Josmil Pinto split his 2014 season playing in nearly half of his games at the Major League Level, and the other half at Triple-A Rochester. The thinking was that former manager Ron Gardenhire wanted a defensive catcher behind Kurt Suzuki if he was going to carry only two catchers, and Pinto was definitely not that. Now as the only other catcher on the 40 man roster, Pinto is a lock for the 25 man roster, but is 2015 finally the year he puts it all together for the Twins?
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Last season in 60 games at Triple-A Rochester, Pinto slashed .279/.376/.457 and belted six home runs to go along with 35 runs batted in. He drew 31 walks while striking out only 37 times. At the major league level however, he slashed just .219/.315/.391 across 57 games. Pinto did hit seven home runs and drove in 18 batters for the Twins. He also struck out 50 times while walking just 24 times.
Realistically, and even despite the “regression” of 2014, Pinto’s worry at the major league level has never been his bat. After a late call up in 2013, Pinto batted .342 with four home runs in just 21 games. While he will likely never hit for a high average, he possesses major league power and can drive the ball out of Target Field. With only one real shot at the major league level under his belt though, it is his defense that has given the Twins pause.
Behind the plate, Pinto has failed to command a game. He isn’t someone that Minnesota pitchers should feel completely comfortable in his game-calling abilities, and opposing base runners have tormented Pinto in his young career to this point.
In 25 games behind the plate in 2014, Pinto gave up four passed balls and threw out an alarming zero base-stealers in 20 chances. With the league caught stealing percentage at 27 a season ago, Pinto’s 0 percent is incredible.
That being said, under Paul Molitor, Pinto will get a chance to show he belongs in 2015. As Parker Hageman points out, it’s apparent that Pinto’s bat remains major league ready.
As Kurt Suzuki will be planted behind the plate for the majority of the action, and the designated hitter spot occupied by names like Joe Mauer, Kennys Vargas, and even Miguel Sano, it will be on Pinto to turn the corner as a catcher. At 26, time is running out for him to prove that he has the ability behind the plate.
Heading into this season, Pinto should have plenty of opportunities. Despite getting an extension and being an All-Star a season ago, Kurt Suzuki remains one of the Twins most likely candidates for regression. Not a stellar defensive catcher on his own, the career offensive numbers put up a season ago are likely to regress as well. Look for Pinto to carve out opportunities with his bat, and plant himself in the lineup through his more concentrated defensive effort.
It may be a make or break time for Josmil Pinto behind the plate, but if he’s going to take off, expecting 2015 to be the year isn’t far fetched.