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  • Twins Organizational Depth Chart - Catchers

    Over the next couple weeks, Iíll be taking a look at the depth by position throughout the Minnesota Twins organization. The majority of moves have been made. There could still be some minor league signings and there remain rumors of the Twins 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 Joe Mauer's decision to move to first base, but it would be naÔve to believe that anyone will be able to fill his shoes. Mauer has been the guy behind the plate for a full decade. Heís 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 both AA and a handful of games in AAA. Most believe he can be a solid hitter in 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 in the outfield.

    Eric Fryer
    is a 28 year old backstop. As poor as Pinto is behind the plate, Fryer is that good defensively.

    The one certainty 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 phase came 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 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 Suzuki will be the starter with Fryer as his backup.

    Versatility


    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 had not been have moved to first base in 2014, it was coming in the near future. That may have been a reason they chose to target some catching in the 2013 draft. They drafted three catchers in the first nine rounds.

    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, given 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.

    Prospect Rankings


    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.

    Roster
    Projections

    In each installment Iíll make my roster projections. Obviously additional signings or injuries will affect all this, and thatís 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 list. So again, most likely there wonít 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.
    Comments 26 Comments
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      If Fryer makes the Twins over Pinto and Herrmann, I expect another long season. Already the Twins have no bats at CF and SS, and a questionable one at DH, and losing another at C will not take them anywhere.

      If the Twins want another defensive-minded catcher, in addition to Suzuki, it should be Herrmann. He was ranked by BA's as the best defensive catcher in the Twins minors in 2013, for a good reason.
    1. DAM DC Twins Fans's Avatar
      DAM DC Twins Fans -
      Good article Seth. I am more optimistic than you on Pinto. I feel he will hit enough to keep the number 1 spot with Suzuki catching 2-3 games a week. Mauer and Suzuki and Steinbech will work with him on developing his defense and catching game. Probably Hermann will be the 3rd catcher and backup OF.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      I'm not down on Pinto at all, and I think he can be the long-term guy behind the plate. I just wonder if it'll be opening day, or a month in?

      I'd say it'll either be: Pinto/Suzuki or Suzuki/Fryer.
    1. Tibs's Avatar
      Tibs -
      Thanks for doing this, Seth. I was looking for some kind of organizational depth chart and was having difficulty finding one.
    1. Oldgoat_MN's Avatar
      Oldgoat_MN -
      Nice write up Seth. Thank you.

      I agree with DAM. There are numerous mentors available to Pinto.
      It will be fun to watch his development this year.
    1. Wanklenuts's Avatar
      Wanklenuts -
      Are the Twins really going to carry a third catcher? It seems that Mauer could fill in for a part of a game with limited risk and then another could be called up. I was hoping with Mauer's move, there would be no more need to carry a third catcher. I guess if the third catcher is Hermann, it isn't a huge deal because of his versatility.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      You have to stay in shape, in a different way, to be ready to play the catcher position, and I don't know enough to guess how much of the wear and tear on a catcher comes from playing the games (with the recent emphasis on the risk of concussion) versus staying ready (boocoo crouching, etc), given that the aims of switching Mauer to first seem to be both to keep him in the lineup and potentially increase his already substantial effectiveness at the plate.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by Wanklenuts View Post
      Are the Twins really going to carry a third catcher?--- I guess if the third catcher is Hermann, it isn't a huge deal because of his versatility.
      I don't think they will... Herrmann would be an ideal 3rd catcher because of his versatility. But I don't think they'll have a 3rd catcher just because.
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      I must confess, I don't see why Pinto is as bad defensively as you say, Seth. He's not great at controlling the running game. But he's adequate. He has soft hands and presents a good low target. What exactly are his defensive deficiencies?
    1. jharaldson's Avatar
      jharaldson -
      The 3rd catcher move has always been around the question of what if Mauer was DH and your backup that year was catching and the backup got injured. They couldn't move Mauer to catcher without losing the DH so Gardy always wanted a 3rd option. Given that Suzuki and probably Pinto will not be good enough to earn AB at DH I don't think the Twins will waste a roster spot on a 3rd catcher. One of them will always be on the bench if the other gets injured in a game.
    1. Tibs's Avatar
      Tibs -
      Quote Originally Posted by Wanklenuts View Post
      Are the Twins really going to carry a third catcher? It seems that Mauer could fill in for a part of a game with limited risk and then another could be called up. I was hoping with Mauer's move, there would be no more need to carry a third catcher. I guess if the third catcher is Hermann, it isn't a huge deal because of his versatility.
      My opinion is since Mauer moved to first base, we should pretend he doesn't know how to be a catcher unless it is an extreme emergency situation. I don't see why the Twins would risk putting him back there. I might be overly cautious, but it just takes one bad foul tip to the head and his career could be over, or he could be nowhere near the player he was. It's not worth the risk to me.
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Quote Originally Posted by jharaldson View Post
      The 3rd catcher move has always been around the question of what if Mauer was DH and your backup that year was catching and the backup got injured. They couldn't move Mauer to catcher without losing the DH so Gardy always wanted a 3rd option. Given that Suzuki and probably Pinto will not be good enough to earn AB at DH I don't think the Twins will waste a roster spot on a 3rd catcher. One of them will always be on the bench if the other gets injured in a game.
      I'm with you. If Hermann was a better hitter than the fourth guy on the bench, I could see it. But there are several better hitters in camp this year. In particular, Parmelee from the left side and Ramirez from the right side.
    1. wabene's Avatar
      wabene -
      Im with Tibs if Mauer made the move that's it. Don't play around just play him everyday at 1st and ride that pony
    1. boomerb5's Avatar
      boomerb5 -
      About the only reason for a 3rd catcher is if your backup starts at DH. Then if the starting catcher gets hurt, you lose the DH when the backup takes the field. Most teams honestly wind up *needing* a third catcher, what...maybe 3-4 times a year? To that end, I see no problem with Mauer being the "emergency 3rd" catcher. He might log 20 innings behind the plate at most.
    1. ericchri's Avatar
      ericchri -
      Didn't we go into last season hearing that Eduardo Escobar could act as the "emergency catcher?" Hard to see him not being the Utility Infielder this year (well, I guess it could be Bartlett, though I have low expectations there) now that Jamey Carroll is out of the picture, so he should be good for that again this year, presumably.
    1. mnfireman's Avatar
      mnfireman -
      Everybody always used to point out that Morneau used to catch and could have been the emergency catcher (before the concussions), well he never caught for the Twins. I feel Mauer should be used the same way....NEVER catch again. He is too valuable on the field and there are enough options. The biggest argument for Herrmann is that he is left-handed, but I agree that every spot on the bench should be earned, not gifted.
    1. clutterheart's Avatar
      clutterheart -
      Where does Kyle Knudson fit?
      He hit .295/.382 /.352 in 28 games at AA last year

      He doesn't have much power but looks to be able to avoid the SO, take a walk now and then and get a single or two.

      What's his D like?
    1. Kwak's Avatar
      Kwak -
      Mauer should be the emergency catcher. This player is required about once per year. Losing the DH?--for what one AB?--that's what PH are for.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by clutterheart View Post
      Where does Kyle Knudson fit?
      He hit .295/.382 /.352 in 28 games at AA last year

      He doesn't have much power but looks to be able to avoid the SO, take a walk now and then and get a single or two.

      What's his D like?
      Considered very good. Works well with pitchers. frames well. Won't hit much, but tremendous reputation behind the plate.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by cmathewson View Post
      I must confess, I don't see why Pinto is as bad defensively as you say, Seth. He's not great at controlling the running game. But he's adequate. He has soft hands and presents a good low target. What exactly are his defensive deficiencies?
      In reality, I don't trust any defensive stats, especially not framing and that kind of stuff. For me, catching is about pitch-calling, working with pitchers, adjusting to pitchers/hitters, as well as the things you mentioned, like soft hands, low target. I appreciate athleticism, and although I don't necessary believe in the framing stat, but I definitely believe that pitch framing is a skill.

      I think Pinto is fine, and I think he goes into spring training as the favorite to start, especially if he has a great camp. I just think that a lot will depend on reports they're getting on him from the veteran starters.
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