Thursday, March 10, 2016

Parsing the catchers, part one

Juan Centeno has never
hit more than one homer
in a minor league
season, but he already
has one this spring.
As is typical in spring training, the Twins have eight catchers in camp. It's a markedly different crew this year, however. Kurt Suzuki's still around, of course, but the other three backstops who spent time on the 40-man roster in 2015 -- Chris Herrmann, Eric Fryer and Josmil Pinto -- are all gone, as are Dan Rohlfing and Tyler Graves, two other non-roster invitee catchers for 2015 camp.

I have mentally split this year's catching crew into four two-man parts:

  • The presumptive major leaguers, Suzuki and John Ryan Murphy. 
  • The cup-of-coffee imports, John Hicks and Juan Centeno.
  • A pair of catch-and-throw high minors guys, Stuart Turner and Carlos Paulino.
  • Two guys hoping to get out of A ball, Mitch Garver and Alex Swim.
John Hicks was
2-for-32 with the
Mariners last season
and hit .245 for
Triple A Tacoma.
Hicks, who the Twins picked up on waivers early in the offseason from Seattle,  is on the 40-man roster. He got 34 at-bats with the Mariners last year, and that's the extent of his major league time. Centeno, who was with Milwaukee last year and the Mets before that, has had 66 plate appearances spread out over three years; he's a non-roster invitee. They're both 26. Centeno hits left, Hicks right.

Presumably they are competing with each other to be the first option should something before Suzuki and Murphy. They've both hit some in the minors. Centeno has a .298 batting average (with little power) in more than 600 Triple A at-bats, and Hicks has a .280 career batting average in the minors with some power, although most of that has come in the lower levels. (I saw Centeno homer last Saturday during my Fort Myer visit against a Baltimore reliever.)

Hicks' roster status probably gives him a leg up on Centeno, but the Twins would probably be just as happy if neither ever saw Target Field. That would mean Suzuki and Murphy remained healthy and productive enough to stay on the roster and in the lineup.

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