Dan Rohlfing is the youngest non-roster player the Twins invited to Spring Training this year. He was born on February 12, 1989, which means that when he and his fellow catchers report to camp on February 18th, Rohlfing will be just 23 years and six days old.
Rohlfing became a catcher toward the end of his high school career, having previously played third base. Though he was new to the position, his receiving skills impressed the Twins enough that they selected the St. Louis native in the 14th round in 2007. He was just 18 when he made his Rookie League debut that year, so even though the Twins have not rushed his development, he made it to AA last season. He spent three seasons in Rookie League between the Gulf Coast and Elizabethton Twins, jumped to Ft. Myers in 2010, and split between Ft. Myers and New Britain in 2011.
Rohlfing seems to be another defense-first catcher, but his hitting has actually improved as he’s moved up the levels in the minor leagues. His .240 batting average for Ft. Myers in 2010 was a career high, and he set a new one last year with a .260 overall mark. Last year was also the first time Rohlfing received a significant amount of playing time. In his first few campaigns, he never stood in the batter’s box more than 152 times, but he had 370 plate appearances in 2011.
As with many young hitters, Rohlfing’s biggest weakness is plate discipline. He struck out 70 times last year against just 25 walks. That’s fairly high for a player who does not have a lot of power. And Rohlfing’s power is more of the doubles variety than the home run variety. In 2010 he drove 13 doubles in just 152 plate appearances, but he has never hit more than two homers in a season. It isn’t out of the question that Rohlfing could bulk up and add some power in the next couple of seasons, but home runs will probably never be a big weapon in his arsenal.
Rohlfing will not be a serious candidate for a Major League job at any time this season, but his presence at Spring Training will give the team a chance to see how one of its best catching prospects is progressing. His most likely destination to start 2012 will be New Britain, where he spent 54 games last season. Rochester’s roster will be filled with catchers such as Rene Rivera, JR Towles, and Chris Herrmann, so Rohlfing might be at AA most or all of the year. Since he’s still quite young, that might be a good thing, especially if he finally gets some regular playing time. Rohlfing can spend the year improving on his plate discipline and preparing to break into the Majors in 2013 or 2014.
As the calendar keeps turning toward Spring Training, we have five more non-roster invitees to go. Check back each day for a new profile. See the previous ones here.