Choosing A Backup Catcher

Bob Levey

The Twins seem committed to using Kurt Suzuki as their regular catcher to start 2014. Eric Fryer, Chris Herrmann, and Josmil Pinto are the three that will compete to be his backup next year, but who should win the job?

Back on Monday, Brandon Warne posted his prediction to the 25-man roster, and every day it looks more like Kurt Suzuki will be the starting catcher for the Twins. While his production will easily pale in comparison to what we were spoiled with by Joe Mauer, and fans will probably bemoan his relative lack of offense, he should be able to hold down the fort until the Twins decide that Josmil Pinto is ready to take over.

With Suzuki starting, it becomes a race between Pinto, Eric Fryer, and Chris Herrmann to become the catching backup. Brandon's prediction had Eric Fryer as the lone catcher on the bench, but will that actually happen? I will look at the pros and cons to each of these three men to determine who will be the best fit for the team on Opening Day.

Josmil Pinto

Pinto started off his major league career on fire, hitting .342/.398/.566 in 21 games. With his offense as his calling card, along with that strong debut, he is the popular choice to be the starting catcher next season. However, Ron Gardenhire and Terry Ryan seem content with Suzuki as the starter, and they're also not satisfied with Pinto's work behind the plate. While backup catchers do typically play more often than the other second stringers, I still think the Twins would prefer to give Pinto as much playing time as possible and that likely won't happen in the majors. Pinto is one of the few players whose options are either being the starter in the majors, or will be sent to the minors.

Eric Fryer

It's a little interesting that Fryer is the oldest of all three catchers here, and yet he has the least major league experience. His career minor league triple-slash is .267/.358/.404, though it should be noted that his Triple-A numbers are far worse at .208/.312/.313. Offensively, he simply won't be able to compete with Pinto, but one redeeming factor will be his ability to draw a walk. Even if his batting average is terrible, he should be able to maintain a decent on-base percentage anyway. Defensively, he's regarded as being much better than Pinto, and that alone is likely why the Twins have been so interested in keeping him on the 40-man roster this offseason.

Chris Herrmann

The Twins catcher with the most major league experience now that Joe Mauer has been moved to first base, Chris Herrmann has two factors that will work in his favor for making this team. First, he is the only available catcher that bats lefthanded, which would pair very well with the righthanded Suzuki. Second, he offers the most defensive versatility as he also has experience in the outfield corners, allowing the Twins to give some more breaks to Josh Willingham and Oswaldo Arcia if necessary. His defense is also better than Pinto's, and just like Fryer, he won't offer much with the bat beyond drawing some walks.

Between these three, I think it's an easy call that it's really a two-horse race between Herrmann and Fryer. There's simply no reason for the Twins to have Pinto on the major league roster in April unless he's starting about 5 times a week. With the decision narrowed to two, I think the Twins will favor Herrmann's defensive versatility and lefthandedness. Unless Fryer's defense is significantly better than what Herrmann can provide, I don't see any other upside with choosing him over Herrmann.

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