Written by Mark Firkins Photo by MLBpipeline.com
It’s often said that the easiest path to the Majors is being a decent hitting, defensive minded catcher. Ask any ballplayer and they will all tell you, there is no easy path. Hard work, dedication, patience, a willingness to learn, passion, sacrifice, perhaps a lucky break and a willingness to learn some more are the real reasons. Mitch Garver, the Minnesota Twins number 23 prospect, seems to fit that description perfectly.
A true blue chip prospect, Mitch was drafted in the 9th round out of the University of New Mexico in 2013. Garver has climbed the organizational ladder in perfect progression. Starting at rookie Elizabethton in the Appalachian League in 2013, he has advanced to Cedar Rapids (Midwest League 2014), Fort Myers (Florida State League 2015), Chattanooga (Southern League 2016), Rochester (International League 2017) and earned his cup of coffee at Minnesota late in the 2017 season.
A catcher by trade, and most likely where his future lies, Garver has also filled the roles of 1st Base, Left Field, and with a .271 career batting average, DH on occasion.
As a catcher, Garver certainly has the tools to be behind the plate every day. He commits few errors, manages the pitching staff admirably, and has an accurate arm, throwing out 31% of runners at AAA this past season and 36% over his MiLB career thus far.
On the offensive side, Mitch had a career year at the plate. In 88 games for the Rochester Red Wings he batted .291 along with 17 HR and 45 RBI. A very disciplined hitter who grinds out at bats and has a keen eye, as shown by his 50 BB this season and 249 over his 5 years in the Twins farm system. Though traditionally a pull hitter, he fine tuned his approach this past season and learned to go opposite way more frequently without losing any power.
Garver made his MLB debut on August 18th and played sparingly in 23 games, behind established starting catcher Jason Castro and veteran backup Chris Gimenez. Following a similar pattern like he did in Rochester, he played catcher, 1st base, LF and DH. In 46 AB he batted .196, with one double, 3 triples, and 6 BB.
Mitch was honored with International League Player of the Week in July 2017, and deservedly so. On July 9, 2017, on the aptly titled Superhero day, Garver marveled the Rochester crowd, slugging three HR in one game, a Frontier Field record. While the HRs were impressive and a sight to see, it was Mitch’s impersonation of perhaps Superman that day in his 1st at bat. The exit velocity on that HR was 109 mph. To put that in perspective, Aaron Judge (Yankees), this year’s Rookie of the Year and American League HR leader, averaged 97.2 mph exit velocity on his home runs..
On October 18th Garver was awarded the Minnesota Twins Player of the Year. Honored with the Sherry Robertson Award, Garver will return to Target Field in Minneapolis on January 18 for the BBWAA diamonds award dinner with the hopes of staying there.
Veteran backup catcher Chris Gimenez has elected for free agency. Jason Castro is signed through the 2019 season and proven himself a reliable and durable backstop who’s fair with the bat. It would only make sense that decent hitting, defensive minded Mitch Garver’s path to a steady role with the Twins has arrived.