Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Company You Keep


No sense burying the lede here: I'm legitimately concerned about J.P. Arencibia. I fear his offense might not be what we would consider "acceptable." Not for anything he has or hasn't done, it is just the nature of the beast.

This doesn't have anything to do with his piss-poor spring, either. I really don't care that he has 3 hits (but 5 walks!) in 35 plate appearances. Spring is spring. Whatever. I am seriously concerned he won't contribute anything in 2011 and very little at any point down the road.

His offensive profile is a little scary: boom or bust with patience only showing up during his most recent season at AAA. Not unusual for catchers but I don't get the sense that is what Jays fans expect.

Catching is hard, this we know. Catchers who can hit are rare, we know this too. Look at some of the other Catchers of the Future who posted much better numbers in the minors only to fizzle at the big league level.

You may remember Taylor Teagarden as the guy who ruined your 2009 fantasy team. Teagarden put up similar minor league numbers to Aaron Cibia before making a huge splash during a September call-up. His offense never materialized so he's a backup for life. Jarrod Saltalamaccia was a prized prospect now onto his third organization. Now he's just another player with solid numbers through the minors left to fight for every at bat as he's yet to produce in the show.

Even Matt freaking Wieters hasn't lined up his minor league numbers with big league production. Matt Wieters!

The cause of the Cibians isn't entirely without hope. Brian McCann posted less than stellar (though still respectable) minor league numbers and continued improving as he reached the big leagues. He, of course, made his big league d├ębut at age 21 after toughing it out in the pitcher-friendly Sally League. J.P Arencibia just turned 25, a full 2 years older than Travis Snider. The smart money is on most of his development being already, um, developed.

Any temptation to compare J.P. Arencibia to Buster Posey is laughable as Buster Posey is a demigod mixed with a superhero mixed with Jesus.

Look, I don't mean to piss on Aaron Cibia. I'm sure he will provide enjoyable power numbers coupled with some unsightly strikeout/contact/outmaking numbers. The marketing arm of the team wisely put him out front this offseason as he's good looking and "well spoken." Expecting him to put up numbers similar to his MVP season in Vegas just isn't fair. In a perfect world his play will match his marketability but I just don't see it that way. I hope I'm wrong.

Surely the focus this season won't be his offense. Will hear a lot about his ability to "handle the pitching staff" and how the team just wants him to feel comfortable behind the plate. Which, to an extent, is important. Not, apparently, as important as giving a good target. Hey, it's Spring Training for us all.



Image courtesy of Reuters via Daylife.

11 comments:

  1. Didn't everybody say the exact opposite about Cibia last year? "The kid can hit, but he can't handle the pitchers for shit!"

    I'm hoping that everybody's right and everybody's wrong and he can both hit and catch. But I'm also hoping I win the lottery.

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  2. No joke, that's an amazing comment.

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  3. Seems like with all of the tremendous work he's been putting in behind the plate we keep hearing about, he'd start putting up that target. Why hasn't he? At least show the pocket. Why isn't his glove a different colour than his chest protector? Seems like a simple fix.

    But what concerns me most is where he puts his right hand when receiving a pitch. It's right beside the glove. Just ask Gregg Zaun what a foul tip can do to an unprotected throwing hand.

    Look at this video 0:29. Black glove, black protector, throwing hand all set to take a foul tip:
    http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=13107281&topic_id=16703974&c_id=tor

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  4. Actually, in general, why not make the gloves a super-visible colour, like neon yellow or something? There have been hockey studies on how the colour of goalie pads affects the shooter. Presumably a catcher's mitt would do the same thing.

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  5. At the risk of overstating the importance of a good target, I wonder if the coloured target has the same impact on a pitcher who is staring at it intently versus an offensive hockey winger streaking in off the wing. At a glance, if it looks like ice, maybe you're more likely to shoot for it. But when everyone is stationary perhaps the value is lost.

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  6. We may see Jeroloman some time soon. I still hope that JPA can contribute, thou, and a platoon with Jeroloman would be ideal, for a couple seasons at least.

    I expect ~ .220/.280/.450/.730 with 15-20 HR from JPA. But if his SLG doesn't play, Jeroloman could be worthy of a shot. If he can sustain good OBP in MLB, that may supercede JPA's SLG. His defence is better, as well.

    The one positive about this all, IMO, is that we have so many good looking catchers coming. But, I think I've also seen that movie before...

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  7. I maintain that Jerolman could be a John Jaso type.

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  8. The funny thing is that I suspect that the colouring on his chest protector (the white lines) are actually supposed to help create the target, so maybe that's how it is being addressed.

    I'm prepared to let the kid learn how to catch a big league staff with the Crouching Molina Brother looking over his shoulder, and let him hit post a .680 OPS with 8 homers this year, if that's what it takes.

    Also: My all-time favorite catcher of the future was J.D. Closser, who was a BEAST in MLB 2K. And look at his PCL numbers, and you'd figure that he would have played a game here or there in the bigs since 2006.

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  9. Why worry? Either he can hit (and catch) at the MLB level or he can't. If he can, great. If he can't, the team will have to find another John Buck/Gregg Zaun type... there seems to be a few around to choose from, every offseason.

    It's not like the team will be contending next season, so they might as well find out whether JPA can play in the bigs, the same way they're going to find out about Lind's defense at first.

    (It would have been nice, though, if the discovery process had started in 2010. Thanks again, Cito.)

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  10. But Roberto - It was Cito's job to get John Buck to the mythical 20 homerun plateau. Otherwise, he would be making the league minimum as a 19-homerun hitting catcher.

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  11. It's nice to see some Aaron Cibia realists here. Everyone one I know I try to talk baseball with thinks this guy is going to be the next Johnny Bench...... I have always like the reviews on Jerolomans game. What it comes down to is D'arnaud the kid is going to to be the guy his defense is there and his bat has been coming along. JPA is gone by 2014 in my eyes.

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