lifelines," Says Saige, beyond thankful for the staff who helped bring Jake back from a broken back. "He broke his back giving himself to baseball, and it was reassuring that they were dedicated to helping him get better." Between the pandemic and injuries, 2020 and 2021 were stressful, and 2022 isn't any less stressful. While Sarah and Allie have their jobs to help cover the bills. The guys must stay in shape and ready to go to spring training at a moment's notice. Staying in baseball shape and baseball-ready means putting in eight to ten-hour days. It's bad enough when your husband is amid a lockout that threatens his career, but during the season, there are also bad days, bad games, and bad plays that haunt the guys when they come home. While the wives say they certainly need their space after a bad day, they are never petulant, maybe just a little in their head or a little off. What cures their post-game blues? Babies. The adorable babies that they come home to after a game. The kids, Gamble (Sarah and Mitch) and Blair (Allie and Brent), are close together in age and are rumored to be betrothed later in life. The oldest of the crew is Sloane, Jake and Saige's daughter, and she had the job of entertaining us and did a great job! That morning we talked; we were all in our sweats, hair up, kids and dogs everywhere. It was the most laid back conversation, and I realized that these are moms, just like me, like the other women baseball fans. Their main priorities are their families, the kids, and keeping life as simple as possible in a chaotic role. Finding the balance between being an individual, friend, daughter, wife, and mom is not easy. But they do it. And they do it with grace, messy buns, and a smile. Having a solid community is essential because the outside world can be cruel. Their husbands have a bad day at work, and everyone knows about it. What makes it harder about bad games and injuries is what people say about their husbands online. Talking to the women about what they go through, reading, and seeing those things changed my life and outlook on baseball. These three baseball players are not millionaires, as people have been screaming about on Twitter for the past six weeks. But they do fall into the 65% of MLB players who make under $1MM. The lockout is not easy on the families. Mitch is in his second year of arbitration, and makes more than league minimum, but that doesn’t change the impact of the lock out. They may make more than the average Joe, but the average Joe has one home, one State to live in, and a job he can drive to every day. These families have to be prepared for the season with housing for spring training, a house or apartment in the State where they play ball full time, and their place in their home state. Their paychecks ensure that they can afford to play next season and take care of their family in the off-season. Even with all the stress, crazy schedules, the current lockout, I have never seen stronger, happier women. These women not only empower their husbands, but they also empower each other. As a baseball fan, I was shocked that they wouldn't watch baseball without their husbands playing. But, watching their husbands play is one of the most endearing, exciting things they experience. Their first at-bats stick out as core memories for the wives. "Don't strike out" is the only thing Sarah is thinking as Mitch takes the plate for the first time on August 19th, 2017, knowing that is a genuine possibility. They laugh about their passion for the game and how it never leaves their minds. On off-days, any of them can ask their husband, "What are you thinking about?" Saige says, "Usually Jake says, 'my hitting,'" as she laughs. The players are either thinking about training for baseball, their last game, their upcoming game, or their swing. While they don't know specifics about their game day routines or superstitions, one thing they do know is the smiles on their husband's faces as they play the game they grew up loving. As dedicated as the players are to their craft, they are devoted equally at home. All three women talked about how amazing the guys are with the kids. The lockout has left the families stressed, but the ability to have more time together, which none take for granted. Already following in dad's footsteps is Sloane Cave. Sloane loves to play baseball, and Jake loves to help her play. Sloane talks about going on the field with dad and watching him play, but some of her fondest memories she will have with dad allow her to play on her youth team with dad being the coach and the mentor. She loves that one-on-one quality time with Jake. The kids have a unique advantage that many kids don't, and that's watching dad play baseball, going on the field, in the dugout, and hanging out with the other major-league players and their families. When it comes to strength, baseball players are some of the strongest athletes I have encountered. Mentally and physically, players have to be ready for quite literally anything that happens in a game, from injury to a long stretch or dive to get the ball or to be fast enough to round the bases when a line drive hugs the foul line deep into left field. But, what's more, vital to the players are the families that stand behind them. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook, or email
  20. Recently, I had the privilege to sit down with three outstanding wives of Minnesota Twins players. After the meeting was over, I sat back in my chair and took a deep breath because as impressive as the players are, their wives are the real MVPs, and these are their stories. I have been watching baseball for as long as I can remember. I have always loved everything about baseball; the sounds of the park, the food, and every play on the field. I learned a lot watching what happens on the field, in the dugout, and the bullpen, but one thing that I had yet to learn was that the struggle to get to that place meant putting a lot of stuff on hold, including relationships. Since they were in high school, Allie and Sarah have been with their husbands, Brent Rooker and Mitchell Garver, respectively. While the couples have been together for over ten years, "together" is a relative term when you're in a baseball family. The term "grind" was mentioned frequently in the interview because that's what being a baseball player is. When the guys aren't playing, they are training. There is never a time when they aren't getting ready for the next game. Because the guys are always on the go, independence has always been important to the wives. All women have their own lives, careers, and individuality, which is empowering. At the same time, they are proud to be Mrs. Cave, Mrs. Garver, and Mrs. Rooker. Saige, Sarah, and Allie are friends, daughters, career women, and mothers. The time they spent growing up while they supported their spouses, Allie and Sarah didn't know in high school or even early into college that the guys would play baseball outside of college. Contrary to popular belief, the women with their spouses from an early age genuinely don't rely on their spouses "being drafted ." The reality of players making it into the majors is that Less than eleven in 100, or about 10.5 percent, of NCAA senior male baseball players, will get drafted by a Major League Baseball (MLB) team. Approximately one in 200 or roughly 0.5 percent of high school senior boys playing interscholastic baseball will eventually be drafted by an MLB team. Allie and Sarah knew that their individuality and success were just as crucial as their husband's baseball careers. Allie and Brent Rooker went to different colleges out of high school, and long-distance didn't stop until after the Minnesota Twins drafted Brent in the 1st round (35th overall pick) of the 2017 amateur draft. Along with Brent being drafted, he and Allie got engaged in 2017. Still, there was no time to get into family mode because Allie graduated as an RN and started working in her field after college. And for Brent, the grind toward the majors began immediately. When the Minnesota Twins drafted Mitch Garver in the 9th round of the 2013 amateur draft, Sarah was in the middle of Veterinary School. They spent more time apart as Mitch found himself playing minor league ball with the Twins and Sarah finished her degree in Oregon. They had been together at the University of New Mexico, but Sarah had goals of becoming a vet, and she knew that would mean more time apart to attend school in Oregon, so while Mitch went off to play baseball in Florida, Sarah went to OSU to complete Vet school and graduated in 2018 with her Doctorate. Even though she graduated, she couldn’t join Mitch yet on the road as she started working in New Mexico. She officially joined Mitch in 2020, just in time for the pandemic. Saige and Jake Cave met when they were a little bit older. Saige had just graduated from college in Florida, and Jake was playing in the New York Yankees minor league system in Tampa. Saige was out walking her dog when they crossed paths, and that is the story. The simplicity of the story is as genuine as they are. She had already graduated college and was a nanny full-time. As a former D2 athlete, Saige vowed that she would never marry an athlete because she knows the grind and the demand, but she couldn't say no to Jake's charm, and the rest is history. They spent a lot of time as a new couple bouncing back and forth in Pennsylvania in the minor-league system. The travel was arduous, but luckily, Saige is from Pennsylvania and had family there. Their lives collided together in 2018 when Jake was traded from New York to Minnesota. The three women were very close and confided in me when I asked, "How important is this circle?" "It's incredibly important." Says Sarah. "I don't know what I would have done without these two," says Saige. "They literally are so welcoming and loving, and we spend all day texting and snap chatting back and forth. Allie sends the funniest stuff." "It's nice to know that someone gets it," Allie says, "Jake and Brent are also really close, and there is a picture of them from Brent's first day on the field smiling and Jake congratulating Brent." The women genuinely care for each other and look out for each other. None of the wives got the opportunity to travel with their husbands to games in 2020, which subsequently was the pandemic year, making 2021 their first full-time travel year. It blew my mind to think about that. These couples put their heart and soul into not only themselves but also grinding through rookie-ball, minor league ball, trades, and finally landing on your feet with a team, and life throws you a literal curve-ball. Their lives aren't all glam and cash-flow, which is how some people think it happens. It's not. The three of them, while they show their strong sides, show concern for what happens on the field. Sarah said that baseball is a day-to-day job. There is no guarantee, as demonstrated by the pandemic and the current lockout. If they don't have their careers, when baseball stops, so does the income, and that's a terrifying idea. All three wives recall their husbands having scary, possibly career-ending injuries and the fear that went into those moments. Brent suffered a displaced fracture of his right forearm on September 13th, 2020, when a pitch hit him against Cleveland. Jake played with a broken back in 2021 and ended up on the sixty-day injured list for rehab. And Mitch took a foul tip to the groin on June 1st, 2021, during a game with Baltimore and ended up on the injured list after emergency surgery late that night. Sarah and Allie both told me that the scariest thing for them was that they were not only not at the games where their husbands were injured, but their phones were blowing up with people asking if their husbands were okay. Having to take in that emotion and sort through the truth and what is being said in the media is very frustrating. "I am already VERY pregnant at this point and very emotional," says Sarah, "and I can't do anything for him right now, and that got to me. Thank God for the medical team." "Yes! The trainers, the Twins medical staff, they are our best friends," pipes in Allie, "They are there waiting for the guys in the waiting room to give us updates and reassure us." "They are literal lifelines," Says Saige, beyond thankful for the staff who helped bring Jake back from a broken back. "He broke his back giving himself to baseball, and it was reassuring that they were dedicated to helping him get better." Between the pandemic and injuries, 2020 and 2021 were stressful, and 2022 isn't any less stressful. While Sarah and Allie have their jobs to help cover the bills. The guys must stay in shape and ready to go to spring training at a moment's notice. Staying in baseball shape and baseball-ready means putting in eight to ten-hour days. It's bad enough when your husband is amid a lockout that threatens his career, but during the season, there are also bad days, bad games, and bad plays that haunt the guys when they come home. While the wives say they certainly need their space after a bad day, they are never petulant, maybe just a little in their head or a little off. What cures their post-game blues? Babies. The adorable babies that they come home to after a game. The kids, Gamble (Sarah and Mitch) and Blair (Allie and Brent), are close together in age and are rumored to be betrothed later in life. The oldest of the crew is Sloane, Jake and Saige's daughter, and she had the job of entertaining us and did a great job! That morning we talked; we were all in our sweats, hair up, kids and dogs everywhere. It was the most laid back conversation, and I realized that these are moms, just like me, like the other women baseball fans. Their main priorities are their families, the kids, and keeping life as simple as possible in a chaotic role. Finding the balance between being an individual, friend, daughter, wife, and mom is not easy. But they do it. And they do it with grace, messy buns, and a smile. Having a solid community is essential because the outside world can be cruel. Their husbands have a bad day at work, and everyone knows about it. What makes it harder about bad games and injuries is what people say about their husbands online. Talking to the women about what they go through, reading, and seeing those things changed my life and outlook on baseball. These three baseball players are not millionaires, as people have been screaming about on Twitter for the past six weeks. But they do fall into the 65% of MLB players who make under $1MM. The lockout is not easy on the families. Mitch is in his second year of arbitration, and makes more than league minimum, but that doesn’t change the impact of the lock out. They may make more than the average Joe, but the average Joe has one home, one State to live in, and a job he can drive to every day. These families have to be prepared for the season with housing for spring training, a house or apartment in the State where they play ball full time, and their place in their home state. Their paychecks ensure that they can afford to play next season and take care of their family in the off-season. Even with all the stress, crazy schedules, the current lockout, I have never seen stronger, happier women. These women not only empower their husbands, but they also empower each other. As a baseball fan, I was shocked that they wouldn't watch baseball without their husbands playing. But, watching their husbands play is one of the most endearing, exciting things they experience. Their first at-bats stick out as core memories for the wives. "Don't strike out" is the only thing Sarah is thinking as Mitch takes the plate for the first time on August 19th, 2017, knowing that is a genuine possibility. They laugh about their passion for the game and how it never leaves their minds. On off-days, any of them can ask their husband, "What are you thinking about?" Saige says, "Usually Jake says, 'my hitting,'" as she laughs. The players are either thinking about training for baseball, their last game, their upcoming game, or their swing. While they don't know specifics about their game day routines or superstitions, one thing they do know is the smiles on their husband's faces as they play the game they grew up loving. As dedicated as the players are to their craft, they are devoted equally at home. All three women talked about how amazing the guys are with the kids. The lockout has left the families stressed, but the ability to have more time together, which none take for granted. Already following in dad's footsteps is Sloane Cave. Sloane loves to play baseball, and Jake loves to help her play. Sloane talks about going on the field with dad and watching him play, but some of her fondest memories she will have with dad allow her to play on her youth team with dad being the coach and the mentor. She loves that one-on-one quality time with Jake. The kids have a unique advantage that many kids don't, and that's watching dad play baseball, going on the field, in the dugout, and hanging out with the other major-league players and their families. When it comes to strength, baseball players are some of the strongest athletes I have encountered. Mentally and physically, players have to be ready for quite literally anything that happens in a game, from injury to a long stretch or dive to get the ball or to be fast enough to round the bases when a line drive hugs the foul line deep into left field. But, what's more, vital to the players are the families that stand behind them. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook, or email View full article
  21. According to Jeff Passan, the Twins may have found their shortstop, Isiah Kiner-Falefa. As excited as I was to hear about Kiner-Falefa, that positive feeling went out the door when learning that the Twins were dealing Mitch Garver to the Rangers in the deal. Garver is a Silver Slugging catcher who, after an injury-plagued 2020 season, And despite some freak injuries in 2021, he hit .256/.358/.517 (.875) with 15 doubles and 13 homers in 68 games. Defensively, he wasn't going to be a Gold Glover, but as one former coach told me, he went from being perhaps the worst pitch framer in the league to an average, or even above average, pitch framer in a league that had shown improvements across the board. The move certainly puts the pressure on Ryan Jeffers and Ben Rortvedt, likely the Twins catchers on Opening Day. Before the lockout, the Rangers made a big splash with signing both Marcus Semien and Corey Seager in free agency. That made Kiner-Falefa available. The 27-year-old played in 158 games for the Rangers in 2021, starting 155 of them at shortstop. In 2020, he won the AL Gold Glove at third base. He is really good defensively. Will he hit? In 2021, he hit .271/.312/.357 (.670) with 25 doubles, three triples and eight home runs. Henriquez split the 2021 season between High-A Hickory, where he was 1-3 with a 3.75 ERA in five starts. The 21-year-old then moved up to Double-A Frisco where he went 4-4 with a 5.04 ERA in 16 games (11 starts). In 93 2/3 combined innings, he struck out 105 batters and walked just 25. He also gave up an alarming 17 home runs. Henriquez is small. He's listed at 5-10 and just 155 pounds. Still plenty of room to gain strength. He has a mid-90s fastball that touches 97 and a good slider. He also throws a changeup that is inconsistent. He has thrown a lot of strikes and shown good control and decent command. Most see him as a long-reliever in the big leagues someday, maybe as early as 2022. He was the Rangers #29-ranked prospect according to Baseball America coming into this season. Mitch Garver ends his Twins tenure having spent parts of five seasons in the big leagues. He was a senior sign as the Twins ninth-round draft pick in 2013 out of the University of New Mexico. In 310 games with the Twins, he hit .256 with 52 doubles, six triples, and 53 home runs. He won that Silver Slugger Award in 2019. In addition, Garver was twice a Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Year (2014, Cedar Rapids, 2017, Rochester), and he even came to a Twins Daily Winter Meltdown for awhile.
  22. According to Jeff Passan of ESPN, the Twins have an agreement with the Texas Rangers to acquire shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa. According to Jeff Passan, the Twins may have found their shortstop, Isiah Kiner-Falefa. As excited as I was to hear about Kiner-Falefa, that positive feeling went out the door when learning that the Twins were dealing Mitch Garver to the Rangers in the deal. Garver is a Silver Slugging catcher who, after an injury-plagued 2020 season, And despite some freak injuries in 2021, he hit .256/.358/.517 (.875) with 15 doubles and 13 homers in 68 games. Defensively, he wasn't going to be a Gold Glover, but as one former coach told me, he went from being perhaps the worst pitch framer in the league to an average, or even above average, pitch framer in a league that had shown improvements across the board. The move certainly puts the pressure on Ryan Jeffers and Ben Rortvedt, likely the Twins catchers on Opening Day. Before the lockout, the Rangers made a big splash with signing both Marcus Semien and Corey Seager in free agency. That made Kiner-Falefa available. The 27-year-old played in 158 games for the Rangers in 2021, starting 155 of them at shortstop. In 2020, he won the AL Gold Glove at third base. He is really good defensively. Will he hit? In 2021, he hit .271/.312/.357 (.670) with 25 doubles, three triples and eight home runs. Henriquez split the 2021 season between High-A Hickory, where he was 1-3 with a 3.75 ERA in five starts. The 21-year-old then moved up to Double-A Frisco where he went 4-4 with a 5.04 ERA in 16 games (11 starts). In 93 2/3 combined innings, he struck out 105 batters and walked just 25. He also gave up an alarming 17 home runs. Henriquez is small. He's listed at 5-10 and just 155 pounds. Still plenty of room to gain strength. He has a mid-90s fastball that touches 97 and a good slider. He also throws a changeup that is inconsistent. He has thrown a lot of strikes and shown good control and decent command. Most see him as a long-reliever in the big leagues someday, maybe as early as 2022. He was the Rangers #29-ranked prospect according to Baseball America coming into this season. Mitch Garver ends his Twins tenure having spent parts of five seasons in the big leagues. He was a senior sign as the Twins ninth-round draft pick in 2013 out of the University of New Mexico. In 310 games with the Twins, he hit .256 with 52 doubles, six triples, and 53 home runs. He won that Silver Slugger Award in 2019. In addition, Garver was twice a Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Year (2014, Cedar Rapids, 2017, Rochester), and he even came to a Twins Daily Winter Meltdown for awhile. View full article
  23. [Author's Note: Naturally, MINUTES after I said to myself, "Okay, probably safe to post this, the action has gotta be wrapped up for the weekend," we learned of a major blockbuster trade between the Twins and Yankees. You can learn about it here. And then read on to learn about the state of the roster ... just BEFORE that move.] Twins Send Garver to Texas for Kiner-Falefa Minnesota's front office checked off the "shortstop" box before turning its attention to the pitching staff, acquiring Isiah Kiner-Falefa from the Rangers alongside pitching prospect Ronny Henriquez. The cost was extremely high: Mitch Garver is gone. To procure this package from Texas, the Twins had to part with the 31-year-old who they drafted-and-developed, from ninth-round pick into elite slugging catcher and self-made pitch-framing specialist. Garver, under control for two more seasons just like Kiner-Falefa, is one of the biggest difference-making bats in the league as a nearly unrivaled offensive force from the catcher position. Despite his dwindling team control, I ranked Garver this year as the eighth-most valuable asset in the organization, and when sizing up the club's top trade candidates, I didn't see him as one of the top-five most likely to go. "One could theoretically add Mitch Garver or Ryan Jeffers to this list," I wrote, "although I'm not sure I have enough confidence in either one to feel good about trading the other." Therein lies my struggle with this move. Jeffers hasn't shown enough yet to be confident in his status as "The Guy" going forward, and the Twins are woefully short on qualified depth behind him and Ben Rortvedt in the system. The Twins gave up a lot for a light-hitting defensive specialist. Too much, in my opinion. But the team has firmly addressed its need at shortstop with a versatile young player who was highly regarded in Texas. The price they paid says a great deal about their belief in Kiner-Falefa. Frontline Pitching at Last: Twins Get Gray from Reds for Petty The rotation looks a lot more legitimate now than it did coming out of the lockout. There was plenty of buzz indicating the Twins were pursuing high-end pitching on the trade market, and the rumors came to fruition on Sunday with the extraction of right-hander Sonny Gray from the Reds. In this deal, the Twins gave up all future value, sending 2021 first-round draft pick Chase Petty to Cincinnati. I recently wrote the profile on Petty as our #9 Twins prospect, and got myself all jazzed about dreaming on his upside, but even the most optimistic analysis of Petty has to acknowledge his sky-high burnout risk. To exchange such a volatile asset for an established top-of-rotation for starter with two years of reasonably-priced team control remaining ($10.2M in 2022 with a $12M option for '23) should be viewed as a big win. Gray is a two-time All-Star with an extensive pitch mix, a bulldog mentality, and excellent strikeout rates (10.6 K/9 since 2019) who figures to benefit from a move away from Cincinnati's hitter-friendly ballpark. He posted a 3.44 ERA with six home runs allowed in 12 road starts last year, compared to 4.89 with 13 homers in 14 home starts. The addition of Gray certainly makes the Twins a better team in 2022, but between this and the Kiner-Falefa pickup – both players having team control for two more years – one can sense that the front office is primarily focused on building toward 2023, when Kenta Maeda returns to the fold. An Updated Look at the Roster and Payroll With Gray and Kiner-Falefa joining the party, here's how the Twins roster now projects. The payroll (which includes about $15M in new salary for those two, as well as Gray's $1M trade bonus, paid by the Twins) is creeping up on $100M. The team could theoretically fill the DH role with in-house options – rotating guys like Miguel Sanó, Josh Donaldson, and Luis Arraez. Same goes for the remaining bullpen openings – Juan Minaya, Lewis Thorpe, Griffin Jax, etc. But I think they need at least one more bat and a couple of back-end caliber arms to call roster complete. They definitely need at least one more starting pitcher. The team is reportedly pursuing some of the top remaining veteran names in the remaining middle tier of free agency, including Johnny Cueto, Zack Greinke, and old friend Michael Pineda. Spring training has already begun, but the Twins certainly aren't done shopping. Stay tuned into Twins Daily as we cover the moves in real-time. I'll keep these periodic status updates running as the fragmented offseason extends into camp. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  24. After three months of lockout-induced stagnancy, Major League Baseball reopened for business over the weekend with a flurry of activity across the league. Your Minnesota Twins got in on the action with a pair of high-wattage trades addressing key areas of need. Let's catch up and reset the roster outlook as spring training officially gets underway. [Author's Note: Naturally, MINUTES after I said to myself, "Okay, probably safe to post this, the action has gotta be wrapped up for the weekend," we learned of a major blockbuster trade between the Twins and Yankees. You can learn about it here. And then read on to learn about the state of the roster ... just BEFORE that move.] Twins Send Garver to Texas for Kiner-Falefa Minnesota's front office checked off the "shortstop" box before turning its attention to the pitching staff, acquiring Isiah Kiner-Falefa from the Rangers alongside pitching prospect Ronny Henriquez. The cost was extremely high: Mitch Garver is gone. To procure this package from Texas, the Twins had to part with the 31-year-old who they drafted-and-developed, from ninth-round pick into elite slugging catcher and self-made pitch-framing specialist. Garver, under control for two more seasons just like Kiner-Falefa, is one of the biggest difference-making bats in the league as a nearly unrivaled offensive force from the catcher position. Despite his dwindling team control, I ranked Garver this year as the eighth-most valuable asset in the organization, and when sizing up the club's top trade candidates, I didn't see him as one of the top-five most likely to go. "One could theoretically add Mitch Garver or Ryan Jeffers to this list," I wrote, "although I'm not sure I have enough confidence in either one to feel good about trading the other." Therein lies my struggle with this move. Jeffers hasn't shown enough yet to be confident in his status as "The Guy" going forward, and the Twins are woefully short on qualified depth behind him and Ben Rortvedt in the system. The Twins gave up a lot for a light-hitting defensive specialist. Too much, in my opinion. But the team has firmly addressed its need at shortstop with a versatile young player who was highly regarded in Texas. The price they paid says a great deal about their belief in Kiner-Falefa. Frontline Pitching at Last: Twins Get Gray from Reds for Petty The rotation looks a lot more legitimate now than it did coming out of the lockout. There was plenty of buzz indicating the Twins were pursuing high-end pitching on the trade market, and the rumors came to fruition on Sunday with the extraction of right-hander Sonny Gray from the Reds. In this deal, the Twins gave up all future value, sending 2021 first-round draft pick Chase Petty to Cincinnati. I recently wrote the profile on Petty as our #9 Twins prospect, and got myself all jazzed about dreaming on his upside, but even the most optimistic analysis of Petty has to acknowledge his sky-high burnout risk. To exchange such a volatile asset for an established top-of-rotation for starter with two years of reasonably-priced team control remaining ($10.2M in 2022 with a $12M option for '23) should be viewed as a big win. Gray is a two-time All-Star with an extensive pitch mix, a bulldog mentality, and excellent strikeout rates (10.6 K/9 since 2019) who figures to benefit from a move away from Cincinnati's hitter-friendly ballpark. He posted a 3.44 ERA with six home runs allowed in 12 road starts last year, compared to 4.89 with 13 homers in 14 home starts. The addition of Gray certainly makes the Twins a better team in 2022, but between this and the Kiner-Falefa pickup – both players having team control for two more years – one can sense that the front office is primarily focused on building toward 2023, when Kenta Maeda returns to the fold. An Updated Look at the Roster and Payroll With Gray and Kiner-Falefa joining the party, here's how the Twins roster now projects. The payroll (which includes about $15M in new salary for those two, as well as Gray's $1M trade bonus, paid by the Twins) is creeping up on $100M. The team could theoretically fill the DH role with in-house options – rotating guys like Miguel Sanó, Josh Donaldson, and Luis Arraez. Same goes for the remaining bullpen openings – Juan Minaya, Lewis Thorpe, Griffin Jax, etc. But I think they need at least one more bat and a couple of back-end caliber arms to call roster complete. They definitely need at least one more starting pitcher. The team is reportedly pursuing some of the top remaining veteran names in the remaining middle tier of free agency, including Johnny Cueto, Zack Greinke, and old friend Michael Pineda. Spring training has already begun, but the Twins certainly aren't done shopping. Stay tuned into Twins Daily as we cover the moves in real-time. I'll keep these periodic status updates running as the fragmented offseason extends into camp. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email View full article
  25. Up to this point, the Twins most significant deficiency was starting pitching, with their greatest asset being a potent lineup. Needing a shortstop, Derek Falvey opted to part with one of his best bats in favor of a strong glove at an integral position. Let’s break down the path forward on a position-by-position basis. Catcher There’s very little argument to be made against Mitch Garver being among the best offensive catchers in baseball. He owns a career .835 OPS, with an .894 mark since 2019. Since his debut in 2017, no catcher in baseball has posted a higher OPS. Defensively Garver was always a work in progress. Initially somewhat of a rough receiver, he worked himself to the point of being a successful framer, and in 2021 his 50.5% strike rate ranked 5th in baseball. Working against Garver has been health. In 2020 he appeared in just 23 games and posted a .511 OPS while battling a muscle injury. He played in only 68 games last season after being struck with a foul tip in the groin. It’s hardly fair to tie the second situation to future injury potential, but it is worth noting he recently turned 31-years-old and may benefit from less time behind the plate. Moving off a player like Garver suggests the front office has significant belief in the alternative, which at this point is Ryan Jeffers. A .791 OPS and 119 OPS+ quantified an impressive 26 game debut in 2020. When drafted, Jeffers was thought to be a bat-first player, and there were concerns about whether he could stick behind the dish. Minnesota nabbed him in the second round suggesting a firm belief he would. Last season Jeffers generated a 49.2% strike rate, slightly behind Garver. Of the two, though, he’s still a better defender. Jeffers and Garver provide a level of redundancy when paired together in that they’re both right-handed. There’s no platoon advantage, and Jeffers’ assumed production is higher than a traditional backup. ZiPS doesn’t like Jeffers much this year, projecting just a .671 OPS, but if there’s anything close to what was seen in 2020, he’ll surpass that level with ease. At just 24-years-old Jeffers goes into the season as Minnesota’s clear starter while being backed up by Ben Rortvedt. Rortvedt posted a .750 OPS at Triple-A last year but owned just a .510 OPS in 39 Major League games. He’s got a big arm and brings a solid defensive profile with little ability to contribute offensively. If Rortvedt can get to even a .600 OPS and stay there, a long career in the vein of a Drew Butera type seems plausible. Shortstop Needing a replacement for Andrelton Simmons, the Twins went out and got...Andrelton Simmons, kind of. Isiah Kiner-Falefa is a Gold Glove defender that doesn’t hit. A converted catcher, Kiner-Falefa owns a career .670 OPS in 392 Major League games. He’ll be 27-years-old and is under team control for each of the next two seasons. Among qualified shortstops last season, Kiner-Falefa ranked behind only Carlos Correa (20), and Simmons (15) in Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) with 10. Last season was the first year in which he’s primarily played shortstop, but he’s been a defensive asset at third base and second base as well. Statcast’s outs above average had Kiner-Falefa with a -7 mark in 2021, but it’s clear the advanced fielding metrics are generally favorable for him. There was always the thought that Minnesota could opt to move Jorge Polanco back on the other side of the diamond, but both health and production suggested that wasn’t wise. After a breakout in 2021, Polanco’s home appears to now be cemented at second base, and that means Luis Arraez is a utility man at best. With this configuration, it’s also more challenging to see where Jose Miranda fits into the picture at any point in the immediate future. Knowing that pitching can benefit significantly from solid defense, it’s clear the front office is attempting to run it back, with that being the calling card of the infield's most demanding position. Starting Pitcher Team control always comes at a cost, and while Garver has that too, he’s older and has an injury history working against him. Still, though, it’s good to see that Kiner-Falefa’s roster status wasn’t enough for Garver on his own. Texas also sent Ronny Henriquez to Minnesota. Henriquez is a 21-year-old right-handed pitcher that sat in the middle of the Rangers top 30 prospects. Making it to Double-A last season, Henriquez put up substantial strikeout numbers and has a 10.9 K/9 in just over 230 minor league innings. His command has also been sharp, with a walk rate of just 2.3 BB/9. Last season the major bugaboo for Henriquez was the long ball, giving up 17 of them in just 93 and 2/3 innings. He’s still at least a year away from the majors, but this is another arm the Twins staff can go to work on. All in all, there are a few takeaways from this deal. First and foremost, it’s that defense remains a priority for Minnesota. Kiner-Falefa can remain at shortstop if Royce Lewis isn’t going to take over, and he has the positional flexibility to move as well. Garver’s bat will sorely be missed, but it’s a clear indication of a big-time belief in Jeffers. The pitching holes probably won’t all be patched up in 2022, and this is a way to help while also looking towards the future. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook, or email
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