Andrew Bechtold Tries A New Position In AFL
The Twins drafted third baseman Andrew Bechtold in 2017 with high expectations about his hitting ability that were admittedly optimistic.
Four so-so years later, they sent Bechtold to the Arizona Fall League with instructions to take a step back.
Well, a step and a half back. And into a crouch.
“Some of our guys think he can be a catcher,” Twins farm director Alex Hassan said. “When you look at his attributes, he kind of stands out. So yep, we’re trying it.”
Those attributes were supposed to carry Bechtold to the big leagues on the strength of a high on-base percentage. While that ability has mostly shown up—Bechtold, who grew up in suburban Philadelphia, owns a .343 OBP in the minors—his power developed slowly.
His 18 home runs at Double-A Wichita this season more than doubled his career total, and at age 25, his career path seemed uncertain.
But some scouts in the organization envisioned a new route: Catching.
“Andrew had a lot of characteristics that make you think he can handle it,” Hassan said. “Having the hands to do it. The intelligence to play the position and think through the game with your pitcher. Physically being able to hold up. It made sense to us.”
He had never played the position as a professional or collegian until this season, so the transition is still in its infancy. But the Twins have a history of experimenting with position changes in the AFL. For example, they memorably challenged outfielder Max Kepler to play first base in Arizona in 2014, but the experiment didn’t take.
While it's too early to evaluate Bechtold's catcher potential, Hassan and the Twins like another effect that the move might have.
“The offensive bar at catcher is certainly lower than at first or third base, so if you can do it defensively, it takes pressure off your bat,” Hassan said. “And just adding that versatility is a plus for your team. Austin Barnes was a converted infielder, Russell Martin, too.
"It’s a challenge, no doubt, but so far we like what we’ve seen.”
— The Twins lost one of their hardest-throwing pitching prospects when righthander Edwar Colina, a 24-year-old Venezuelan who missed the entire 2021 season after having a debridement of his pitching elbow, was claimed on waivers by the Rangers.