Play the hot hand, right? That’s how the saying goes in baseball, and the Texas Rangers have a hot hand at catcher right now.
Jonah Heim has become a fan favorite early in this 2022 season for his production both at the plate and behind it. With the bat, Heim has a ridiculous 1.172 OPS and three home runs in 33 at-bats, while also rating favorably with his glove.
Meanwhile, Mitch Garver’s .585 OPS is half as good in nearly double the at-bats (74, to be exact). And that’s alarming, because Garver’s known for his bat. Heim, on the other hand, is not.
So the question of who should be the starting catcher for the Texas Rangers right now is essentially answered, right? In theory, yes. It’s criminal that Jonah Heim isn’t getting more regular at-bats. He’s also a switch-hitter, which is valuable regardless of how manager Chris Woodward likes to configure his lineups. And the critique of Heim’s ability to hit right-handed pitching? Not justified right now.
The Texas Rangers have a good problem with Jonah Heim and Mitch Garver both being quality catcher options
I get it: Garver was a big fish reeled in during the off-season, acquired from the Minnesota Twins for Isiah Kiner-Falefa and prospect Ronny Henriquez. And when you trade assets to acquire a player like Garver, whose bat is legit when he’s firing on all cylinders and is a solid defender, you’re expecting to play him consistently. But much to our pleasant surprise, Heim is enjoying something of a breakout at the moment, and that should be recognized.
At the same time, though, it’s not that simple. Suppose Heim cools down, which his career numbers indicate he will. Then suppose Garver heats up to numbers that align more with his career .817 OPS. What do the Texas Rangers do in that case? There’s no doubt that Garver should be trusted to hit at a more regular clip than Heim when it’s all said and done. The Rangers know that.
Texas also isn’t about to admit they screwed up on a trade of this caliber, let alone any trade. They’re going to keep finding ways to justify the move to acquire Garver, as they should. It’s a bad look for business if they don’t, after all. That isn’t to say that they couldn’t flip Garver down the line should Heim keep playing up to his current level, but for now, chalk this is up as a slow start for the veteran catcher and a hot start for Heim.
So what’s the conclusion here? Give Heim more playing time right now. He deserves it given the way he’s handling the bat. He should probably be starting almost every day in the interim, and Garver can DH. But as is prone to happen during a long season, numbers will find a way to regress back to their means. And thus, we might find ourselves having another Texas Rangers catcher conversation down the road.