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Monday, June 4, 2012

Interview with Twins' Catching Prospect Chris Herrmann

Chris Herrmann (courtesy of Tia Ann Chapman, Hartford Courant)
The Minnesota Twins used their sixth round selection in 2009 to draft Chris Herrmann, a native of Tomball, Texas. Herrmann transferred from Alvin Community College to the University of Miami. He had been drafted in the tenth round of the 2008 draft by the Baltimore Orioles, but did not sign. Herrmann is in his fourth season in the Twins' minor league system, currently playing for the Rock Cats. He is the team's starting catcher, but also plays left field and serves as designated hitter.

His ascension through the minor league system has been steady. He played 59 games for Elizabethton in 2009, played the entire 2010 season in Ft. Myers, and started 2011 in Ft. Myers but quickly was promoted to the Rock Cats. Last season, Herrmann batted .258/.380/.392 for New Britain, with 14 doubles and 7 home runs. So far in 2012, Herrmann is hitting .253/.309/.405 with 14 doubles and 5 home runs. As you can see, although the on-base percentage is lower, Herrmann is hitting for more power this season (the exchange of more power for fewer walks is interesting to note). He has thrown out 36 percent of base-stealers this season, and has yet to commit an error. This is notable because he has played 33 games at catcher, 11 in left field, and 1 at third base.

As I have recently mentioned, I believe that Herrmann is a candidate for promotion this season. Aside from the pitchers that the Rock Cats have sent up to Rochester this season, there haven't been many standout position players worthy of promotion. My guess is that Herrmann will probably be the first. If he can get that batting average and on-base percentage up just a little bit, I would not be at all surprised to see him in a Twins uniform this September. He's 24, he is hitting for more power this season, and he is a good catcher. Also -- and just as importantly -- there's not much depth behind Joe Mauer. Drew Butera, Rene Rivera and J.R. Towles certainly should not stand in Herrmann's way. In the best case scenario, I believe that Herrmann can take the place of Ryan Doumit next season, for about 15 percent of Doumit's salary, and make a positive difference for the Twins. Herrmann's emergence in Minnesota next season also would solve the Drew Butera problem. Finally, Herrmann is also useful because he has the ability to play the outfield when necessary, and is not a defensive liability in left field. Yes, he's not a perfect prospect, but looking at the Twins' catching depth chart, he might already be second in the entire organization. Herrmann would be a very good part-time catcher in 2013, and it's not tough to think that he could be a good full-time catcher in a couple years if Mauer makes a move to another position in order to save his knees. Before Saturday's game, Herrmann was kind enough to sit down and chat with me for a few minutes in the New Britain Stadium dugout.

Q: You're from Texas originally, so who did you watch growing up -- what were your favorite teams and players?

A: I'm from the Houston area, so growing up I always just watched the Houston Astros play, caught a few games. Got to watch them live, so that was fun. Also was a Rangers fan, liked them a lot too. Now I am Twins [fan], so that's the main team I'm focusing on and watching all the time.

I definitely looked up to [Ivan] Pudge Rodriguez a lot, especially when he was with the Rangers. I just grew up watching him -- always had his mitts. He was kind of my idol growing up.

Q: If you had to use one word to describe life in the minor leagues, what would it be?

A: Tough.

You know, we don't get paid a whole lot, our living situations aren't always great, you know it's just something you have to battle. It's hard when you have 3 or 4 roommates, you don't really get much personal time. So, it's fun, but it's tough at the same time.

Q: How do you like being in the Twins organization?

A: It's great. Everybody in the staff are good guys, and they treat you good, and I'm having a lot of fun here right now.

Q: Have you been to Minnesota?

A: Yea, my first time was Twinsfest this year, so I got to check out the Metrodome and saw a little bit of Target Field. But other than that it was cold, which I'm not really used to being from Texas. Overall it was a good experience.

Q: Last week you had consecutive games with 4 hits. Was that a first for you as a professional? [Note: in those 2 games, Herrmann was 8-for-9 with 2 doubles]

A: There's been a few times where I've gotten 4 hits in a game, but there's never been a time where I got 4 hits in back-to-back games. [Laughs.] You don't ever really see that coming.

Q: Did you feel more dialed-in, or do you think it was just a mix of making good contact and the usual luck that goes along with hitting?

A: I was definitely dialed in, and I had a few balls that I got lucky on, so that helped!

Q: Is it ever tough to focus on the day-to-day stuff. You're 1 or 2 steps away from getting the call. I can imagine you have to focus on the day-to-day stuff to get your job done, but how much do you look to the future?

A: Yea, when things are going good you tend to look to the future a little bit. I really don't like to do that too much, cause, like you said, we have to focus on our day-to-day stuff. I'm here right now so that's what I need to focus on to get to the next level.

Q: I know you've been in big league camp at Spring Training Have you talked to any of the Twins players like Joe Mauer or Justin Morneau?

A: In big league camp I got to spend a little time talking to Joe about catching stuff. He's a nice guy -- kind of keeps to himself. I talked to some other guys, too. They all treat you like you're part of the team, which is great. I hear that some organizations aren't really like that.

Q: How do you like living in Connecticut?

A: Ahh . . . it's ok. The weather's not too great. There's been a lot of rain. I feel like we had a lot better weather last year. With the rain, it's tough --- we can't get much [work] done before the game.

Q: Last question: when you close your eyes and think about it, where do you see yourself in 2 years?

A: Hopefully I'll be in the bigs by then. Obviously I gotta keep working hard. Nothing's going to get handed to me, so I have to prove myself ready for the big leagues in 2 years. That's my main goal -- keep working hard and proving to the staff and the managers that I'll be ready to go by then.

Herrmann was extremely kind, very down-to-earth, and just seemed like a nice guy. Easy to root for. I'm hoping to interview a couple other players before the season is over. I want to thank the Rock Cats, especially Jeff Dooley and Patrick O'Sullivan, for arranging this for me, and of course Chris himself, for taking a little time during what is a really busy pre-game schedule that the players are kept on.

1 comment:

  1. This was pretty cool! Congrats on making that happen. Seems like a good guy.