Will Joe Mauer move to first base in 2014? If he does, the Twins will need other options behind the plate, and it looks like they have one right now with rookie backstop Josmil Pinto.
I first mentioned Pinto back in April when he got off to a good start in Double-A. This is what I wrote about him in my book this year:
Signed by the Twins out of Venezuela in 2006, Pinto had a big year in the Appy League in 2009 (.332/.387/.610 for Elizabethton) but struggled with injuries and defensive problems in '10 and '11. 2012 was better: he showed impressive power in the Florida State League, and remained hot after a late promotion to Double-A. Pinto has legitimate sock in his bat, but scouts don't like his body and he spends a lot of time at DH. Interestingly, his actual defensive stats are pretty good: he threw out 38% of runners last year with low error and passed ball rates. Scouting reports remain unenthusiastic and he turns 24 in March, but Pinto hits enough that we need to pay attention. Grade C.
Overall, Pinto hit .295/.362/.482 in 2012 between High-A and Double-A, but as noted the scouting reports were still lukewarm at best heading into spring training.
In April I noted that Pinto had lost weight, down to 210 from his previously listed 230. This has improved his mobility and quickened up his defense. The most recent reports rate him as an average defender instead of a future DH/guy with no position. Ironically, while the scouting reports are better now, he actually wasn't as effective against baserunners this year, throwing out 28%.
Still, even an average glove behind the plate is just fine if he hits enough. And at this point, it looks like Pinto can hit. He followed up his strong 2012 numbers with a .309/.400/.482 line in 2013, combined between Double-A and Triple-A, with 32 doubles, 15 homers, and 66 walks in 126 games. Obviously we can't expect him to keep hitting .700 in the majors, but Pinto has maintained a good combination of pop and plate discipline for two years now.
Pinto wasn't a big budget signee and it took him six years to work his way through the farm system. He still hasn't received much attention outside of Twins circles, but the track record speaks for itself. If he can hit .260/.330/.400 with reasonably adequate defense, he would take a lot of pressure off Mauer.