Let me first point out that I do greatly appreciate the things that Twins backup catcher Drew Butera can do. His defense is exceptional, he manages games well, he’s great with the staff and he’s a good locker room guy. But it’s what he can’t do that makes him undesirable should he be forced into full time duty.
Butera simply cannot hit in the major leagues. And it’s no surprise because everybody knew his game coming in. Last season he hit .197 in 142 at-bats in his first season as the Twins backup catcher. It’s hard to completely write him off as a hitter after only one year of big league service, but the potential has never been showcased in the minors.
I can handle him once, maybe twice a week because of his skill set as a defensive catcher. But imagine if Joe Mauer is forced to miss any extended amount of time this season and Butera is thrust into a starting role. Not only would they lose their best hitter, but they would gain a completely harmless nine-hole hitter.
Their lineup would take a serious blow with the loss of Mauer anyway you slice it, but if the Twins still had, say Wilson Ramos, then at least they could insert a guy with some offensive prowess at the plate.
But the Twins traded away their much heralded catching prospect Ramos for Matt Capps at the trade deadline last season and sent another offensive catcher, Jose Morales packing for a minor league pitcher this off-season.
The two trades have left the Twins with a heavily depleted catching stock in their minor leagues and a severely offensively challenged catcher behind Mauer.
Now, Morales would have been out of minor league options had the Twins not traded him, meaning he would have had to beat out current backup Butera in order to stay with the Twins organization.
Most likely that would not have happened considering the Twins are pretty sold on having the defensive specialist Butera being the backup to Mauer. So at least the Twins got something for the offensively promising, but poor backstopper Morales.
I didn’t like the Ramos deal when it happened and I still don’t.
Ramos was the best Twins catching prospect since…Mauer! His value was in his bat and I think the Twins traded him too soon and got too little in return. I understand that the team needed relief help down the stretch, but giving up an upper echelon catching prospect whose major league ready was a bit too much. Catchers with power are rare, relief pitchers are a dime a dozen.
Ramos and Morales were the two best offensive catching prospects in the Twins minor league system, those that remain have a microscopic chance of turning into a major league hitter.
The Twins plucked six minor league catchers out of their system to invite to spring training this season, way more than they traditionally invite to Ft. Myers.
Among them are Danny Lehmann, Jair Fernandez, Daniel Rams, Chris Herrmann, Steve Holm and Rene Rivera.
Lehmann got the most clock at AAA Rochester last season; in 76 at-bats he hit .263 with seven doubles. But he has just five homers in 730 career minor-league at-bats and before last season he has never hit over .250 in a full season in the minors.
Rams has the most potential as a hitter, but he is still very young, turning just 23 this year. He has shown some potential for power with 29 homers over the last two seasons. Last season with Beloit Snappers, Rams hit .243 with 48 extra-base hits and 68 RBI.
The rest have no offensive talents to speak of.
Now, it makes sense that Twins are not investing much into the catching position considering they just gave Mauer the largest contract in Minnesota sport’s history, but it doesn’t hurt to have someone brewing in the minors just in case plans have to be altered.
I know I wouldn’t want to see Butera penciled into the lineup every day.