Tuesday, August 22, 2017

A trip to Cedar Rapids: Ben Rortvedt

There are few players on the Cedar Rapids Kernels roster more important to the Twins future than Ben Rortvedt, a left-handed hitting catcher selected in the second round in the 2016 draft.

Rortvedt isn't putting up good numbers for the Kernels. Indeed, backup catcher Caleb Hamilton has hit three times the homers (nine for Hamilton, three for Rortvedt) and has about 50 points of on-base percentage and more than 70 points of slugging percentage on Rortvedt.

Which does not make Hamilton a better prospect. Age matters. Rortvedt was drafted last summer out of high school and has spent the entire season in low A; he isn't the youngest player on the roster (Royce Lewis is), but he's close. Hamilton was also drafted last summer (23rd round) but out of college; he's three years older than Rortvedt.

I didn't see much of Rortvedt; he's been hampered by injury of late, and he played just one of the three games I was at. He went hitless, but he caught a 1-0 shutout.

He got off to a terrible start -- a .096 batting average in April, .175 in May -- and in that sense that he's gotten his average over the Mendoza Line is something of an accomplishment.

Obviously, one would prefer that he be tearing up the league. Rortvedt isn't, and the Twins were probably aggressive in placing him in full season ball this quickly. But his hitting has improved, and he's done the bulk of the catching for a team that ranks second in the Midwest League in runs allowed per game, so he's doing something right behind the plate. The struggles may have hastened his development.

It's going to be a while before Rortvedt appears on the Target Field scoreboard. The Twins probably hope that when Jason Castro's contract is up (he's signed through 2019) that Rortvedt will be close to major league ready. That, it appears right now, would be an aggressive ambition.

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