Who Has To Step Up If Jeffers Or Vazquez Go Down?

Photo credit: Jonah Hinebaugh-Naples Daily News via USA TODAY Sports

With Spring Training underway and the Minnesota Twins have six catchers at camp on non-roster invites (NRI). Currently, there are only two catchers on the 40-man roster, Ryan Jeffers and Christian Vazquez. Rocco Baldelli expects the duo to have a 60/40 split in games behind the plate for the 2023 season. When the time comes, and neither is available for a series during the season, it’s unclear who Minnesota’s third catcher will be.

Kyle Farmer has played 19 games at catcher in his career, but he’s not the answer. He is strictly the emergency catcher in a scenario where both Jeffers and Vazquez are unavailable or hurt in a game.

Only half of the Twins’ six NRI catchers have spent time in the majors: Tony Wolters, Grayson Greiner, and Chance Sisco. The other three David Banuelos, Jair Camargo, and Chris Williams have yet to make their MLB debuts and will likely be playing more on a daily basis between St. Paul and Wichita.

Depending on how the season goes with Jeffers and Vazquez’s health, all three might see playing time on the Twins. But who amongst the three is most likely to crack the 40-man roster if the Twins need a third catcher come Opening Day?

Chance Sisco

Sisco is the least likely of the three to become Minnesota’s third catcher. He has the least major league service time among these three at 3.009 years. Sisco was in the Twins system briefly for 10 games with the St. Paul Saints in 2022, but the Saints shut him down for the season in May due to a left knee strain.

The Twins didn’t sign him for his hitting abilities. In Sisco’s last two seasons between the majors and minors, he has barely hit above .200 or posted an OPS above the .650 mark. Furthermore, Baseball Savant has tracked Sisco’s numbers in the majors, and nothing positive stands out. His pop time up throwing out runners from behind the plate to second base averages in the lower threshold of Major League catchers at 2.08 in 2021. Sisco is not a great pitch framer, either. He’s never averaged catch-framing runs above 0 in his career.

Sisco will probably spend most of the season in St. Paul. The best-case scenario for him is to get back into healthy playing form after hitting .194 in 10 games for the 2022 season.

Grayson Greiner

Next, there’s Greiner, who spent the 2022 season with the Arizona Diamondbacks organization after being a part of the Detroit Tigers system for eight years. His total MLB service time is only slightly higher than Sisco’s at 3.046 years.

Greiner spent a brief amount of time on Arizona’s 26-man roster in May 2022. He played in only two games before spending the rest of the season at Triple-A. However, Greiner’s Triple-A hitting numbers with the Reno Aces were not terrible for a third-string catcher. He had a .232/.318/.391 slash line with a .708 OPS in 45 games (170 plate appearances).

With his Statcast statistics behind the plate, Greiner fares much better than Sisco with a slightly above-average pop time to second of 1.96. He has also had positive numbers in catcher framing runs above 0 in his career.

The 6’6” catcher from South Carolina has appeared in a couple of Spring Training games so far. He’s making a case to show up on the 40-man at some point during the season as he may have the best hitting abilities of all three of these catchers.

Tony Wolters

Finally, there’s Wolters. Like Greiner, Wolters only played only two games in the majors with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2022. However, Wolters is Minnesota’s only depth catcher on the 40-man roster who has been an everyday major league catcher.  However, Wolters only had two seasons in an everyday role with the Colorado Rockies in 2019 and 2020. His service time has accumulated to 5.040 since debuting with Colorado in 2016.

Wolters has the best career defensive metrics among the group. He averages a pop time to second around 1.97 and had a career-high in catcher framing runs (8) in 2018.

Per Baseball Savant, his defensive numbers have been on the decline since 2019. However, it’s a limited sample size, and therefore less illustrative than it would be for more tenured players.

Like Sandy Leon, Wolters’ strength is catching, not hitting. However, the most well-known moment in Wolters’ career was his game-winning hit in the 2018 N.L. Wild Card game, which gave the Rockies the 2-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs. Still, Wolters has never had power in his bat at any level of professional baseball. He only has eight career home runs, which was at High-A in 2012.

Wolters spent some time in the Dominican League Winter League this off-season to get extra repetitions behind the plate. He only had three hits, one triple, in 29 plate appearances, but his time catching was not bad playing behind the plate in nine of his time games. Wolters did throw out two of three runners in stolen base attempts.

The early consensus out of camp is that Wolters is the favorite out of the three to be the third-string catcher behind Jeffers and Vazquez. Greiner and Wolters are better hitters than Wolters has been in his career. But when the time comes, he will be used more so as a defensive replacement than his bat.

Wolters has had the most time working in spring training games with the Twins rotation regulars such as Kenta Maeda and Joe Ryan so far.

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