Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be taking a look at the depth by position throughout the Minnesota Twins organization. The majority of moves have been made. There could be some minor league signings coming and there remains rumors of the Twins still bringing in another starting pitcher.
Today I will start with the catcher position. It has been a busy, rather interesting offseason for the Twins catching position. The first news came in early November when the Twins and Joe Mauer announced that the All Star would be moving to first base permanently. In mid-December, the Twins traded Ryan Doumit to the Atlanta Braves, and a few days later they signed veteran Kurt Suzuki to a one-year deal. Here is a look at the catchers in the Twins system.
The Big Leaguers
Most would likely agree with the decision of Joe Mauer to move to first base, but it would be naïve to believe that anyone will really be able to step into his shoes. Mauer has been the guy behind the plate for a full decade. He’s won multiple Gold Gloves, Silver Sluggers and batting titles.
Josmil Pinto put up some impressive numbers for the Twins in September after hitting well in AA and a handful of games in AAA. Most believe that he can be a solid hitter at the big leagues because of an advanced hitting approach. The questions about Pinto are clearly around his defense, and those concerns are legit.
Chris Herrmann got some time behind the plate in 2013. His value comes from taking quality at bats and versatility. Besides catcher, he can also play the outfield positions.
Eric Fryer is a 28 year old backstop. As poor as Pinto is behind the plate, Fryer is that good defensively.
The one given to be on the Twins 25-man roster on Opening Day (assuming health) is recently-signed Kurt Suzuki who is a solid, athletic defensive catcher. His decline came pretty early due to catching over 145 games two straight years early in his career.
The reality is that one of two scenarios will unfold. If Josmil Pinto has a strong spring training, he likely enters the season as the #1 catcher with Suzuki as his backup. (My assumption is that the Twins would love for this scenario to play out) However, if Pinto has a rough camp, or his defense shows no improvement, I believe that Suzuki will be the starter with Fryer as his backup.
Besides Herrmann, the Twins have a few other catchers in the organization who have the ability to move around the diamond, which increases their value.
Dan Rohlfing has been invited to big league camp each of the past three seasons. He has played the corner outfield positions as well as first base. In high school, he primarily played third base. Tyler Grimes made the move to catcher in 2013 after being a shortstop the first two years of his career. He was solid in his first year behind the plate, but he still got a few games at second base. Finally, Jorge Fernandez was drafted out of Puerto Rico in 2012 as a catcher. There is discussion that he could be moved to the outfield in 2014 as he is a very good athlete.
2013 Draft Picks
Maybe the Twins had an inkling that even if Mauer would not have moved to first base in 2014, it was coming in the near future. That may have been a reason that they chose to target some catching in the 2013 draft. They drafted three catchers in the first nine round.
Stuart Turner was the Twins 3rd round pick as a junior out of Ole Miss while Mitch Garver was their 9th round pick as a senior from New Mexico. They were two of the three finalists for the 2013 Johnny Bench Award, giving to the top catcher in college baseball. Turner was the winner. Turner is known for his defense, but he hit nearly .400 during his collegiate season. Alex Swim was a late round pick out of college. He was also a nominee for the Johnny Bench Award. The Twins used a 6th round pick to take prep catcher Brian Navarreto. He is a big athlete who has a chance to be the best of the bunch.
As far as who the top catching prospects are in the system, it is clear that Josmil Pinto is head and shoulders above the rest of the group. Beyond that, Navaretto and Turner are guys that I rank in the 30s, and for very different reasons. Turner is a college catcher whose ceiling is solid starter. His floor is solid, long-term backup catcher. Navaretto has the world of potential, but he has a long ways to go.
In each installment, I’ll make my roster projections. Obviously additional signings or injuries will affect all of this, and that’s why it is important to have more than just two or even three at each level. There are also always players put on the Disabled Lists. So again, most likely there won’t be four catchers at Cedar Rapids, but this gives an idea of who could be at each affiliate at the start of the season.
· Minnesota: Kurt Suzuki, Eric Fryer
· Rochester: Josmil Pinto, Chris Herrmann, Dan Rohlfing
· New Britain: Kyle Knudson, Matt Koch
· Fort Myers: Tyler Grimes, Jairo Rodriguez, Stuart Turner
· Cedar Rapids: Mitch Garver, Michael Quesada, Bo Altobelli, BK Santy
· Extended Spring Training: Jorge Fernandez, Brian Navaretto, Joel Polanco, Alex Swim
Feel free to discuss the players and the roster. Check Twins Daily later in the week again for a look at the depth for the Twins at another position.