Wednesday, March 4, 2015

40-Man Roster Dissection: Catchers

The Twins only have two catchers on the 40-man roster so both men have to feel pretty good about making the team's 25-man group that heads north from spring training. Barring injury, it will be the same two catchers that made the trip north a season ago.

After a tremendous first half, Kurt Suzuki made the All-Star team in his first season for the Twins. Josmil Pinto went back and forth between Rochester and the big leagues as he tried to find his place with the club. Now both men will enter the 2015 season with something to prove.

Kurt Suzuki
.288/.345/.383, 3 HR, 34 2B, 61 RBI (131 Games)
Suzuki made quite the impact in his age 30 season. He played over 130 games for the first time since 2011 and he had a batting average close to the .300 mark until very late in the season. Suzuki found himself in many situations early in the season where he needed to come up with a timely hit and he usually found a way to produce. With the beating he took behind the plate, it's no wonder his numbers suffered a little down the stretch.

It was also the sixth season where he's spent over 1000 innings behind the plate so one has to wonder about the wear and tear on his body as his career progresses. Twins pitchers enjoy working with him but his defensive abilities are limited. He allowed the fifth most stolen bases in the American League last season and it was the fourth time he's finished in the top five including a first place finish in 2011. 25-Man Roster Prediction: Yes

Josmil Pinto
.219/.315/.391, 7 HR, 8 2B, 18 RBI (57 Games)
Pinto will be an interesting case to watch this season. There's no other fall back options on the 40-man roster so the Twins must feel comfortable with him sticking at the big league level. Close to half of his big league starts came as a designated hitter last year but it's tough to know if those at-bats will be available this year. Kennys Vargas, Joe Mauer, Torii Hunter, and Oswaldo Arcia all figure to get some time at DH.

There have been plenty of questions about Pinto's ability to call a game and play defense. Glen Perkins threw Pinto under the bus near the beginning of last season saying, "He's a long ways away, to be honest with you. Balls close to the zone, balls below the zone--- I guess I don't really know about blocking and all those things --- but his pitching framing, he's got some work to do." He went on to say, "I don't know what level he's at, but he's surely not at the big-league level as far as catching for me." 25-Man Roster Prediction: Yes

Overall, it will be interesting to see what the club does if either Suzuki or Pinto need to spend any time on the disabled list this season. Chris Herrmann is on the 40-man roster and he's played catcher in the past. Eduardo Escobar has done a little work catching to be used in emergency situations. The team would likely be hesitant to use either one of these players for a significant amount of time.

Both players have their own flaws and both players enter the season with a chip on their shoulder. Suzuki needs to prove his numbers from last year weren't a fluke. Pinto needs to prove he can be a viable big league catcher for the long-term.

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