The CBA has been signed, so it’s time for transactions, folks!
We’ve acquired C Mitch Garver from the Twins in exchange for INF Isiah Kiner-Falefa & RHP Ronny Henriquez. pic.twitter.com/S5OD9YZMvI
— Texas Rangers (@Rangers) March 12, 2022
Nice that we started off with a pretty straight-up trade, in terms of where everybody involved fits in on the new teams. Texas traded for Garver because they want a starting catcher. Minnesota traded for Kiner-Falefa because they wanted a starting shortstop. Henriquez is 21, throws a mid-90s FB, a killer split-change, and potentially a slurve.
GarvSauce has been A Guy on seemingly every fantasy analyst’s radar for years now, even following a very bad 2020 (but hey, a lot of us had a bad 2020 so we can’t be too harsh) but it’s not hard to see why. Our very own Justin Dunbar did a writeup on him coming into the season back in February, and to sum it up, the upside is that Garver hits the ball very hard, he pulls the ball, and he hits the ball in the air. That’s a very good combo when it comes to power, and Garver has definitely come through on that front in 2019 and 2021, with a .357 and .261 ISO for those years respectively. He’s a catcher who puts up comfortably above-average wRC+ numbers hitting in what has been a pretty potent lineup the last few years up in Minneapolis.
But of course, he’s not in Minneapolis anymore, so what’s changing? Well, not much on the power front. That strong pull tendency means Garver doesn’t hit many cheapies, and you can see that even in the new, funky dimensions of his home park, his HR output shouldn’t run into any issues (note these are career HRs, not just 2021):
The Rangers are clearly trying to build a contending team, and while the roster is looking top-heavy right now, Garver will almost assuredly be hitting near the top of the order with Corey Seager and Marcus Semien. This move also erases by far the biggest concern for Garver going into the 2022 season: playing time. The Twins clearly saw him as their starting C, but still split time between him and Ryan Jeffers. In Texas, he’ll just be competing with Jose Trevino and Jonah Heim, who have so far been all-glove, no-bat, and shouldn’t do much to force the issue of Garver getting the lion’s share of starting time at C. He’s currently sitting at an ADP between 170-185 (All ADPs are pulled from a combo of FG and NFC), making him roughly C9/10, and I can definitely see that jumping up. Depending on league format, I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up closer to the 100ish ADP (C5/6 range) you’re seeing for guys like Willson Contreras and Yasmani Grandal. He’s projected to be Top 10 at the position in everything except for AVG with more playing time and less volatility than some of the guys ahead of him.
Jeffers obviously isn’t going anywhere, but he’s right there with Garver in terms of an outlook change. He’s a lot like Garver in a power-first, pull-heavy, keep-it-off-the-ground approach, although not to the same extent in either Pull% or FB% that Garver has shown. Jeffers has sped through the Twins’ system, with his longest stop at any MiLB level being 79 games at high-A in 2019 (a year he also ended up playing 24 games in AA) before making his MLB debut in 2020. He’s totaled roughly a third of the big league plate appearances as Garver has, but he has posted a superior barrel rate, at 14.4% versus Garver’s 11%, although a big caveat emptor here as the sample sizes are very different, and Garver’s 15% and 17.4% marks in 2019 and 2021 handily beat anything from Jeffers. But we are talking about a guy who only graduated from prospect status last season, so that type of thing is to be expected.
In terms of the 2022 season, Jeffers looks to get an even bigger playing time boost than Garver, as he’ll be going from backup to starter. There was at least partially a mood during 2020 and even going into the 2021 season that the Twins may have made him the primary catcher, so it’s not shocking that they would make a trade to make that happen, although even with the playing time question pushed aside, there’s still one huge issue looming over Jeffers: his strikeouts. He’s got a career 35.8% K-rate in his MLB time, and he clearly struggled against breaking stuff last year. We are still talking about fantasy catchers here, though, so even an elevated strikeout rate doesn’t mean Jeffers doesn’t have a role to play on your roster, but it definitely limits his ceiling. A simple comp here is Mike Zunino, who has a career 34.6% strikeout rate to go with a 7% walk rate, but produces by simply turning a ridiculous amount of the balls he does hit into home runs. For Jeffers to follow in that line, he will have to up his FB%, but the power is definitely there to make it happen. Jeffers is also still only 25, and although his prospect reports emphasize his power over a raw hitting ability, it would be foolish to say he’s a totally finished product. There’s also nobody on the Twins roster currently who looks like they should challenge him at the position whatsoever.
Jeffers’ ADP is currently sitting well over 450 (C35+) and there is no way that sticks. He’s going to be a starting catcher which alone should be enough to jump him up the 200s. Given the obvious Zunino comp, I could easily see him settling around him the mid-200s along with similar all-or-nothing-but-has-the-job guy Gary Sánchez and the unremarkable-but-also-have-the-job names like Carson Kelly, Yadier Molina, and Sean Murphy (so, around C15-20ish.) I could also see him getting some of that “post-hype” helium talk depending on how he looks in ST, but in any case the K% downside has to be factored in.
I love IKF. I consider myself a connoisseur of “Weird Catchers” in fantasy, so he was absolutely My Guy when he first came up with the C eligibility, which seems kind of fitting given how many words I’ve already said about catchers before getting to him, but Kiner-Falefa is now firmly an IF in all but the most absurd eligibility-rules leagues, so we’ll talk about the now rather than the was. And honestly, the “now” for him is not terribly different than it was when he was a Ranger. He’s going from penciled in as starting 3B to starting SS, with time spent at other spots in both cases. Offensively, there’s not much to write home about. He’s put up below-average offensive numbers every year in the majors and hasn’t shown any power. However, he did steal 20 bases in 2021, which tops his total for the previous three seasons combined. Projections believe the steals will stay high in the coming season, so Kiner-Falefa is a name to have on your radar for that most fickle of offensive categories, even if he remains in the later rounds. His ADP currently sits around the low-300s, putting him outside the top 30 SS and I don’t really see much here that would change that. His overall eligibility isn’t changing, he’ll be hitting in a better lineup overall, but figures to be near the bottom of it, so that will likely end up as a wash regardless, and the change in home park shouldn’t matter, although his 2021 spray chart does feature a handful of balls out there in RF that may turn into base hits off the wall in Minnesota.
The biggest changes here may end up being knock-on effects on the rest of the Twins infield roster. Jorge Polanco is now locked in at 2B, which also doesn’t change his outlook much since he already has 2B/SS eligibility and is going off the board in the first 80 or so picks anyway. It does complicate things for Luis Arraez, although RosterResource currently has him as the DH and leadoff hitter, so even if he’s currently positionless it may make no difference on his plate appearances at the end of the day. It also puts another name on the depth chart in front of Jose Miranda at 3B, although he’s already on the 40-man and I would hope if Donaldson misses time at the hot corner that the Twins would let him rip rather than paper over the gap to continue to keep his service time clock at zero. Either way, we’re talking about bench stashes and/or dynasty here more than redraft starting decisions.
And speaking of dynasty, we come to the last name in the trade. Like I said in the intro, Henriquez comes to the Twins with a clear path to the bullpen this year, and is also already on the 40-man. Still, though, his fantasy relevance in the 2022 season is likely to be minimal at best. He’s going to be a lot of names away from high leverage work to start things off, and the Twins could just keep him in the minors and try to continue to develop him as a starter. That said, he’s consistently ranked well in the Texas lists, so maybe put him on the radar if you play dynasty. I will leave the real work on that front to the folks who know much more about this than I do.
So there you have it, a new CBA and some pretty big changes in the fantasy catching world, hot stove is cookin’!
Photos by Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)