All signs point to the Twins recalling Eric Fryer today to be the team's second catcher. Fryer, 28, has 50 Major League plate appearances under his belt - 16 of which came for the Twins last September.
Drafted by the Brewers in the tenth round of the 2007 draft, the scouting reports were cautiously positive. From Baseball America:
Eric Fryer is one of the most athletic catchers in college baseball, a 6-foot-2, 215-pounder with average speed and arm strength to go with solid gap power. He also has the leadership skills teams want in a catcher. The biggest question with Fryer is his bat. He has a short swing, but he also employs a toe tap and needs a better trigger for his load. A club that believes he can make the necessary adjustments could pop him as early as the fifth round.
Reports, in general, stated that Fryer had a lot of the tools necessary to eventually turn into a big league catcher. He was athletic, had a quickness in his response times as a catcher, and was often called "heady" which, for a catcher, is a compliment. The question was always about his bat. There was okay power and good bat speed, but production had been an issue leading into the draft. But, if he could develop as a hitter, he'd be a steal.
As Fryer rose through the Brewer and eventually Yankee farm systems, he was often blocked. In 2007, Milwauke also drafted Jonathan Lucroy. By the time Fryer got his first callup to the bigs in 2011, Lucroy was already the starting catcher for the Brew Crew. Fryer had been blocked every step of the way: in 2007 in the rookie leagues; in low-A ball in '08; he was also blocked by Jesus Montero and Austin Romine when he was traded to New York after the 2008 season.
Pittsburgh acquired Fryer in 2009. The Pirates drafted catcher Tony Sanchez in the first round that season, and he, too, took time away from Fryer. Fryer and Sanchez would be promoted together over the next couple of seasons, but by 2011 Sanchez was getting the focus for development behind the plate. Pittsburgh's Double-A affiliate kept him in the lineup by playing him in the corner outfield on occasion. It was necessary, because Fryer was raking. He hit .345/.427/.549 in Double-A in '11.
With Ryan Doumit out for Pittsburgh, the next guy in line was at Triple-A, and that gave the Pirates the impetus they needed to bring Fryer to Triple-A. By this point it was clear that Fryer was never going to be a starter, but at 25 and virtually Major League ready many thought he could be a decent backup.
At the time of his first promotion in late June 2011, Fryer had a .376 career on-base percentage in the minor leagues, and a .438 career slugging percentage. But he never did hit in the majors, and a poor season at Triple-A in 2012 (.204/.257/.247) led to his eventual free agency. The Twins signed him to a minor league deal on November 10, 2012.
For the Red Wings, Fryer posted a .704 OPS in 2013 and has so far this season actually been worse, hitting .252/.323/.333 in 36 games. He'll get his second opportunity with the Twins, starting this weekend.
Fryer's strengths continue to reside in his defensive abilities. While it did seem for a while that he could serve as a passable offensive option in a short-term scenario for a Major League team, that ceiling is no longer likely. The likelihood is that Kurt Suzuki will catch a majority of the Twins' games in the foreseeable future with an occasional start from Fryer, who will either be returned to Triple-A when Josmil Pinto proves he's ready to catch consistently or when Chris Herrmann proves through some game time that he's over his injury and ready to go.
Then again, considering the incredible hot streaks from any number of Twins this season, you never know. Maybe Fryer is just the latest in a long line of hot hands, and for a couple of weeks he gives the offense an unexpected boost. Let's hope it goes that way.