When 6-time All-Star player Joe Mauer announced that he was moving to first base permanently due to concussion-related issues, it has been debated who will step up and fill his shoes as catcher for the Minnesota Twins. Prospects for the position include Josmil Pinto, Chris Herrmann, Eric Fryer, and Kurt Suzuki.
In this article I’ll look at each of the prospects for the catcher position. When all is said and done, I’ll give my view on which the best option may be for the captain of the infield.
Last year, Pinto played in 21 games, all of which were in September. In that time span, he hit a .342 average and brought in four homers, five doubles and 12 RBIs for the Twins. With fairly decent numbers for Pinto in the time that he’s played, the 24-year-old is still young and new to the team. In order to land the position as a reliable catcher, Pinto has a lot to learn about commanding the infield at any given moment. Not only that, but confidence levels in quarterbacking the team must be there as well.
Herrmann is another young player looking to fill the shoes of being the man behind the plate. Having been called up by the Twins in September of 2012, Herrmann has spent his time either behind the plate as catcher or somewhere in the outfield. In his time since being called up, Herrmann has had a .189 average with four home runs and 19 RBIs. And, as the only left-handed batter among the contenders for the catcher position, he may become useful as he gains the experience he needs through the 2014 season. But, being a young and newly called-upon player like Pinto, and being swapped between the outfield and infield, Herrmann has some ground to cover if he wants to prove himself, as well.
In 2011, Fryer spent his first year in the majors with the Pittsburgh Pirates as a catcher. In eight games played, seven stolen bases were allowed, three runners were caught stealing, and had five assists with only one error being made. After spending the next year in the outfield, Fryer was brought to the Twins last year and put behind the plate again. In just five games played last year, Fryer allowed three stolen bases, caught two stealing, and had two assists with no errors made.
In an average of seven games per season, Fryer was able to hit a .302 average with a .395 slugging percentage. With a little more experience behind him, Fryer seems capable of producing at the plate all around. But, can he bring in the same kind of numbers if he were called to play more often?
Suzuki is a seasoned veteran, having played seven seasons and is only 30-years-old. In 804 games played throughout his years for the Oakland Athletics and Washington Nationals, he has allowed 451 stolen bases, caught 159 players stealing and has 339 assists with 39 errors. As a batter, Suzuki has played in 840 games, acquiring 67 home runs, 19 stolen bases, and 359 RBIs for an overall batting average of .253 and a .375 slugging percentage.
Although Suzuki has played quite a bit more often than the other catcher prospects, he is beginning to age, and more prone to injury.
It is still unclear what the Twins will do to fill Mauer’s shoes that have been left open behind the plate. If I had to predict what the Twins will do, I think it will end up like this:
- Suzuki as starting and prominent catcher.
- Fryer and Herrmann as backup catchers.
One thing that Suzuki will have to work on is bringing up his batting numbers, which have been noticeably lacking in the last few seasons. Fryer and Herrmann would make great backup catchers, and can learn quite a bit from a seasoned player like Suzuki. As for Pinto, until he can gain a little more experience behind and at the plate, he may be best suited for a year in the minors and reconsidered after this year.