Monday, November 21, 2016

Turnover among the catchers

Mitch Garver caught
in the Arizona Fall
League for the second
straight season.
The Twins spent most of 2016 with Kurt Suzuki and Juan Centeno as their catchers.

Neither remains on the 40-man roster. Suzuki is a free agent after the expiration of his contract, and Centeno was outrighted Friday. Each was a better hitter than receiver last year, and the new regime appears to have defense as a priority behind the plate.

The Twins have two catchers on their 40 now: John Ryan Murphy and Mitch Garver. I wouldn't care to wager that either will be the main receiver in 2017, but it's possible.

I saw Garver in 2014 with Cedar Rapids. He was in his first full season of professional ball, hitting well and reportedly rather rough behind the plate. He's still got some bat, even though his raw numbers the past two years aren't quite as impressive as in the Midwest League, and the reports on his catching are improving. (Mike Berandino of the Pioneer Press had this piece recently about Garver's work on his defensive skills.)

Garver was the Twins ninth-round pick in 2013, a draft in which the Twins took catchers in the third (Stuart Turner), sixth (Brian Navaretto) and ninth rounds. Neither Turner nor Navaretto have hit, and neither was added to the 40, so Garver has clearly passed them on the depth chart.

But it seems pretty clear, both from what the new regime has said and from what their organizations have done in the past (particularly in Cleveland) that the priority behind the plate is going to be defense. Murphy had a miserable season hitting last year, both at the majors and at Triple A, but his defensive metrics score well. Garver may well be a better hitter, but that probably doesn't give him an advantage over JRM.

And it would hardly be a surprise if a veteran backstop were added this winter.

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