Catchers of the Present and the Future: Kurt Suzuki and Josmil Pinto

When Joe Mauer was declared the starting first baseman this offseason, the next step seemed to be inserting Josmil Pinto into the starting catcher role. That notion took a serious hit when the Twins signed veteran free agent catcher Kurt Suzuki lauding his experience behind the plate. Now Josmil Pinto and the phrase “He’s a work in progress” are mentioned together by the Twins. This is disappointing since in 2013 the Twins averaged 3.8 runs a game, second worst in the American League (White Sox were at 3.7), and Pinto’s potent bat would be a welcome addition in 2014.

Kurt Suzuki is an above average catcher, but a middling hitter. His average OPS+ over the past three years was 76 (100 is league average), making him 24% below the average hitter during those seasons. Surprisingly, Suzuki does have value at the plate. He rarely strikes out, in fact Suzuki’s K% over his career is 11.9%. Compare that to Joe Mauer’s 11.1% and you can see he makes contact with the ball, which has become a lost art for the Minnesota Twins. As a team they K’d 33% of the time last year, which is an extraordinary amount of non-productive outs.

This brings us back to Pinto. He may be a work in progress behind the plate, but he can hit, and not the lazy singles Twins fans have become accustomed to from the catcher position. Pinto can drive the ball to all parts of the ballpark. An old adage in baseball says if a player has more extra base hits and walks than strikeouts you have a potential major league hitter who can develop power. Look at Josmil Pinto’s numbers — at nearly every minor league level his extra base hits and walks outnumber his strikeouts.

In addition, his September call up last year resulted in an impressive .342/.398/.566 batting line. So the Twins have a catcher who can’t hit and a catcher who can’t catch. Solution: Let Suzuki catch and bat second… remember he makes contact 88% of the time. Pinto’s bat may be the most powerful bat on the team and it has to be in the lineup as DH when he’s not catching. Josmil Pinto will be the Twins’ eventual catcher, so reps at the spot would help his development — on top of that, scoring 3.8 runs a game again isn’t an option.

Let Pinto play.

 

 



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