The Minnesota Twins have Mitch Garver as their primary catcher, but who will the team pair with him entering the 2020 season?
The Minnesota Twins’ offseason speculation has been dominated on what they’re going to do to fix their starting rotation. While the chase to find “impact pitching” will be the biggest storyline over the hot stove season, the Twins must also find ways to fill holes elsewhere on the roster and that includes one as the team’s backstop.
While the Twins were happy to see Mitch Garver emerge as one of the game’s best catchers last season, his success was due in part to Minnesota’s ability to keep him well-rested. That opened the door for Jason Castro to have a solid season by hitting .232 with 13 home runs and 30 RBI over 79 games, but he is expected to leave with the conclusion of a three-year deal signed in the winter of 2017.
That leaves the question of who the Twins will tab as a platoon partner for Garver behind the plate and some have pointed at the possibility of signing Yasmani Grandal. Although the Twins offered Grandal a multi-year deal last offseason before signing a one-year pact with the Milwaukee Brewers, The Athletic’s Dan Hayes reports that the Twins are unlikely to pursue him this time around.
Among the reasons that the Twins may not be interested in Grandal’s services include the monster season that Garver is coming off of. The soon-to-be 29-year old swatted a franchise record 31 home runs for the Twins from behind the plate and included a phenomenal slugging percentage of .630 in 311 at-bats.
Those numbers are the type of offense that the Twins were hoping to inject by signing Grandal, who put together a similar line with 28 home runs, but a much lower slugging percentage at .468. With Garver being younger, cheaper and more productive, it wouldn’t make sense to spend the Twins’ resources on a catcher they already have.
That leaves the question as to why Grandal wouldn’t be a fine backup catcher for the Twins. If the Twins were able to bring Grandal in, they wouldn’t experience a major drop off when Garver needed a night off or vice versa. That could be because the Twins have their own options ready to go within the organization.
Willians Astudillo is one option, but the super-utility man and fan-favorite couldn’t build off his strong finish to 2018, hitting .268, but slugging just .379 with a .678 OPS. That could mean the Twins go deeper into their organization and the name that could come up during spring training is Ryan Jeffers.
The 22-year old was a second-round pick by the Twins in the 2018 MLB Draft but showed tremendous offensive upside both in his final season at UNC Wilmington (.328, 10 HR, 32 RBI) and last year in the Twins organization.
After a strong season with High-A Fort Myers, hitting .256 with 10 home runs and 40 RBI in 79 games for the Miracle, Jeffers built off of his own momentum hitting .287 with four home runs and nine RBI in 24 games for Double-A Pensacola to close out the year.
That type of offense is what the Twins should be looking in a platoon partner, but they might not be able to confidently bring Jeffers up to the major leagues until late 2020 or early 2021.
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The backup catcher conversation isn’t going to dominate talk radio over the next couple of months, but it still will be an intriguing decision to see which direction the Twins go.