If you're from Lakeville, or you're a diehard Gopher baseball fan, or you're a Czech surname aficionado, then you may have heard of Mike Kvasnicka. If you're not, then chances are you've maybe seen his name and forgotten it or simply have absolutely no clue who he is (I fell into the final category until yesterday afternoon).
Kvasnicka, 24, is the newest member of the Twins' organization following a trade with the Astros yesterday that sent Gulf Coast League righty Gonzalo Sanudo to Houston.
Kvasnicka attended Lakeville North high school and graduated in 2007, at which point the Twins attempted to draft him in the 31st round. Kvasnicka said "no thanks" and went to the University of Minnesota, where he raised his stock to the point of being drafted 33rd overall by the Astros and landing a cool $936,000 bonus. In other words, college was a far more lucrative decision for him than it was for any of us (I'll earn my first $936K payday just as soon as I win the damn Powerball. Thought I had it this past Saturday. No luck).
He twice cracked Houston's list of Top 30 prospects from Baseball America, ranking 14th in the organization following the 2010 season and 25th following the 2011 season. He dropped out for this edition, in part because he had a pretty rough season last year and in part because the Astros made out like thieves in the 2012 draft and traded away almost anyone on their team who isn't making the MLB minimum for prospects.
Here's what BA had to say about Kvasnicka at the time of the draft...
Kvasnicka already was an attractive draft prospect as a 6-foot-2, 210-pound switch-hitter with a balanced stroke, good power potential and strike-zone discipline. Now his stock has jumped with the possibility that he could be a catcher rather than a right fielder. He has solid arm strength and accuracy, and he has the athleticism, hands and work ethic to become an average receiver. While he might have been a fourth-round pick as an outfielder, he now figures to go in the first two rounds as a catcher.
The Astros didn't make a huge reach or questionable pick by taking Kvasnicka where they did, but Houston may have set him back by initially moving him to third base in his first pro season. Following that season, BA wrote that the Astros loved Kvasnicka's power potential, athleticism and versatility, which is why they tried him at third. He hit .234/.305/.337 in his pro debut at Low-A, and he didn't fare all that much better in his second season: .260/.328/.368.
Following that season (in which he appeared at 116 games at third base), BA wrote:
His lefthanded swing is flatter and geared more for line drives, as evidenced by his one home run in 339 at-bats from that side last year. His righty stroke has more natural lift and pop. He's a below-average runner, though he could handle an outfield corner if needed. Scouts outside the organization report they didn't see any plus tools out of Kvasnicka, who wore down in the second half and needs to improve his offseason conditioning to gear up for the 2012 season.
Kvasnicka found some power at last in 2012, but his plate discipline eroded. That's pretty apparent in his .232/.275/.412 batting line and 15 homers. He struck out in 16 percent of his plate appearances in his first season, but that jumped to 20 percent in 2011 and 23 percent in 2012.
Kvasnicka doesn't seem like much of a prospect, but he makes for a nice story and someone to cheer for within the organization. If he can hone his plate discipline a little bit and maintain some of his pop, it seems like he could follow a similar path to that of Chris Hermann, possibly with a little less emphasis on defense and more on power.
Maybe it's just coincidence, or maybe the Twins realized that Drew Butera wasn't the type of backup catcher they wanted, but they seem to have taken a liking to the catcher/outfielder combo in recent years. Hermann looks to have passed Butera on the depth chart, they signed Ryan Doumit as a free agent and locked him up to a two-year extension last summer, and now they acquired another player in the same mold.
I like the added versatility that the backup catcher/corner outfielder mold brings to the lineup. If this is something the Twins want to make a habit out of, I'll be on board. For the time being, I'll simply cheer on Kvasnicka and hope he takes a step forward and can progress to Double-A and possibly beyond in 2013.
Steve Adams also writes for MLBTradeRumors.com, RotoAuthority.com and MLB.com. You can follow him on Twitter: @Adams_Steve