If you read this week’s Griff Bag post, you have noticed I tried to be maybe a little more hopeful than in weeks past about J.P. Arencibia and his future here in Toronto. Or… well… yeah, a little.
About his closest competition in the minors I wrote:
A.J. Jimenez is back in Double-A after missing most of last year with Tommy John surgery, and he has some promise– a defence-first guy with not much pop but a decent hit tool, from what I’ve been led to believe– but even though he’s getting closer, don’t expect him to displace Arencibia to start 2014 or anything.
I still think that’s pretty accurate, but… um… about Jimenez…
In New Hampshire’s 7-4 loss, AJ Jimenez 4-5/2 doubles/2RBI. Jimenez at .500 (17-34) in 8G for NH after .429 in 9G for Dunedin coming off DL.
— John Lott (@LottOnBaseball) June 21, 2013
Microscopic sample size alert, of course. And this is, let’s net forget, a guy with just 35 games above A-ball, and who put up an OPS of just .666 in 27 games last year. Aaaaand he’s walked just 65 times 1247 minor league plate appearances. But he’s also not Jim Negrych, either.
Larry Millson wrote about Jimenez for Baseball America in April of 2012, and got some glowing reviews– y’know, as you’d expect from guys within the organization… but still!
Lefthanded reliever Evan Crawford, who opened the season in the New Hampshire bullpen, raves about his defense.
“He’s fantastic, he’s one of the most athletic people I’ve ever met in my life,” Crawford said. “Being behind the dish, it’s pretty special to be as athletic and as quick as he is. I’ve seen him make some throws this year that’ll blow anybody out of the water.
“Also, he calls a great game. He’s a smart kid back there. He’s going to be something special. He’s quick, he’s athletic. You feel comfortable throwing it anywhere when he’s back there.”
ScoutingBook.com had this to say about him, in a bio updated this winter:
A squat, powerful catcher in the Jays organization, Antonio (AJ) Jimenez zipped onto a lot of short lists last season when he raked a .303/.353/.417 line in his first full season of high-A baseball. That performance at Dunedin came with four homers and eleven stolen bases, too, demonstrating that he can be a pretty well-rounded (not a weight joke) position player, too. His swing is short and powerful and shows room for future power, and since he’s already showing a great batting eye and good plate discipline, there’s no reason to think he can’t be a quality offensive player at the MLB level in another couple of years.
Meanwhile, following a 5-for-6 with two doubles and five runs scored at New Hampshire on June 16th, Zach Mortimer of Baseball Prospectus put it pretty succinctly:
Excellent defensive catcher; some question how much he will ultimately hit, but he is a future big leaguer.
Back in December– after the Marlins trade but prior to the Dickey deal– Marc Hulet ranked Jimenez as the eighth-best Jays prospect for FanGraphs, saying similarly that he “has a chance to be an everyday big league backstop.” He adds, however:
I watched Jimenez play shortly before his injury and he was utilizing a wide, well-balanced stance at the plate. His approach was clearly designed to generate line drives, rather than over-the-fence power and he was relying heavily on his hands. He was stabbing a bit at the ball and needed to stay back more. Known as a very good defensive catcher – with a strong, accurate arm – Jimenez was a little lazy with his receiving in this game. With no runners on base, he was setting up very late and didn’t give a target with his glove; he allowed the pocket of his glove to point down to the ground, rather than out to the pitcher as a target. On the plus side, he was very quiet behind the plate and gave the umpire a great look at the ball.
So… there are definitely some major questions. And the site I won’t link to that was throwing around the name Yadier Molina is clearly laying it on thicker than blackstrap molasses. Aaaand it’s far too early to get that excited about a guy who has put up an OPS of 1.123 across two levels this season, given that we’re still only talking about 17 games, and that he currently sports a batting average higher than his on-base.
But with Jimenez having a chance to move up to Triple-A later this summer, and continuing to hit well against more advanced pitching– at least so far– perhaps the Jays’ next catcher of the future is closer than we realize.
I just… y’know… wouldn’t bank on it.
Still, the organization likes him. In a piece from this spring at Baseball America, Millson spoke to the club’s assistant GM, Tony La Cava, who said he think’s Jimenez’s bat is “underrated,” and explained, “We have high hopes for him. We think he’s going to be an everyday catcher in the big leagues.”
“He’s a well above-average defensive catcher that can stop the running game,” LaCava said. “He’s a line-drive, contact bat. He’s hit .300 at a couple of stops. He lost time last season so he’ll go back to Double-A and pick up where he left off.”
Seems like he has. And given Arencibia’s talked-about-ad-nauseam struggles, that’s kinda intriguing…