Minnesota Twins 2017 Season Review: Catchers

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MINNEAPOLIS, MN - APRIL 23: Ian Kinsler
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - APRIL 23: Ian Kinsler /
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With the season completed, it’s time to look back on the 2017 Minnesota Twins season. Let’s take a look at the team, position-by-position, starting with catchers.

The Minnesota Twins have completed their season, and it’s now time to take a look back at what was an exciting ride for Twins fans!

Puckett’s Pond staff are reviewing the 2017 Minnesota Twins season. We started with the season by month, and you can find April, May, June, July, August, or September by clicking on those months. This is the first in our position review series. Be watching for more to come!

Starter: Jason Castro

After struggles with their defense behind the plate in recent seasons, the Minnesota Twins chose to invest in one of the highest-reputed defensive catchers in the game in Jason Castro in free agency in the offseason with a 3-year, $24.5M contract.

In his first season, his offensive numbers were the best he’d seen since 2013, hitting .242/.333/.388 on the season. He had an 11.1% walk rate and a 26.5% strikeout rate, the best he’d had in his career as a starter.

Defensively, Castro was still elite, though he did have his worst season in the last few years, per Baseball Prospectus’ catching defensive metrics (subscription required). In the Framing Runs Above Average (which takes into account framing, blocking, and throwing out base stealers), Castro posted an 8.7, which is still excellent, but his previous three seasons have been 9.2, 9.6, and 15.6, respectively. That ranked Castro 12th in the league in that metric. He had ranked 13th, 13th, and 3rd the previous 3 seasons (taking all catchers, including backups into consideration, though more appearances will help the metric).

Castro did have his best fWAR since 2013’s big offensive season, but that was only good enough for the 20th best fWAR among catchers who had over 300 plate appearances on the season.

Backups: Chris Gimenez, Mitch Garver, Eduardo Escobar?

The Twins did not give out many catching appearances to other options in 2017, though interestingly, Eduardo Escobar actually played an inning at catcher in a game against Seattle on June 6th, when he started the game at DH, and Gimenez had started the game at catcher and moved to the mound for the final inning of the game.

Speaking of Gimenez, he was the primary backup for the Twins on the season. In his 9th season in the league, Gimenez had never played as much as he did with the Twins in 2017., and he put up impressive numbers for a backup catcher, hitting .220/.350/.382 with 7 home runs in just 225 plate appearances. Of course, there’s also the expert pitching, throwing 5 innings over 6 appearances, allowing a 7.20 ERA and 1.40 ERA, but he didn’t walk a single batter in those appearances!

Defensively, Gimenez was perfectly adequate, posting a neutral FRAA. His offensive performance allowed him to post a 1.2 fWAR on the season.

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Seen as the future of the position for some time before the signing of Castro last offseason, Garver reminded the Twins why he was highly regarded with a big performance in AAA, hitting .291/.387/.541 with 29 doubles and 17 home runs over 372 plate appearances, earning a promotion to Minnesota in mid-August.

Garver struggled some at the major league level with a .196/.288/.348, posting a 11.5% walk rate, and he still kept his strikeout rate under 30%. While Garver struggled at the major league level with his framing statistics, he’s been a positive framer the last few seasons in the minor league level, and posted a 5.3 FRAA number in AAA this season. Garver posted a -0.1 fWAR in his short time in the majors.

Next: Twins top 100 prospects complete list

Looking ahead to 2018

Gimenez is likely headed to free agency this offseason. The Twins will likely keep Garver in the majors, and it will be interesting how his playing time will come. He played some first base and DH while in the major leagues this season, and it would make sense to get him plate appearances due to his bat being valuable to have in the lineup.

Castro is just going into his age-31 season, so there’s no reason to expect a drop off in his offensive or defensive skills, and he certainly did very well working with the analytically-inclined front office in Houston, so it would make sense that he’d be kept by the current Twins front office.

Currently, there isn’t a player pushing hard in the minor leagues, though Ben Rortvedt received heavy praise this season for his defensive work at low class-A ball and has a good amount of raw power. Rortvedt spent the entire 2017 season as a teenager, so he has time to develop as well and likely would be more in line to make the major league club when Castro’s contract runs out after the 2019 season with an aggressive promotion approach.

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