You could pretty much say that about any player on any team at this point, seeing as Spring Training is in full swing, and reporters are full-on in justify-my-existence-to-my-employers mode, but there has been a wealth of stuff written about incumbent Jays starting catcher JP Arencibia over last week, and not all of it is terribly good– though it’s certainly not all bad, either.

Let’s have a quick review:

At FanGraphs they rolled out their firsta set of positional power rankings today, starting with backstops, placing the Jays Arencibia/Mathis duo in the bottom third, at number 21.

“The Blue Jays are in a tricky position as far as catchers go, as Arencibia is a starter with offensive limitations and d’Arnaud is the up-and-comer in need of some more minor league seasoning,” they write. “While Arencibia is certainly a useful starter, red flags are raised when no projection system thinks he is capable of OBP’ing over .300.”

They add that 2012 should be an interesting year of development at the position for the Jays, as Arencibia needs to take another step, both offensively and defensively, before he’s going to look like the long-term solution.

Specifically, on defense the refer to a prime piece of Ashby Bait, which is the inclusion of catcher pitch blocking stats– as based on some outstanding work from Bojan Koprivica at the Hardball Times- on the FanGraphs leaderboards, and Arencibia’s weak showing among his peers.

In RPP– a stat measuring the number of runs above or below average a catcher is at blocking pitches– Arencibia finished 34th out of 36 catchers with more than 500 innings caught in 2011, six runs below average.

But Arencibia insists that 2011 was just the beginning of his development as a big league catcher, and he’s confident that he can place himself among the best, if he isn’t there already, according to a Canadian Press article, as printed in the Globe and Mail.

“I see myself in it right now. I don’t care what anyone has to say,” he tells Noah Trister, referring to a TV in the clubhouse showing a program counting down the top ten catchers in the game. “Not a lot of catchers have done what I’ve done in my first year, and it’s only going to get better.”

“I would say defensively, you’ve got to learn your pitchers, you’ve got to learn the hitters in the league, so I think that’s the biggest adjustment,” Arencibia explained. “That experience — there’s nothing that takes the place of being able to have that experience. I think a year with the pitching staff, a year more around the league, is going to be beneficial.”

Back at FanGraphs, Bradley Woodrum wonders if maybe we’re got giving the 26-year-old enough credit– at least those of us who aren’t giving him anywhere fucking near the credit he gives himself.

“Not only has he shown some early promise, but he also comes with a solid pedigree,” Woodrum says, noting that Arencibia was the Jays’ number three prospect on the list Marc Hulet did for the site in 2011.

“A recent piece from Jeff Zimmerman (Effects of Intentional Walks on Non-Intentional Walks),” Woodrum writes, “got me thinking — with serious homerun power like Arencibia has, wouldn’t pitchers start tender-footing around him? Wouldn’t his 23 homer — if’n he can sustain that power in 2012 — encourage his walk rate to go up?”

He then takes a look at the rookies and second-year players since 1961 who hit more than 20 home runs while sporting a sub-.300 on-base, as Arencibia did. It’s a short and weak list– just ten players long, who averaged cumulatively a wRC+ of 96 for their career– and Arencibia is the only backstop among them.

“Since 1961, catchers have averaged an 88 wRC+, so 96 is actually 8 percentage points above the catcher average,” Woodrum later adds. But not before doing something perhaps more interesting: changing the criteria to, instead of rookies and second-year players, include simply all catchers who have posted 20 HR, sub-.300 OBP seasons. On this list, Arencibia suddenly finds himself in much better company.

Johnny Bench. Carlton Fisk. Gary Carter. Lance Parrish.

Obviously it’s a giant stretch to suggest that Hall of Fame heights are in store, but it certainly puts more of a shine on Arencibia’s offensive potential, doesn’t it? Expecting his OBP will at least improve somewhat on his rookie season, Woodrum points to his weakness for out-of-the-zone cutters and changeups, which he chased 38% and 39% of the time, respectively, in 2011, as the area where he most needs to improve.

“If he can master those changes and cutters — that is, just ignore them when they go flitting by for a ball — then he might somehow aspire to the heights of some of his more illustrious catching brethren. And then, no doubt, JPA would be cleared for takeoff.”

Of course, there’s no way anybody should be confused about the significance of picking out off-years of some of the greats (and Lance Parrish) and trying to read what their similarities tell us about what to expect from Arencibia. Still… those are the kinds of lists you want to see your young catcher on. And all the Arencibia-hopefuls will be quick to tell you, look at what he did the last time he repeated a level. Personally, I’ll believe he can do more when I see he can do more, but… fuck, it’s spring! How can you not at least be a little bit hopeful?

Comments (25)

  1. Nice post

  2. I’ve never heard this point raised in the past, but if D’Arnaud is as good as advertised and JP’s bat continues to get better, what about the idea of JP moving to first base next year. This is assuming that Adam Lind is going to continue to suck as so many people have suggested. This way we get to keep JP’s bat in the lineup (if it continues to get better) and allows D’Arnaud (or the second coming of Jesus) to take over behind the plate. Seems like a win-win to me.

  3. I still think if he’s healthy for a full year you’ll see nice increases in all facets of his game this coming season.  Hand injuries like he had last year tend to be more nagging and being a catcher it’s going to bother him more on defense than say an outfielder. Just my opinion of course but I’m betting he finishes the year with at least a .315 obp and a .46oish slg line.

  4. dont forget though we expect to have votto at first by the time d’arnaud is ready

  5. 1. Some people bend over backwards to find stats and rankings to make an argument. Let’s face it- Arencibia had some nice stats is some regards, and some awful stats in others.
    2. JPA has a lot of raw power and is YOUNG. Let’s just sit back and enjoy the ride. Until Travis d’Arnaud arrives, of course.

  6. The bar for offensive output is so much higher at first. The median OBP among qualified first baseman was (roughly– I’m just counting on the FanGraphs leaderboards, not calculating… or… wait, that’s what a median is, right?) around .346 in 2011. And for wRC+ it was about 120.

    At .282 and 92 last year, JP has a LOOOOONG way to go just to get to average for a first baseman.

  7. Keep dreaming

  8. This is true. Just being hopeful that JP is a star on the rise. Wouldn’t make the move unless JP’s numbers warranted it.

  9. doesnt anyone think JPA’s .255 BABIP might go up (and therefore his BA and OBP with it)?? he wasn’t exactly awful at taking walks, just a tick below average according to fangraphs (mlb avg = 8.1%, JPA = 7.4%)

  10. He’ll improve, almost certainly. Enough to ever be even an average 1B? Not impossible, but it would be impressive. And even then, he’s just an average 1B.

    But he’s certainly not going to be so bad that they’re dying to get d’Arnaud up here. He can definitely be better than he showed.

  11. yea for sure, i dont think he has much of a chance at 1B  at all for the long term, he pretty much profiles as the 201o-11 version of adam lind, which everyone is pretty much sick of by now. 

  12. Moving him to 1B not only doesn’t solve our 1B problem but lowers his value considerably, as stoets said above, his ceiling would an average 1B,  he’d basically be Trumbo.

    With a catcher shortage across the league, he’d be a nice piece to dangle when d’Arnaud is ready to be a full time player.  Teams would kill for a young, controllable catcher with power.

  13. If D’arnaud does push JPA out the door, and this is not a given by any means, and JPA simply makes minor improvements (i.e. a slightly higher BABIP and walk rate, a little better defense), he’s gonna be worth quite a bit in trade.

    Maybe this past offseason JPA is merely one piece needed to get a pitcher like Latos/Pineda. Next year he could be worth enough by himself to get that type of pitcher, if people believe he can stick at catcher of course.

    Assuming the reports about AA’s interest in Latos were true, I wonder what the value of JPA/D’arnaud was in relation to Grandal. Presumably D’arnaud was worth more than Grandal, but was JPA?

    Was/is JPA worth more in trade than D’arnaud considering he has a full year in the majors under his belt and D’arnaud is merely a top prospect? Was AA unwilling to part with JPA and D’arnaud because he feels both will be worth more a year from now?

    The rosterbation continues.

  14. It’s easy to say because D’Arnaud hasn’t played a game in the bigs yet, but I think the fact that he appears to be a top notch defensive and offensive catcher makes his value stand a little bit above JP’s. It can all change so fast though, if JP can start walking more, hit for average a little better, raise his OBP, and manage to call a good game and play relatively well defenisvely then he is more valuable purely because he has actually acomplished this in the majors.

    Drabek looked like a sure thing (and was worth more than DArnaud at a point) but that fell off the table a little bit, although he can easily turn it around like Romero did.  Its impossible to gauge exactly what a prospect is worth but DArnaud is perhaps the closest thing to a sure thing we have in the system.


    Anybody else alarmed by this? Specifically, the following: 

    Like his Cardinals predecessor of 12 to 15 years ago, J.D. Drew, Rasmus seems to have little desire to be a great player.
    “I guess I don’t want the responsibility of being one,” Rasmus said. “I’d rather just be a man on the team.”
    It’s obvious that our friend here isn’t the most articulate orator around, but buddy needs to be more aware. And probably needs to stop answering questions from anyone from St. Louis.

  16. Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill.  Nothing wrong with Rasmus seeing himself as just one of the guys on the team, and not the second coming.  Much like the Snider in Toronto, Rasmus was a highly touted prospect.  He had some success and has since struggled.  I think if we let him play and not put any pressure on him, he might ease up and play like he is capable of. 

    LaRussa is a world class asshole manager.  Just ask Scott Rolen.

    Besides, Rasmus went mud riding this offseason.  He’s good to go!

  17. I don’t know why some people are panicking and want to trade away players just because we have an emerging minor league system.   Let d’Arnaud play in AAA and let him rake.  And if JPA improves his offensive output and demonstrates a better defensive game, then fuck yeah.  Its a good problem to have.  The Jays will be stacked in the catching department.  But in order to build value for each player, they both need to play everyday. 

    Same goes for Thames and Snider.  Both need to play everyday.  Only one will play in AAA and the other will play in Vegas.  Again, its a good problem to have.

    AA is all about value.  He won’t do jack shit until he can max the value of each player in a trade scenario.  The time is not now.

  18. One will play in Toronto and the other in AAA is what I meant.  I had too much Vegas on my mind.

  19. Just to add.  One of the strengths manager John Farrell has is how to deal with his players.  For one thing, he is not bound with juvenile edicts about drinking beer and issuing stupid rules about facial hair.  More importantly, he knows how to deal with different personalities.  He’ll know how to deal with Rasmus. 

    With LaRussa, it was his way or the highway.  Farrell can set the foot down when he needs to, but he isn’t so narrow-minded.

  20. i’ll keep this simple for you guys, and i apologize in advance if my rational is a little too Crash Davis for some, but here goes……

    if jpa can have can slug the same as last year ( 50 singles, 20 doubles, 4 triples, and 23 hr in 486 PA’s ) which isn’t unreasonable to project/expect, then all he has to do is add one base on balls per week. so one additional walk for every 20 to 25 PA’s over the given 4 to 5 games played per week. 

    so what would that result in?, we’d be looking at on obp of .335 and slugging of .465 for a delightful ops of .800 out of the catcher position. 

    as much as i am intrigued by defensive metics, in the case of a developing catcher i’d rather go by alan ashby’s assessment which complimented jpa’s defence as much improved as the season went on. 

    so in summation, a young catcher who is average defensively, but is improving, who is one base on balls a week from having an ops of .800. sign me the fuck up.

    book it!

  21. I like JPA.  I think I’d be perfectly happy with him as ‘catcher of the future’…. if we didn’t have a guy like D’Arnaud RIGHT behind him.  Which is to say, its entirely possible we’re undervaluing JPA while overvaluing a guy who hasn’t taken a big league cut yet.

    There’s lots of time to let this play out, but I wouldn’t be surprised or sad if JPA was used as a trade chip down the line.   A C who hits 20 HRs is a valuable commodity (see:  Buck, John). Conversely, I think if AA decided that JPA’s rapport with the team was important, and wanted to use D’Arnaud as the trade bait in a major trade, I don’t think I’d be too upset there, either

  22. It’s not THAT unrealistic to expect Arencibia to blossom at all. In Detroit, Alex Avila took off in his second year as an everyday catcher (made the All-Star team) and had very similar rookie season to JPA (both offensively and defensively).  Avila also did most of his damage in a pitchers park, whereas Arencibia has the RC which is a notorious stadium for the longball. It will be a very interesting situation in July if D’Arnaud is tearing up Las Vegas and Arencibia is in the All-Star game. Not the likely scenario, but there is certainly a ton of potential there.

    I think we are making far too much of the Snider/Thames battle in ST. For as much as I love Snider; how strong he is, how athletic he is, how far he can hit a ball, and how likeable (from what I’ve read) he is, I doubt he’s the star that many seem to think he is. Yes, he’s torn up AA and AAA at multiple points in his minor league career. He’s been jerked around. He’s been hurt. There are a litany of reasons to be patient with him.  But the fact remains he has had 800 at bats in the big leagues and has averaged an OBP of about .300.  This puts him in the company (at this point of his career) of journeymen such as Aaron Guiel and Damon Hollins. I think Snider will improve on this, no question. But do people really expect him to become a star? It would be a pretty massive turnaround. More likely? He becomes an average-to above average outfielder later in his career.

    Thames to me, is Shannon Stewart with a bit more power but will not come close to having a .360 .(294 batting average) on-base with great speed (which S.S was.) So you’re basically looking at an average at best offensive left fielder with terrible defense. Granted, we haven’t seen the new and improved Thames play any left field yet.  If you were to ask me in five years who I thought would be the more successful player, I’d say Snider simply because he is the more well rounded player.

    When the Jays are deep in the playoffs in ’14, 15, 16 I doubt either one will be around.

    So, there’s that.

  23. I can’t help but wonder how much guys like Arencibia would benefit from a steely-eyed, psychopathic, Roy Halladay-like approach to the game. Perhaps this is more a matter of optics since all the media could every zero in on with Halladay was his work ethic, and all I can gather about Arencibia is from the media, but obsessively studying video and doing 40 laps around the field hours before anyone else arrives may just give your game a boost. Backstop has to be the one position where guys benefit the most from such dedication. Then again, not everyone is built like Halladay.

  24. Obviously there is a big difference between AAA and MLB, but Arencibia did show that once comfortable at AAA in his second season, he tore up the PCL.. Difficult to use in any objective sense, but as Stoeten noted, it could be that once he’s comfortable at a level, his numbers will improve.

    I don’t expect JP to start walking like Bautista, but I have the feeling that a combination of his comfort at MLB level, and his reputation for power (and pitchers pitching around him a little more) will lead to a higher OBP this season.

    He’s probably got the best mentor in baseball in Bautista to learn how to get into hitter’s counts and to take walks when they are given. 

  25. All he needs is one dying quail a week.

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