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  1. The Minnesota Twins have four catchers in the conversation for the 2022 season that I can see - even if some of those conversations aren’t going to be very long. Let’s start with what I consider one of those quick ones. Willians Astudillo La Tortuga is a folk hero, and we love him. Everyone loves our relief pitching, chubby base-running, helmet losing backup-backup-backup catcher. But at this point, keeping him on the 40 man is pretty much just keeping someone else with more value off of it. He doesn’t have a defensive upside apart from being able to plug a hole at most fielding positions - not any of them particularly well - and batted at .238 in the Majors this year, which really isn’t good enough to leapfrog other waiting catchers with long term defensive upside. I just don’t see a realistic expectation that he is going to play out as an average or better member of the team, and should probably be signed to a Minors deal. The fact that he’s listed on the 40-man as a 1B is a pretty good indicator of how he ranks in terms of Minnesota catchers. 2022 Prediction - Will not break camp with Twins, will not make 40-man roster. Now onto the catchers that I figure will be involved in the plans for the Twins. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that I mean Garver, Jeffers and Rortvedt. I’ve included their stats for the year as a refresher (via FanGraphs). Offensive Stats 2021 Defensive Stats 2021 Mitch Garver Mitch is my Do Not Trade catcher. Whilst he pretty much grades out average in terms of catcher defense, his 2019 season and the mid to latter half of the 2021 season (barring That Injury We Don’t Like To Think About) make him by far - and I mean far - the most productive catcher we have offensively. He ranked 13th amongst catchers in AVG (min 50 PA), 7th in OBP and 5th in slugging, finishing the year on .256/.358/.517. He was definitely struggling at the plate early on, but he did settle in and he was playing pretty darn well before he spent five weeks dealing with that groin injury and another four with back tightness. If someone honestly wants to take Garver off our hands, I see it taking an extremely sizeable haul because at the moment he’s our safest bet. Yes he’s older than the other two and has had some injury, and a veteran catcher to split time with them wouldn’t cost much if we do trade him, but like I’ve said - unless the promised return is huge I don’t see why we’d deal a catcher who hits like that. 2022 Prediction - will not be traded, breaks camp as Opening Day catcher for the Twins. Ryan Jeffers Jeffers actually took the lion’s share of games this year thanks to Garver’s injuries and whilst he is projected to end up as the better defensive catcher (though this year Garver was ranked 93rd percentile in pitch framing per Baseball Savant to Jeffers’ 74), his bat just did not carry this year. To the point where - had we had another catcher ready - I imagine he would have been sent to St Paul to work it out. He managed an average of just .199 across 267 at-bats. I have faith though, that his bat will grade out to average and in my mind, he’s probably the one who will end up taking the most time behind the plate if the Twins attempt to rotate the DH role for the 2022 season (which I think they will). Let’s not forget he had a pretty darn good 2020 season with his bat, finishing with a stat line of .273/.355/.436/, which was a tick above league average. He’s got the goods, I just think he caught a bad case of the sophomore slump. Hard work required, but Jeffers will hang around long term. 2022 Prediction - he will break camp with the Twins and split catching duties with Garver. Ben Rortvedt I’m just going to get this out of the way. He’s got huge arms, okay? We’ve seen them. And defensively, he’s projected to have the highest upside of all four catchers. But in terms of Major League production, he’s just not ready. Batting at .169 for the year (over 87 PA), his OBP was a paltry .227, far below the league average .317, and slugged at just .281. This places him second last in all Twins hitting categories with just Gilberto Celestino ranking lower in AVG and OBP, and Andrelton Simmons ranking last in SLG. His defense has him ranked above Jeffers in terms of overall WPA for the year, but the bat is going to need to improve drastically if he’s going to make league average, or even a low-offense/high-defense combo. There is the chance a team could carry a slightly below average hitter if he has a huge defensive upside (Simmons anyone?) but there’s not many that would take that kind of offensive shortage. He needs to start 2022 in the minors, have a solid spring, and work on his offense. 2022 Prediction - he’ll probably make the 40-man, but will spend the year in St Paul working on his bat skills. Let me talk a minute on a Garver trade. As I already said, I don’t like the idea at all. And honestly, is he valuable enough to another team (apart from the Marlins, who Cody Christie wrote about already) for them to trade with proven, high quality pitching? Because that’s what the return needs to be. The Twins have a whole heap of prospect arms at/about to be tested in the Majors in the upcoming season but we need impact rotation pitching now. I don't know if Garver on his own would bring enough back for us... maybe if he was in a package deal? If the 2022 season includes a universal DH, Mitch Garver becomes more valuable. His average this season was only just above league average, but his slugging percentage - when viewed with his 2019 Silver Slugger - mean he might draw interest from a National League team looking to possibly platoon through the DH, or who struggle to find a bat only DH at good value. He’s still in arbitration, made less than $2M this year, and is projected to make a hair over $3M next year. Compare that to the $13M we paid Nelson Cruz just to hit, and he becomes a much more valuable piece to a broader audience. I like the combo of Garver and Jeffers for next year. They seem to have a decent balance sorted out and provided Jeffers can get his bat to click in 2022, there’s no need to create a problem at catcher when we have enough things we need to address.
  2. At the major league level, catching is a position where lack of offense is accepted in exchange for good defense. The Twins, in the midst of a terrible season, have two catchers who profile as above average hitters for their position, but they don't appear to complement each other. To start the season, Ryan Jeffers and Mitch Garver were basically alternated as the starting catcher and neither player thrived. Garver hit .151 through April 27 with an OPS of .517, while Jeffers struggled mightily to a .147 average with a .393 OPS before he was sent down to Triple A. From April 28 until the end of May, Garver had a great five weeks, hitting over .280 with an OPS above 1.000. Since Garver's injury, Jeffers has hit .292 with an OPS of .992. So, it seems that if one of these guys is the principal catcher, he will hit well above league average, but if they are alternated, it seems to drag both guys down. Both Garver and Jeffers would profile as bat-first catchers who can frame pitches. IMHO, Jeffers looks to be the superior defender, much better at both throwing and blocking low pitches. Garver does have some experience playing other positions, mostly first base, while Jeffers has been only a catcher in his career. Two additional players figure into the Twins plans for the future. Ben Rortvedt is reputedly a fine defensive catcher with a good arm. Rortvedt hits left, which would complement either Garver or Jeffers. As soon as next year, Rortvedt could figure to be the prototypical backup catcher, who wouldn't hurt the club and if he finds a hot steak with the bat, he could be an asset. Willians Astudillo aka La Tortuga is a utility player who is nominally a catcher. In brief spurts, Astudillo has looked adequate behind the plate, but his full body of work is substandard defensively. As a hitter, Turtle is extreme--extreme contact and extreme impatience--his walks yesterday were his first in well over 100 plate appearances, but he seldom strikes out. Astudillo is best suited to being a third catcher who plays the corner infield positions and until he shows some plate discipline, he'll never be a major league regular. All of this information (all IMHO obviously) is prologue to starting a discussion about what should be done with the catching position in 2022. Keep both Jeffers and Garver on the major league roster? Trade Garver for much needed pitching? Perhaps make Garver a swing man (DH, 1B and C) with Jeffers the primary catcher and Rortvedt the backup? Use Astudillo and Garver as backups and utility guys and Jeffers as the primary catcher? I am of the opinion that given Jeffers age and upside both offensively and defensively, he should be the primary catcher in 2022. With the likely exit of Nelson Cruz, there are at-bats to be had for Garver at first base (Sanó at DH or riding the pine) and DH. If the Twins can get sufficient value, perhaps they can trade Garver, if not, he could get a lot of at-bats at first and DH, and this doesn't even begin to allow for injuries. Are there any other scenarios and do you fans on Twins Daily agree with me? Let's start a discussion.
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