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  • What's the Plan: Josmil Pinto

    When the Twins dealt away Wilson Ramos in exchange for Matt Capps at the 2010 trade deadline, the after-effects could hardly have been more unfortunate. The Twins fizzled out in the first round of the playoffs, with Capps unable to make any real impact. The next season, Ramos emerged as a Rookie of the Year contender for the Nationals while Joe Mauer's future behind the plate fell into doubt amidst debilitating lower-body injuries.

    The ill-fated swap had left the organization with an overpriced mediocre closer and no heir apparent should Mauer need to transition away from catcher. Fortunately, the latter ceased to be an issue last year, when the former MVP set a career high in both games played while mostly serving as a backstop. Yet, after being placed on the disabled list this week with concussion symptoms resulting from the beating he took while crouching on Monday night, the wisdom of keeping Mauer at his present position has once again become a topic of discussion.

    Back at the time the Twins traded Ramos, Josmil Pinto was a 21-year-old with a sub-600 OPS in Low-A. He had previously shown some promise in rookie ball, but his failure to adapt to full-season competition in 2010 and 2011 had the Venezuelan looking like a non-prospect.

    Over the last two years, however, Pinto's bat has really emerged. He entered the 2012 season with a .256 career batting average, but went on to hit .295/.362/.482 with 14 homers between Single-A and Double-A. Those numbers were mostly accumulated in Ft. Myers, causing some skepticism regarding their significance (he was, after all, older and more experienced than much of the competition), but he backed them up by posting a sterling .308/.411/.482 line in 107 games at New Britain this year, earning a promotion to Triple-A earlier this month.

    He's the rare example of a prospect who has improved offensively as he has moved up the ladder; his .896 OPS in 119 games at Double-A dwarfs his production at any other level outside rookie ball, and he demonstrated very good plate discipline along the way with 81 strikeouts against 68 walks in New Britain. Since being bumped up to Rochester, he has gotten off to solid start, with a .302 average and five extra-base hits in his first 15 contests.

    There are still concerns about his defensive chops, but at the very least Pinto's bat looks to be nearly ready.

    The Aggressive Route

    Drew Butera is gone. Chris Herrmann is catching less and less. Ryan Doumit is among the worst defensive backstops in baseball. The Twins have a fairly immediate need for a quality backup to Mauer -- and perhaps more than a backup depending on what they decide about his workload behind the plate going forward.

    Could Pinto be up to the task? It would behoove the club to find out. The 24-year-old might not be an all-world defender but it's tough to imagine he's a whole lot rougher than Doumit or Herrmann, and he possesses plenty more upside than either at this point. There ought to be ample playing time available at catcher in September, because even if Mauer returns quickly the team would be foolish to keep sticking him back there often (or, really, at all) for the rest of this season.

    Pinto is already on the 40-man roster, so bringing him up would be easy enough. Depending on what he shows during his short audition, he could be positioned to claim a spot on next year's roster, serving in a Doumit-like role where he splits his time between catcher and DH.

    The Conservative Route

    The problem with the above approach is that Pinto is still a developing player, and relegating him to a part-time role in the majors when he has only minimal experience at Triple-A could prove detrimental. While his initial production in Rochester has been decent, he has nine strikeouts and one walk, a far cry from the impressive strike zone control he displayed in Double-A. And, of course, he'll benefit from everyday reps behind the plate as he looks to refine his defensive game.

    I like the idea of Pinto eventually assuming a Doumit type role on the big-league club, but of course Doumit will still be around to fill that role himself next year, at least early on. With that being the case, it makes more sense to start Pinto back in Triple-A, where he can accrue more experience against high-level pitchers while also getting in his needed work at catcher. If he produces, it would make Doumit all the more expendable, and would also give the Twins a nice option to fall back on should anything happen to Mauer.

    The Likely Route

    A good argument can be made for aggressively pushing premium prospects like Miguel Sano and Alex Meyer to the majors, but Pinto is not on that tier, and not particularly close. Up until last year, he wasn't really much of a prospect at all, and he still only has his success in Double-A to lean on. Pinto needs extended time in Triple-A to prove that he is ready for the big leagues both offensively and defensively.

    At the same time, the precarious Mauer situation throws a wrench in this thing. If the Twins were to decide that their franchise cornerstone should be moved away from catcher for his own good, there's no better candidate in the organization than Pinto to replace him as starter long-term.

    But that brings us back to the issue of player development. It simply doesn't seem prudent to throw Pinto straight into the fire. More than likely he will open the 2014 season back in Rochester and will remain there until he clearly demonstrates his readiness and a need becomes apparent. Should that need become apparent before he's ready, the Twins will probably have to find a placeholder in free agency.

    Eventually, the hope is that Pinto will make fans forget about Ramos. Certainly Bill Smith would appreciate that.
    This article was originally published in blog: What's the Plan: Josmil Pinto started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 28 Comments
    1. clutterheart's Avatar
      clutterheart -
      I'm suprised that Pinto isn't on the team now
      I expected him to get the call when Mauer went down
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      I think it all depends on what they do this offseason with Ryan Doumit. I could definitely see him traded.

      In that scenario, I'd work all three catchers onto the big league roster. I'd have Joe Mauer catch 60-75 games (dependent upon his return from the DL). I'd have Pinto catch 60-75. I'd have Herrmann catch 25-30. I'd have Mauer play a lot of 1B and DH some too. I'd have Pinto DH as appropriate to get up to 120-130 games total. I don't agree with a 3rd catcher, but I like the idea of Herrmann being the backup catcher most days while also providing good defense in the corner outfield spots and a guy who takes quality plate appearances most of the time. He'd be a utility guy who can legitimately catch.

      If Doumit's around, Pinto gets another half-season in Rochester, which wouldn't hurt him at all.
    1. ScottyB's Avatar
      ScottyB -
      I understand that Herrmann has taken some balls at 3B as an emergency backup. I'd love to see him play some winter ball taking more reps there and maybe even some 1B. That versatility certainly makes having a third string catcher much more palatable. In the day and age of a 3 man bench, you need all the versatility you can get.
    1. troyhobbs's Avatar
      troyhobbs -
      At whatever point they get rid of Doumit it makes sense to bring him up. I'd definately bring him up in September since he's on the 40 man and it doesn't pay to put Mauer behind the plate much more this year.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Cut Doumit.....he is not good. He should be up now, getting a taste while mauer is out.
    1. SeanS7921's Avatar
      SeanS7921 -
      I hate we still act like it was World ending that we traded Ramos. Capps added 1 win to a good 2010 team. That was the trade - Bullpen help to win that year. Mission accomplished he improved the team. He was an above average relief pitcher in 2011 for the entire year (close to 1WAR). For example great relievers barely get to 2 WAR a year. OBVIOUSLY trading Ramos for Capps was a mistake. They should have been able to get him for less. But it cost the Twins nothing at all on the field. Wilson Ramos career: Injured, Abducted unable to stay on the field. 46 games so far this year, 25 games last year and in his only productive season (his apparently Godlike performance) if you believe the bloggers he was 2WAR and played 113 games or so. Whoopie he isn't an average major league starter cause he can't stay healthy. If in 2011, 2012 or 2013 we were contenders then in his pathetically limited playing time he could have helped out about as much as Capps did.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      I want to see him get AAA reps next year, at least until June.
    1. Han Joelo's Avatar
      Han Joelo -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      Cut Doumit.....he is not good. He should be up now, getting a taste while mauer is out.
      Just saying.
    1. StormJH1's Avatar
      StormJH1 -
      The Doumit re-signing was popular and I never understood why. People really thought he would play a lot of 1B to spell Mauer when he was first acquired, and it turns out that's his worst position. Though he plays RF now and then, I really can't remember a time when it was necessary to have Doumit as an OF option, especially now with guys like Colabello and Parmelee hanging around. My point is: he's a bad catcher and overrated as a "plus bat" pretty much anywhere he plays. He got extra-credit as a super-utility player, when that's really not the case. We would've been better off spending the money on a traditional backup catcher, or developing an internal option like Hermmann.

      All that in mind, if Pinto is still considered a project, we don't need to see him now. I suppose if the minor league season ends early, then calling him up to the MLB club is better than not playing at all, but it's not a priority yet.

      Kind of sad that fans had finally come to peace with Mauer as a slightly-more-than-part-time catcher (with good defense this year)...and now this concussion stuff may actually force our hand in moving him. It's just funny that with some players (Biggio), they get moved away from catcher VERY early in their careers, but now at Age 30, that decision may be made with Mauer...and Mauer was about as good a hitting prospect as anyone.
    1. troyhobbs's Avatar
      troyhobbs -
      Quote Originally Posted by SeanS7921 View Post
      OBVIOUSLY trading Ramos for Capps was a mistake.
      Exactly.
    1. beyondclarity's Avatar
      beyondclarity -
      I think the Pinto situation is the simplest of the players who've been featured in this series...

      You leave him in Rochester until they finish up in the playoffs (assuming they make it.)
      Then you bring him here to see the lights of the majors while getting him every at bat you can for those 2+ weeks in September.
      Next year he starts in Rochester and when needed can come up and catch/DH.

      Also, can we stop talking about Ramos? That was done years ago, lets move on already!
    1. Siehbiscuit's Avatar
      Siehbiscuit -
      The excitement with Doumit was he was a backup catcher that had pop and was hitting .300 at the time. His liabilities (playing catcher) were ok because his bat was playable elsewhere (DH and OF). This year his bat is terrible and he still sucks everywhere in the field.

      Similar to Willingham. If the bats not there, there isn't much value.
    1. twinsfanohio's Avatar
      twinsfanohio -
      I worry that we're missing the point. While the bat is unproven against good (read MLB-ready) pitching, it is his defense, game-calling, and handling of pitchers that is most important.

      We will have a relatively inexperienced staff (some combo of Gibson, Hendricks, Albers + Deduno - 37 GS, Diamond - 57 GS, Walters - 35 GS, Worely - 56 GS), only Corriea will have a significant number of GS at the MLB level. Without experience and without knockout stuff, they will be relying on the game-calling and settling influence of good catching. The real question, to me, is how does Pinto do with that? I suspect those issues will add / subtract much more value than his bat at this point.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      I seem to remember reading that Pinto was considered an above average defender... Maybe I was wrong there.

      That said, I think Pinto gets the call after Rochester's season is over and will get a reaonable amount of PT in September. He starts in AAA and if he continues to do what he's done, will provide impetus to trade Doumit at the deadline... Hopefully, Doumit is having a good season through July of next year so that teams might actually be interested. Pinto comes up and takes on that role after this.
    1. Hosken Bombo Disco's Avatar
      Hosken Bombo Disco -
      I'd just like to see a plan. Anything.

      We've been "wingin it" for too long with the 9 dimensional chess game of Doumit behind the plate tomorrow because Herrmann can play right if Mauer needs a day off at first base...

      Here would be one plan: Mauer catches the pitcher he works best with (once every 5 days) , another guy who works well with pitchers (Butera? Herrmann?) catches the rest of the time, with the third guy as utility/emergency.
    1. Rosterman's Avatar
      Rosterman -
      The joy is he's on the 30-man and Butera ain't blocking him.

      Doumit was signed as a DH who could also catch. The Twins got a good one-year deal out of him, and he managed to switch it to a solid 3-year deal, which, if he is hitting, most of us can live with. No other alternative at DH at the moment, unless you consider Morneau...he's here in 2014. His trade value is zero as he is mainly a DH. Another American League team would need to find value in him.

      But, like Brian Harper of yore, he does work his butt off behind the plate and is trying to keep his skill-set improving. That is a value to him, to be a guy with a bat who can also spell a catcher.

      We aren't sure yet how Hermann will fit into the Twins. he is a guy who can catch, and possibly play am multitude of positions. But if you are going to cvatch, you do have to catch, not jsut be that #3 emergency guy.

      Both Doumit and Herrmann will be bench bats next year. Pinto will play winter ball and start at Rochester.

      Again, the clog comes with a decision on what to do with Morneau. Sign him to play msotly first and hopefully get a new firstbaseman in 2015 (prospects anyone). Have him be a 1B/DH role and still run thru the usual suspects (Collabello, Parmelee, Mauer, Dotmit, maybe Plouffe in a rotation with DH). Or just deep-six Morneaa and continue to think about new guys who can make 2014 more inetresting than any of the last three seasons and 2015 a return to being competitive (or at least .50) baseball.
    1. Danchat's Avatar
      Danchat -
      I say... bring him up in September. Watch him bat.
      Let Doumit start 2014 as the backup and let Pinto dethrone him by hitting in AAA. Trade Doumit for whatever we can get in July and call Pinto up. That'd be my plan.
    1. Pescadero1's Avatar
      Pescadero1 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      I like the idea of Herrmann being the backup catcher most days while also providing good defense in the corner outfield spots and a guy who takes quality plate appearances most of the time. He'd be a utility guy who can legitimately catch.
      Hermann strikes me as an intriguing athlete, but not necessarily a big league player. Do you think he'd be in the majors on a different team, especially one in the playoffs?
    1. stringer bell's Avatar
      stringer bell -
      I'm certainly in favor of seeing Pinto play some for the Twins in September. He should have and likely will need more time in Rochester. Depending on the Mauer decision, he could be an alternate or the de facto regular by sometime next year.
    1. Thegrin's Avatar
      Thegrin -
      Ramos = An injury waiting for a time to happen.
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