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Time To Hand The Keys To Murphy

Kurt Suzuki has been the starting catcher for the past two seasons, but with his 2014 resurgence appearing to be an outlier, it's time for John Ryan Murphy to take over behind the plate.

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

When the Twins first signed Kurt Suzuki, he was supposed to be an adequate yet unexciting answer to Joe Mauer's move to first base. Coming off four consecutive seasons in which Suzuki hadn't been an offensive threat, the Twins would have been happy with him simply keeping in line with his performance of late while providing solid defense at the position. Instead, Suzuki experienced a career resurgence, batting .288/.345/.383 which was his best OPS since 2009 and the first time in his career he posted a wRC+ that was above-average.

Encouraged by his success, the Twins quickly inked Suzuki to a two-year contract extension but like many recent extensions before him, it has yet to pay off. His 2014 season quickly appeared to be an outlier (thanks to tying a career-best .310 BABIP) as Suzuki returned to his offensive black hole, putting together a .240/.296/.314 campaign that was right in line with his 2012 and 2013 seasons. Even worse was that he became a liability in controlling the running game as opponents were 80-for-94 (85%) on stolen base attempts.

Now, pinning the near miss of the playoffs on Suzuki alone would be a fool's errand. However, there's no doubt that his lack of contributions hurt the Twins as the team surprised everyone throughout the entire season. His fall back into oblivion prompted the organization to swap Aaron Hicks for John Ryan Murphy and suddenly Suzuki sees himself with competition at the catcher position going into 2016.

As we enter the spring, it's certain that Suzuki will have the number one spot atop the catching depth chart, but Murphy should not be far behind. Mainly thanks to a strong .277/.327/.406 line in 172 plate appearances, Murphy was worth 0.8 more WAR last season than Suzuki despite receiving less than one-third of the playing time. Although luck on batted balls in play aided Murphy and strikeouts have been an issue through his short career, he does have age on his side (he'll turn 25 years old in May) and nevertheless should offer more offensive upside than Suzuki. Plus, he does a better job controlling the running game which as mentioned before was a problem for Suzuki last season.

Assuming that Suzuki stays in line with the batting lines that he put up in five of the past six seasons, that should give Murphy an ample opportunity to demonstrate that he is deserving of more than one or two starts per week. Considering the trio of Chris Herrmann, Eric Fryer, and Suzuki only mustered 0.2 WAR last season, I feel the addition of Murphy should lead to a more productive catching unit in 2016.