The Twins entered play Friday with the majors’ most home runs, second-best wRC+ and third-most runs, all of which helps explain their 62-40 record and two-game lead in the American League Central. The likes of Nelson Cruz (who swatted three homers Thursday), Jorge Polanco and Max Kepler are among Twins position players who get the lion’s share of attention, but there’s a case that a little-known catcher has been their premier offensive contributor on a per-plate appearance basis this season. That backstop didn’t join the Twins as a high draft pick, nor was he an elite prospect coming through their system.
The Twins selected Mitch Garver out of the University of New Mexico in the ninth round of the 2013 draft. At his best, Garver rose to a 17th-place rating in Minnesota’s farm, according to Baseball America, which placed him there after the 2016 season. Back then, BA described Garver as a “steady offensive player” with questionable (albeit improving) defense.
Garver debuted in the majors in 2017, though he only collected 52 plate appearances, before turning into a regular option last year. He was a fine offensive performer then, slashing .268/.335/.414 (102 wRC+) with seven home runs in 335 trips to the plate, but Garver was simultaneously among the worst defensive backstops in baseball. One year later, though, Garver has quietly evolved into one of the sport’s top all-around catchers.
Sharing time with fellow 2019 standout Jason Castro, the 28-year-old Garver has batted a phenomenal .291/.378/.646 with a prodigious 19 homers in just 217 PA. Among hitters who have amassed 200 or more PA this season, Garver ranks fourth in wRC+ (162). Who’s ahead of him? The MVP-caliber group of Mike Trout, Christian Yelich and Cody Bellinger. Meanwhile, Garver has totaled 2.6 fWAR, which ranks fourth at his position behind Yasmani Grandal, J.T. Realmuto and Christian Vazquez.