As we are now just one day away from the Minnesota Twins getting underway for their 2015 Spring Training campaign, there is plenty of buzz and excitement surrounding the upcoming year. With Joe Mauer now firmly entrenched as the club’s every day first basemen, the Twins have handed the catching reigns to Kurt Suzuki once again in 2015. This season though, Josmil Pinto will likely play entirely at the major league level, and that could be a problem.
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In its current configuration, only Suzuki and Pinto are catchers on the 40 man roster. With Chris Herrmann now fully transitioned to the outfield, it would be hard to argue he’s more than an emergency option. Even at that, Herrmann playing at the major league level isn’t something that would be ideal for this Twins team. Down the stretch a season ago, Eric Fryer got time behind the dish as well, but he appears slated for Triple-A Rochester. This all adds up to new manager Paul Molitor going Josmil Pinto or bust.
Ron Gardenhire became synonymous with worrying about how many catchers he could cram onto the 25 man roster. Going forward, that’s not something the Twins should be focused on if they are going to be constructed to win. That being said, it becomes time for Josmil Pinto to put things together. Thus far at the major league level, we’ve seen that his bat is more than capable of playing. He has shown a power stroke that makes even Target Field look small, and when in rhythm he has the ability to look very smooth at the plate. The problem remains that behind it, he’s far worse than bad.
Commanding a game, and controlling what takes place on the base paths is what separates average catchers from great ones. Knowing how to help your pitcher be put in the best situation possible takes a mediocre outing to the next level. These are things Josmil Pinto has shown no ability to handle thus far. A season ago, he watched as 20 base runners swiped bags, while he threw out exactly none of them. Playing in just 25 games behind the plate, he nearly averaged giving up an extra base per game. A runner moving into scoring position could equate to another run per game, and quite often can be the difference between winning and losing.
On top of the stolen base issues, Pinto committed five errors and allows of passed balls in those same 25 games. Allowing mistakes to happen nearly half of the time you take the field isn’t something any major league player would find themselves hanging their hat on. When looking at Pinto’s FanGraphs defensive rating, things get even uglier. Measuring in at a -4.4 level in comparison to average, it is apparent that as of right now, Pinto is more liability than asset. The rating signifies value in relation to fielding and positional adjustment above average, and it’s clear Pinto leaves plenty to be desired. Right now however, the Twins need a massive turnaround.
In 2015, expecting Kurt Suzuki to produce offensively at the All-Star caliber he did a season ago would appear to be a pipe dream. Suzuki experienced a career year by many standards, and regression should be expected. On top of that, Suzuki is far from a defensive wizard in his own right. As the backup and only other option for the Twins, Pinto is going to need to make it work behind the plate. His long-term home may be at first base, but for now at least, he has to put some things together. Designated hitter at bats will be shared between Kennys Vargas, Mauer, and even Miguel Sano. Minnesota can’t afford for Pinto to be a complete train wreck behind the plate.
There’s no doubt that the 2015 Twins are in a much better place than recent years. Minnesota has plenty of players that can step up offensively, and Pinto should be considered amongst that group. However, for Josmil Pinto to be considered a complete player for the Twins, he must focus on making his defense inch towards even an average level, as his own success at this level relies upon it.
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