Monday, January 27, 2014

Eye on 2014: Catcher

Josmil Pinto had 26 hits in his
late-season call up, but also struck out
22 times.
When the Twins signed Kurt Suzuki a bit before Christmas, the idea was that he might be the starting catcher, but more likely would be the backup and mentor to rookie Josmil Pinto.

The word out of Twins Fest this past weekend was that Suzuki is likely to be the regular behind the dish.

I infer from this notion that Pinto would be shipped out to Triple A. He's not going to sharpen his defensive chops sitting six days a week, and with Josh Willingham, Oswaldo Arcia and Jason Kubel the presumptive corner outfielders / DH, there doesn't figure to be enough at-bats available to justify Pinto as a DH-catcher.

Suzuki's backup would be either Chris Herrmann or Eric Fryer. Herrmann, a left-handed hitter with the ability to play outfield, is probably the better hitter of the two, Fryer the superior defender.

Last year, with Joe Mauer and Ryan Doumit getting the bulk of the catching time, catcher was perhaps the one position at which the Twins got better-than-league offensive production. Mauer's a first baseman now, and Doumit's an Atlanta Brave (and, apparently, not a catcher any more either), and it doesn't matter if it's Suzuki-Herrmann or Suzuki-Fryer -- the Twins catchers will be decisively below average on offense if Pinto's in the minors.

That might be acceptable if the Twins were't giving away so many outs at so many other positions. The Twins were near the bottom of the league in runs scored last year. They will probably need Pinto in the lineup to change that.

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