This Catcher Needs to be the Minnesota Twins’ #1 Draft Choice Tomorrow

Photo: Mike Mattina - Arizona Athletics

It’s draft day eve, the night before one of baseballs favorite days of the year. With the pandemic still upon us and no actual baseball to watch, it’s probably the only thing that we have to look forward to…

While the MLB and MLBPA continue to bicker over millions of dollars, the Minnesota Twins and the rest of the league’s teams, are getting ready to add to their roster, preparing for the future, since nobody knows what’s going to happen in the present.

The Twins are in a position to draft from a great pool of players in the first round of tomorrow’s 2020 MLB Draft. After a surprisingly arousing off-season, Twins fans are drooling over what this crafty front office is going to bring home!

I’m not sure if the new millennium Twins were afraid of change, or they were worried about upsetting Joe Mauer. Since drafting Joe in 2001, they’ve picked in the top-20, in nine out of the past nineteen years…. but never picked a catcher with their first pick.

They’ve drafted pitchers, short stops and outfielders… but not one catcher. That position has been left to free-agency or trade and consistency has been non-existent, since. It could be argued, Catcher is the most important position on the field. Unless a pitcher goes 9 innings, nobody touches the ball more than your Catcher.

Apparently, the Twins front office thought, if they paid enough for one catcher, we don’t need anymore….?

Looking at mock drafts around the internet, I think the analysts have it wrong. CBS analyst, Mike Axisa, has us picking a RHP at 27 from Texas Tech. Matt Weyrich from NBC sports, has us ALSO taking a pitcher from Rufugio HS in Texas, and finally the MLB mock draft has us taking (another) Short Stop.

The best thing the Twins can do in this draft, given their spot and who might be available, is pick a catcher (more on who in a moment). Since the MLB Draft revolves around where your franchise will be 3-6 years in the future, it’s difficult (and a mistake) to draft based on current need. Sure, Mitch Garver is good right now… but he’s almost 30.

There are two catchers in the Twins’ organization top-30 prospects list, Ryan Jeffers (#6 | AA | 22-yrs-old) and Ben Rortvedt (#28 | AA | 22-yrs-old). Both guys show some potential, but aren’t hailed as future stars, like Alex Kirilloff (OF) or Royce Lewis (MIF/OF). Both Jeffers and Rortvedt are nearing the end of their prospect lifespan, too. Both will be 23 and have spent multiple years in the Twins system. Both are at AA too, which is just one call away from the MLB, in many cases.

It’s the perfect time to refresh the top-end of your catching expectations, organization-wide. Because pitchers and shortstops will be swiped from the board like hot cakes, through the first 20 picks (per usual), the Twins should be in great position to pick Austin Wells, from the University of Arizona, at #27.

Wells is a stand-out player and someone who deserved to be slotted in the top 20. If he makes it to the Twins, they should be ready to sprint up to the virtual podium to announce Austin as their future at Catcher.

Austin Wells is recorded at 6’1, 220 pounds, combining that with his power and stats he accumulated 19 awards while attending Arizona. He is a left-handed hitter with the ability to hit the ball with power, all over the field. We talked about Joe Mauer earlier… Austin appreciates a quality at-bat almost as much as Joe… but strikes out A LOT more (who doesn’t these days).

Even though the corona virus shut down college baseball early in 2020, Austin managed a .375 batting average over 15 games, with 21 hits, 2 home runs, and 14 RBI’s. His 2019 season was even more outstanding with 60 RBI and 5 homeruns.

The Yankees drafted Wells out of high school in 2018 (30-something round) but he chose to honor his commitment to Arizona. Wells adjusted quickly to the change from high school to college, even homering in his first college at-bat. Wells still has one year of college eligibility left, but isn’t expected to turn down a 1st-round draft slot (and the bonus $$$ that will come with it).

In an interview with Baseball America, when asked about how he feels he’s grown on the field, Wells’ answers with grace:

“I try to make improvements all the time. But making an adjustment from high school to college, really there was only a few little things: Starting with flexibility and getting lower so that I could get under balls, be more receptive with pitches. Just being able to move better behind the plate. And I really think I’ve made huge strides with that.”

Austin Wells, 2019 Baseball America

Wells takes responsibility for parts of his game that need improvement, and knows there will be more, as his career moves along. He prides himself on is being coachable. The respect he has for his coaching staff and his willingness to learn, are both things he has in common with Mitch Garver.

Garver had been only a league-average hitter at the plate and a liability behind it. His career was in jeopardy, after a bad 2018 season, and he knew he had to improve. So, he called Tanner Swanson, who taught him how to hit, and it saved his career. Small adjustments in his swing and stance behind the plate, made for a break-out 2019.

“It’s the only reason I’m still catching,” Garver told FiveThirtyEight. “Really.”

Mitch Garver, FiveThirtyEight

There are questions surrounding Wells’ future behind the plate, just like Garver. It’s based mostly around his accuracy to 2nd base, though… If he’s willing to listen and learn, that’s something the Twins should be able to fix, as an organization. The analysts and the fans seem to think that we need to add another pitching spot onto our roster. That could not be further from the truth.

The Twins need to expand their roster and their depth at a lot of positions. The catcher is the position that needs to be filled in the first round of this draft, though. Wells is currently slotted where they are picking. With all the big moves the Twins are making this off-season, this could be the one we talk about 5 years into the future…

Sherry Cerny | Minnesota Sports Fan

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