Organizational Depth Chart – Catchers

22 Jan

Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook 2012 – Now Available as an e-book for $6.99 by clicking here. You can, of course, still get the print version for $13.99 by clicking here

For the most part, the Twins spring training rosters are pretty well set. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is another reliever brought in, and there could be some more minor league signings. I thought it would be late enough in the offseason to start taking a look at the Twins organizational depth. So, over the next two weeks, I’ll go position by position and name the players throughout the farm system with a few thoughts. In doing so, I’ll be trying to figure out what the Twins minor league rosters will look like.

I’m going to start with the catcher position and work through all of the positions. First and foremost, I need to point out that these are my thoughts. I have no insider information to know where players will be. Obviously after spring training, some of these players will be let go. There will be Disabled List players, extended spring training and more.

Minnesota Twins  

Joe Mauer, Ryan Doumit, Drew Butera

Maybe it’s hopeful optimism, but I’m not worried about Joe Mauer in 2012. 2011 started out with injury, a bad diagnosis made public, and a not-so-subtle hint of confusion surrounding his health, his toughness and how even his teammates and managers didn’t always understand what the situation was either. If Mauer is healthy, he’s one of the best catchers in baseball, offensively and defensively. Ideally, he could again catch 110-120 games and if he does so, we know that he will likely hit .320/.390/.490 or so with 35 or more doubles and potentially a dozen home runs.

Doumit was a tremendous signing early in the offseason. His career numbers in the NL show that he has posted an OPS very similar to Jason Kubel’s. Offensively, I expect the same type of hitter as Kubel. That’s probably a little optimistic. I think Doumit (along with Trevor Plouffe and Luke Hughes) will be the primary DHs, unless Justin Morneau can’t play 1B and they have him DH. Doumit can also catch 30-40 games a season to give Mauer a day off from behind the plate. He’s not too good back there.

Butera is the opposite. He has no chance offensively, particularly when overexposed as he was last year. Butera is the actual backup catcher, in my mind, since Doumit should be starting every day. As a true backup catcher, he’s fine, plays good defense, does a good job against the running game, and works well with pitchers. When he has to play most days and gets 400 plate appearances, that isn’t the design. In reality, the Twins have a bunch of versatility on their major league roster, so I might prefer to have Butera in Rochester. If Mauer or Doumit is hurt one game, the other could catch the rest of that game, and Butera could be up the next day. Of course, that would assume the Twins utilized the DL well, something they did very poorly the last couple of years.

Rochester Red Wings

Rene Rivera, JR Towles

We saw in 2011 what Rivera could do, and it was pretty much just as bad offensively as Butera. He just swung more crazy and more often. Defensively, he is obviously quite solid.

JR Towles comes over from the Astros where he was once a top prospect in baseball. He never really hit with the Astros, although he never really got much consistent playing time. There may be some hope here for some optimism.

New Britain Rock Cats

Danny Lehmann, Chris Herrmann

Butera, Rivera and Towles are pretty much the same. I may be wrong, but everything I’ve seen, read and heard from players throughout the system, Lehmann is the best of that group. He won’t hit a lot, but no worse than Rivera and Butera did, and his defense is just as good, if not better. I’ve talked to a lot of pitchers in the Twins system the last couple of years and all agree that they love throwing to Lehmann.

Chris Herrmann is the Twins top catching prospect, and it isn’t terribly close. He made a very strong impression in 2011 at Ft. Myers and in New Britain. He didn’t hit for average, but he gets on base a lot. He also hits a lot of doubles with a smooth left-handed swing. He runs very well for a catcher. Part of his value is his versatility. In college, he played mostly in the infield. Early in his Twins career, he played mainly in the outfield and played well there. Pitchers say that his defense behind the plate has improved, and he now throws out a solid percentage of would-be base stealers. He could be a versatile backup player with the Twins by September, and he is also good enough to be the primary backstop for the team as well should they move the $184-million-dollar man to another position at some point.

Ft. Myers Miracle

Danny Rams, Dan Rohlfing, Josmil Pinto

Rams made a good impression last year at big league spring training and was very good in April. At that point, he got hurt and played through it, but his numbers were not what he and organization would have wanted. Defensively, he has a strong arm, but isn’t touted as a great defender. It’s just a gut feeling, but Rams is very talented, and I think once he gets to New Britain, we’ll start seeing some of his power potential turn into some power numbers.

Rohlfing played infield in high school and the Twins moved him to catcher. After awhile, he was moved to the outfield. Last year, he was pushed to New Britain where he held his own as a backup catcher. When he was sent back to Ft. Myers, he was in the lineup most every day, either behind the plate or in the outfield and he played well. He was invited to spring training this year because he has made an impression on the right people.

Josmil Pinto put up huge numbers in E-town a couple of seasons ago, but he really struggled in 2010 in Beloit. He returned to Beloit and did alright before being moved up to Ft. Myers. He has a strong arm, but it’s likely he’s a DH because he does struggle behind the plate.

Beloit Snappers

Andy Leer, Philip Chapman, Matt Koch, Matt Parker, Jairo Rodriguez, Kyle Knudson

This is where you start realizing that not all of these players will remain in the organization beyond spring training. There will likely be some injuries and others also added to the Disabled List for depth.

Andy Leer is from North Dakota and went to college at the University of Mary. He was an infielder with the Snappers in 2011, and at Instructional League, he was moved behind the plate. Philip Chapman and Matt Koch were both drafted in 2011. Chapman hit well, but he was a college guy playing in the GCL. Koch signed late and played in a dozen or so games in Elizabethton. Both are old enough that they should move up to Beloit, but based on numbers, one could stay in Extended Spring Training. Matt Parker was a non-drafted free agent singing a couple of years ago. He’s a defensive guy. Knudson played with Beloit in 2011, but he missed most of the second half of the season with a groin injury. He’s one that they will need to keep because he is solid defensively and has some offensive potential. Jairo Rodriguez is a strong-armed backstop without much offensive upside. 

Elizabethton Twins

Kelly Cross, Michael Quesada

Cross was drafted out of high school in 2010 and signed late. He got into just a couple of games. He really struggled last year with the GCL Twins, but he’s a guy that they’re going to have to push quickly because he’s only got one more season that he can play in the short seasons. 

Quesada was one of the better hitters with the GCL Twins last year and showed good power. Some scouts really like his potential. 

The Twins typically draft a couple of college catchers in the first ten rounds or so, and they go to Elizabethton as well. So, it’s really impossible to predict who will play any position in Elizabethton or the GCL.

TOP THREE PROSPECTS

1.)    Chris Herrmann, 2.) Danny Rams, 3.) Dan Rohlfing

SUMMARY

Joe Mauer is an All Star, an MVP, a Gold Glove winner, a Silver Slugger winner, and he’s paid like it. A couple more big seasons and he’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer. But, he has to stay healthy. Chris Herrmann is likely a year away from being ready for the big leagues. He is likely the one player in the minor leagues that has the chance to be a starting catcher. There are several terrific defensive catchers whose ceiling is backup catcher, not that that is a bad thing! 

If you have any further questions, please feel free to e-mail Seth Stohs at sethspeaksnet@hotmail.com or leave your thoughts in the Comments Section!

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19 Responses to “Organizational Depth Chart – Catchers”

  1. shane January 22, 2012 at 11:52 pm #

    Any chance Joe Mauer is using someone else’s identity and they could void this horrible contract.

  2. thrylos98 January 23, 2012 at 7:55 am #

    Re: Butera: “As a true backup catcher, he’s fine, plays good defense, does a good job against the running game, and works well with pitchers”

    I think that the above were exposed as an urban legend last season:
    7 PB and 21 WP in 670.2 innings and 31% CS are pretty average. And the passed balls bellow average (Doumit, who supposedly is a bad defensive catcher, have fewer PB/inn than Butera last season.) Add to this his bat, and Butera belongs to Rochester. I hope that at least have a real competition in ST for a third C (or that they don’t have a 3rd C), and not hand him the job….

    • mike wants wins January 23, 2012 at 10:47 am #

      Couldn’t agree more. Also, just how valuable is “catcher defense” anyway? Butera was also shown to be below average at framing pitches, if I remember the study right on baseball prospectus correctly. It’s an urban myth that Butera is a good defensive catcher….but it’s no myth his bat is a near auto out. He’s not “fine” as a backup, he’s bad.

      There were 306 hitters with at least 250 at bats last year. According to Fangraphs, only 10 had a lower WAR than Butera. ZERO were worse offensively. Zero.

    • Brad Beneke January 23, 2012 at 5:16 pm #

      I agree 100% on Butera. If we outrighted him off the 40 man roster there is less than 10% chance he’d get taken.

      IF he is as good defensively as the brass have touted, he is best suited to help the young pitchers and be a backup catcher in AA or AAA

  3. gobbledy January 23, 2012 at 9:34 am #

    There is no possible way that Butera is fine. He does not belong at the “major league level”.

  4. TT January 23, 2012 at 11:23 am #

    “Also, just how valuable is “catcher defense” anyway? ”

    Its the primary value of a catcher. Its the reason Doumit was available. And its the reason Chris Herrmann may not be the Twins top catching prospect.

    I think the Twins are hoping Herrmann will develop into a solid defensive catcher. Part of the reason for that is that his bat doesn’t really play very well at a corner outfield spot, which is his only alternative position. Its always important to remember that the primary purpose of the minor leagues is to develop major league players. Sometimes a player’s best route to the big leagues is not at his best minor league position.

    There are no good statistical measures of catchers. They are all like fielding percentage. Caught stealing percentage, for instance, doesn’t account for how many runners don’t even attempt a steal Nor does it account for the difference in pitchers.

    Even comparisons on the same team don’t mean much since most managers try to keep some consistency in pairings of catchers and pitchers. Not surprisingly, if you have a starter who is slow to the plate and doesn’t hold runners, the manager is going to try to compensate by matching him with his best defensive catcher.

    • SethSpeaks January 23, 2012 at 2:50 pm #

      I’m with TT here. I don’t buy into any of the catcher defense stats at this point, not yet. Butera’s very good. My main point in the article would be that when Butera was the backup to a healthy Mauer, his offense wasn’t such a big concern. If in that role, he’s fine. My other point is that he could be replaced by Rivera or Towles and no lose anything… or be replaced by Lehmann and be slightly better.

      • TT January 23, 2012 at 4:03 pm #

        I don’t really agree with you on your second point Seth. There is a reason the Twins are so high on Butera. If Danny Lehman were really that good, he would have been grabbed in the Rule 5 draft by now. Like Rivera and Towles, Lehman is a solid minor league catcher who adds organizational depth.

        Butera is a well above average major league catcher with a lousy bat. He was overexposed when being asked to catch every day last year. But I think it is a mistake to think he can be easily replaced.

      • thrylos98 January 23, 2012 at 5:19 pm #

        Passed Balls are Passed Balls… This is a stat that is pretty much descriptive and solid, wouldn’t you agree? I don’t buy into things like catcher ERA, but passed balls should not be ignored. And Butera was horrible last season in that category.

      • mike wants wins January 23, 2012 at 6:55 pm #

        So you have no way to measure he’s good or not….and are willing to ignore that no hitter in all of baseball was nearly as bad as him offensively? He should not be on a MLB roster, he just shouldn’t. Let’s say catcher defense is real, how many runs does he save a game? How many does he cost on offense?

        Also, just because baseball people think catcher defense is important, doesn’t mean it is. Until the 80′s, people thought walks were a sign of hitter weakness.

      • TT January 23, 2012 at 11:05 pm #

        Thrylos -

        Passed balls are very much related to the pitcher. Just as wild pitches are partially the catcher. Which it is depends on the scorer, but I think catchers are generally supposed to block pitches in the dirt. If they don’t, it can be called a passed ball. So if you have guys who are throwing pitches in the dirt or have a lot of movement on their pitches, the catcher is going to have more passed balls.

        Butera had seven passed balls. That isn’t going to change any evaluation of him as a catcher.

        Mike -

        I don’t take much of anything on Baseball Prospectus seriously. They spend a lot of time trying to prove whatever preconceived conclusion they have. They seem to confuse that with testing a hypothesis.

        Butera’s bat is clearly the reason Doumit was signed. But that doesn’t change his value on defense.

        “If we outrighted him off the 40 man roster there is less than 10% chance he’d get taken.”

        I think there is almost 100% chance he would be taken. Every team is looking for catchers. Butera has been undervalued by fans ever since the Twins traded for him. That’s probably because of the question Mike is asking – how can defense matter that much?

        I think one way to understand the importance of a catcher’s defense is to consider that he is involved in 120+ plays every game. That is more than the starting pitcher in anything but a complete game.

  5. Jim H January 23, 2012 at 4:08 pm #

    Of all the Twins related things you write about, this type of thing is probably my favorite. I do have sort of a question for you, however. You wrote, ” Chris Herrmann is likely a year away from being ready for the big leagues. He is likely the one player in the minor leagues that has the chance to be a starting catcher.” If that is his upside, isn’t he more than the 15th best prospect in the system?

    I doubt if we can know whether he is that good, yet. Like you and TT pointed out, it is not easy to quantify catcher skills. He really hasn’t played there enough to be sure he is that good defensively and he probably has much to learn about calling a game. His minor league numbers don’t really suggest exceptiional offensive skills either. The other thing is can he stand up to catching every day?

  6. Brad Beneke January 23, 2012 at 5:12 pm #

    As much as I pick on Bilateral feminine itch, this is the one position that the organization is pretty much locked and loaded on.

    Future corner outfielders is probably 2nd for me.

  7. Chuck January 23, 2012 at 7:07 pm #

    From the people I have talked with in Fort Myers, the Twins are moving Danny Rams to Left Field. Also look for Dan Rohlfing going to New Britain.

    • SethSpeaks January 23, 2012 at 10:34 pm #

      Confirmed. Rams will still do some catcher, but he’ll also get time in the OF. Rohlfing to New Britain woudln’t surprise me.

      • TT January 23, 2012 at 11:08 pm #

        So apparently the Twins doubt Rams is a catcher. That explains why he wasn’t invited to the major league camp.

  8. Brad Beneke January 24, 2012 at 12:57 am #

    TT – no one is looking for an 8 on 9 offensive matchup in the 21st century. If this was 78 I would stand down, but Butera wastes a major league roster space. There is no player in baseball whose defense is so valuable that his 100% ineptitude at the plate can be justified.

    If he is claimed not a huge loss. Because you forget what our 7-9 hitters were like with him in the lineup. It meant at least 1 if not 2 extra innings for a starter and thus a much sharper and more well rested pen for the other team. It also meant more pressure on a depleted 1-6 part of the lineup. No other team put a player so unworthy as Butera in a major league game last season. The sad thing is that a lot of Twins fans will willfully believe whatever the Twins spin. Any non pitcher that cannot hit their weight doesn’t belong in the majors.

    We lost 99 games and our pitching was aweful. I thought a Catching Dynemo like Butera should have had them leading MLB in ERA, CS%, QS, saves, holds and where was his gold glove?

    TT you are awesome, and I’m not meaning to upset you. You provide amazing input, but on this one you are Michael Spynx to my Thrylos’ Mike Tyson.

    • TT January 24, 2012 at 6:25 pm #

      “There is no player in baseball whose defense is so valuable that his 100% ineptitude at the plate can be justified.”

      How about almost every pitcher in the national league? And the catcher is the only other player who is as involved as much as the pitcher. I am not saying the catcher is as important to the game as the pitcher. But a catcher is involved in a lot more plays than any individual pitcher.

      “It meant at least 1 if not 2 extra innings for a starter and thus a much sharper and more well rested pen for the other team.”

      Not even close. Butera got on base a little over 2/3 the time the average Twin hitter did. In ten plate appearances, the average Twin would make 7 outs. Butera would make 8. That is one extra out every two games if he gets 5 plate appearances in each game.

      “where was his gold glove”

      Joe Mauer has it.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Thursday Links - Puckett's Pond - A Minnesota Twins Fan Site - News, Blogs, Opinion and More - January 26, 2012

    [...] the likely call-ups in the event of injuries to the big league Twins.  So far Stohs has listed catchers, first basemen and third [...]

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