MINNEAPOLIS—He's a catcher by conversion, which isn't the easiest way to learn the subtleties of the position. So the Twins questioned whether Chris Herrmann's arm was up to the task when they drafted him in the sixth round of the 2009 draft out of Miami.
"He's got a better arm than we thought, and it's gotten better the more he's played," vice president of player personnel Mike Radcliff said. Herrmann threw out 22 of 58 basestealers (36 percent) in 2011, which was all the convincing the Twins needed.
"He's always been able to hit, but the way he's coming along behind the plate, that's the exciting part for us."
Well, the offensive part is exciting, too. Herrmann carries a .361 on-base percentage through three minor league seasons, and in 2011 he recorded more walks (79) than strikeouts (74). That prompted the Twins to experiment with batting their lefty-hitting catcher in the leadoff or second spot in the order for Double-A New Britain.
After wrapping up a .269/.385/.399 regular season, the 24-year-old opened the Arizona Fall League season with 12 hits, six walks and a .953 OPS in his first 11 games for Mesa.
"He's a line-drive guy, not really an impact power bat—but he's great at pitch recognition," Radcliff said. "He projects with some gap power, probably a lot of doubles."
The Twins don't have the organizational catching depth to cover for another injury to Joe Mauer, who made just 47 starts behind the plate in 2011. Minnesota received a major league-worst .185/.250/.259 battling line from its catchers—primarily Drew Butera and Rene Rivera in Mauer's absence. That's why Herrmann's development, after playing mostly the corner infield and outfield positions as an amateur, intrigues the Twins so much.
"He's arguably the best catching prospect we have," Radcliff said. "He's still got plenty to work on—game management, calling pitches, leadership—but he's working on them. He's getting used to the physical part of catching, too, the rigors of bending down."
• Second baseman/left fielder Derek McCallum, a fourth-round pick in 2009 from Minnesota, was one of a dozen minor leaguers released by the Twins in late October. The 23-year-old batted .215/.295/.302 in three seasons.
• The Twins removed six players from the 40-man roster, and five of them—Rivera, lefthander Phil Dumatrait, outfielder Jason Repko and second basemen Brian Dinkelman and Matt Tolbert—elected free agency rather than accept assignments to Triple-A Rochester.