When Joe Mauer made the full-time switch to first base, he left some big shoes to fill behind home plate. While it is almost impossible to play to the standard of the only catcher with three batting titles, Kurt Suzuki did his way onto the American League All-Star team after taking Mauer’s spot behind the plate.
While the team entered camp last year with questions about the catcher position as a whole, this year the team only needs to worry about Suzuki’s backup. The two other catchers on the 40-man roster right now are Josmil Pinto and Chris Herrmann; Eric Fryer could also be in the running for the job but he was designated for assignment by the Twins in December and will likely start the season in AAA.
Herrmann and Pinto each have traits that make them an attractive option, but both players did had their share of struggles at the plate in 2014. Pinto hit .219 over 169 at-bats at the Major League level, and Herrmann was no better with an average of .213 over his 75 at-bats. However, Pinto’s on-base percentage was 62 points higher due to a decent amount of walks drawn.
Pinto is also a far bigger power threat and hit seven home runs in 2014. He also sent four balls out of the park in 2013 in just 21 games as a September call-up. Herrmann only had three extra base hits last season, all of them doubles.
Herrmann’s advantage in this competition comes through his glove and it goes beyond the catcher position. Pinto is far behind Herrmann in his defensive abilities behind the plate, and Herrmann has also proven his skills as a corner outfielder. Having Herrmann on the roster would give Minnesota an extra outfield glove, as well as a backup catcher who can handle things behind the plate.
It’s hard to see Pinto losing this battle though. Most of Herrmann’s time with the big club last year was spent as a reserve outfielder, and it seems like the franchise is turning towards him being an outfielder first. Expect Herrmann to begin the year in AAA unless somebody gets injured during Spring Training with the more offensive minded Pinto on the 25-man roster as Suzuki’s backup.