Thursday, February 3, 2011

What's the Catch for the Twins?

The Twins have committed to having Joe Mauer and Drew Butera as their catchers on the major league roster to start the 2011 season. The organization felt comfortable enough in these two players to trade away Jose Morales this offseason to the Rockies in exchange for Paul Bargas. Before the trading deadline this past July the Twins also traded away their top catching prospect, Wilson Ramos, to the Washington Nationals for closer Matt Capps.

The organization is now left with a scary situation; What happens if Mauer or Butera is seriously hurt? Who would have to step-in and contribute to the Twins run at a third consecutive Central Division Championship? The Twins are searching for this answer and have invited six catchers to be part of the big league camp at Spring Training. 

Let's take a look at each of these players because they are one injury away from being a significant part of the 2011 Twins.

Jair Fernandez
Fernandez was able to make the same jump through the Twins organization last season as Kyle Gibson, High A ball to Triple A. His career started in the Seattle Mariners organization and he joined the Twins organization for the 2008 season. In 12 games at the AAA level, Fernandez struggled to make consistent contact and finished with a .176 BA. Across every level last season he had a .241 BA, 4 HR, .679 OPS. Defensively he had a fielding percentage of .987 last season and threw out 39% of would-be base stealers. At the AAA level that number was only 22%.

Chris Hermann
Hermann was the Twins 6th Round pick in the 2009 Amateur Draft and he played all of last season at High A ball in Fort Myers. In 107 games for the Miracle he batted .219, 2 HR, and a .611 OPS. He split time between catcher and outfield last season and actually spent more time in the outfield (63 games in OF vs. 42 games at C). In his games behind the plate Hermann had a .988 fielding percentage and threw out 36% of base runners. It will be interesting to see if the Twins continue to use him in the OF and at C or if he is going to shift more permanently to one of those positions.

Steve Holm
Holm is one of the two catchers listed here that does have major league experience. He combined for 53 games with the San Francisco Giants in 2008 and 2009. In that brief amount of games, he racked up a .264 BA and .760 OPS. Besides his major league experience, he spent parts of the last three seasons at the Giants AAA affiliate in Fresno. His 2010 statistics broke down like this: .246 BA, .725 OPS, 4 HR, 37 RBI. His numbers don't jump out at you but the amount of big league service time could shine in his favor.

Danny Lehman
Lehman has been part of the Twins organization since he was drafted in the 8th round in 2007. Last season saw him finally crack into the AAA level but he only managed 59 games between AA and AAA in 2010. His batting average continues to improve as he moves through the minor league system. With the Red Wings, he had a .263 BA in 88 plate appearances. In all of 2010, he had a .986 fielding percentage and was able to throw out 35% of runners.

Danny Rams
The Twins thought highly of Rams in the 2007 draft and used their second round pick to select him out of high school. At 21 he is still very young and he will continue to have time to develop in the Twins farm system. For his entire minor league career with the Twins, he has spent time between 1st base and catcher. Last season he played 50 games at catcher and 45 games at first base. He has slowly been making his way through the minors and ended last season at AA New Britain. In 2010, he batted .238 and he showed some signs of power by hitting 16 HR and 29 doubles.

Rene Rivera
Besides Holm, Rivera is the only other catcher to have spent time in the major leagues. For Rivera, his time in the majors came between 2004-2006 with the Seattle Mariners. In his 53 game big league career, he batted .227 and had a .585 OPS. Since his departure from the Mariners organization, Rivera has jumped to the Dodgers, Mets, Yankees, and now the Twins. As part of the Yankees organization last season, he worked between AA and AAA with a .290 BA and .824 OPS. It was a break out season for Rivera after struggling through parts of the last three seasons.

There is quite the mix of young prospects and veteran players that compose the new catching crew for the Twins. The Twins will get to poke and prod each of these players in Spring Training to try and find their emergency catcher. Fingers will still be crossed that Butera and Mauer don't catch the injury bug this season.


JimCrikket said...

I really don't think their emergency catcher is in this group. Holm might come up for a few days, if necessary, but if there's a lengthy DL stint for Mauer or Butera, I'd bet the Twins shop around for a Major League catcher. Since trading away two top minor league catchers, they need some organizational filler at the upper levels and that's what they went out and got. Rams may have some kind of MLB career ahead of him, but it's tough to see him being ready this season. The rest look unlikely to play a role with the Twins for more than a game or two.

NoDak Twins Fan said...

The mediocrity with these catcher's is overwhelming. But there are some players that could have some upside. I hope the Twins are confident enough to use one of the younger players in an injury situation.