Friday, April 3, 2015

The opening roster

Josmil Pinto lost out
on the backup catcher
job to Chris Herrmann,
at least for now.
The Twins effectively settled their Opening Day roster Thursday:

  • Outfielder Shane Robinson was offically added to the 40-man roster;
  • Catcher Josmil Pinto was optioned to Triple-A;
  • Catcher Eric Fryer was reassigned to Triple A, and fellow non-roster invitee infielder Doug Bernier was told he will be after the exhibition schedule is over.

In theory, I would have preferred to see Pinto on the roster than Eduardo Nunez, but there are variables that I don't have a handle on: the effects of Pinto's concussion, how comfortable Paul Molitor is with the idea of using Eduardo Escobar as a part-time outfielder, how competent Pinto currently is behind the plate.

Here's how Escobar figures into this: The Twins default starting outfield figures to be Oswaldo Arcia in left. the Jordan Schafer-Robinson platoon in center and Torii Hunter in right. (Those four names are also the four "true" outfielders on the roster.) The Twins figure to face Chris Sale, very good lefty, a week from Saturday. Hunter and Robinson are right-handed; Arcia and Schafer are left-handed. If Molitor wants to get both the lefties out of the lineup against Sale, a non-outfielder has to play left. That won't be backup catcher Chris Herrmann, who is a decent enough outfielder, because he's left-handed too. Escobar is a switch-hitter, Nunez hits right, so either fits that part of the bill. But which, if either, do you really want in the outfield?

The presence of Kennys Vargas also works against Pinto, because Vargas ties up the DH spot. I don't know that Vargas is really a better hitter than Pinto, but the Twins are operating on that basis.To get at-bats in the majors, Pinto has to catch, and while he is said to have improved behind the plate, he's probably still not good.

The current issue of Baseball America, in that light, has a interesting piece about the new era of catcher instruction, with the use of advanced stats to measure pitch framing and high-end pitching machines to provide receiving reps on major-league quality pitches. (I'd link to the piece, but it's subscriber-only.) The story is in the context of the Cubs' efforts to rebuild Kyle Schwarber, an outstanding hitting prospect whose catching skills (or lack of same) may eventually force him to a different position. I don't know if the Twins are doing the same things with Pinto. I hope they are.

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