Thursday, June 13, 2013

It's Time for a Catching Change

J.P. Arencibia is in the midst of his worse season in the big leagues. He is striking out in over 32% of his  plate appearances, and only walking in 2.6% of his PA's. The catcher with the marketable smile has become a free swinging monster who's great power(for a catcher) can't even make up for his lack of any other skills. His stats won't do for a team trying to get back into the playoff race, and I believe it's time to make a change at the catcher position. It's time the Blue Jays option J.P Arencibia down to AAA, and name Josh Thole the starting catcher. Here are my reasons:

He isn't Even Good For A Catcher
A classic argument that is used by JPA apologists is that for a catcher, JP's numbers aren't that bad. The problem with that statement is that it's false. Andrew Stoeten touched on this subject at yesterday, so I don't want to go so in depth about it. Among the 13 qualified catchers in baseball, JPA is 12th in WAR, 12th in wRC+, 12th in wOBA, 1st in K%, and last in BB%. The only thing JP does well in is that he is powerful;His .210 ISO is best among those 13 qualified catchers. So, what exactly does JP have to offer other than power? Nothing. He needs to go.

Josh Thole is Better
It's hard for people to admit, but Josh Thole is better than J.P. Yes, both Thole and Arencibia's defense is horrible, but there is definitely a gap in their offensive production. If you discount 2012 for Thole, who suffered from lingering concussion problems all year, it becomes obvious how much better than JP he is. From 2009-2011, Thole put up a .350 OBP, and although I don't have the exact number for what his wRC+ was in that span, it was around 96 or 97. That is below league average, although not for a catcher. JP's wRC+ in 2011-2012 was somewhere around 90 or 91, but there is no reason to believe he can produce at that level again. His ISO is still around the same as it has been every year in his career, but his K% and BB% are at career highs(or low I guess for BB%). That has caused a major decrease in his already horrid wOBA, which explains why he has a 75 wRC+  this season. JP's problems have been caused by his complete lack of plate discipline. The problem is that JP continues to do nothing about it, and actually treats it like a joke, tweeting about the walk he takes once every couple of weeks. If you are going to argue that Thole isn't an upgrade, you are wrong. In a lineup desperate for OBP, Thole needs to be playing, even if he is in the 8 or 9 spot in the lineup, because he could get on base at a mark that JP will never be able to achieve in his career.

Josh Thole Just Needs to be a Stop-Gap
When the Blue Jays traded away 2 of their top 3 catching prospects in this past year(Carlos Perez to Houston and Travis d'Arnaud to New York), fans thought that we will be stuck with JP forever. We won't be. Josh Thole only needs to start and be better than JP is for a year or so. The reason? A.J. Jimenez.

Jimenez was rated the Jays #8 prospect by our staff this past offseason, and he is now back playing full
Jimenez is the last of the 4 big
catching prospects left in the system.
time in New Hampshire after some elbow problems and surgery that he has had for a year. Jimenez' greatest skill is his defense, which scouts and coaches alike are saying is unbelievable. Defense from a catcher is nice, but Jimenez is no slouch on offense as well. His bat has been getting better every year, and Steamer Projections(published on FanGraphs) already has him able to post a 78 wRC+ in the majors. That isn't good, but it is better than JP. A.J also doesn't strike out a ton like JP does, and for the past few seasons, his K% has been declining, now sitting in the low teens. He doesn't take a lot of walks, but as long as he isn't striking out 30% of the time, I'm fine with that. A.J is already on the 40-man, and although he probably won't be ready to be a major league catcher in April 2014, June is realistic. He should finish this year in AA, get a month of big league action this September, and will likely get a couple of months of polishing down in Buffalo next year.

After reading my arguments, I hope you are able to see that JP needs to be sent down, or at least benched for a while, so he understand that his complete lack of plate discipline will not be tolerated. He has become lazy and just swings at everything, and needs to realize that there are options in the Jays organization that are better than he is, and one is just sitting on the bench. Hopefully that will make him understand that he needs to work on his approach.

A.J. Jimenez is a year away from being ready, but the decision is quite simple. A.J's offense and defense make him a 2 WAR player already in the big leagues, and I much rather have a 2 WAR player for $500K like AJJ will be making next year, than a 0(or possibly negative) WAR player making $1MM+ in 2014. JP has ran out of time to prove himself, and his future in Toronto shouldn't be long.

I'm sure there are plenty of you reading this who disagree with me, so please comment, and we'll discuss this even more.

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1 comment:

  1. I couldn't agree more. I tend to discount attitude - people react to adversity in different ways and J.P.'s seeming indifference and humorous comments may just be his way of coping with adversity. Performance is another matter and I agree about his minimal upside potential. I'm also a fan of both Thole (he's not that old) and A.J. While we're at it I'd also like to see Johnson, Lawrie, and Izturis moved as well and, for the right deal, Bautista.
    Also not impressed with the minor league pitching coaches. Compared to teams like Tampa, who seem to develop poised complete pitchers before they are called up, our young pitchers really seem ragged and unprepared. And after three seasons of extraordinary injuries (the Blue Jays have far too many for a relatively young team and more than mere chance would allow) they should be taking a close look at their medical and training staffs. And despite the recent improvement in performance, I'm not a Gibbons fan and hope he is replaced sooner than later. By the way, Spring training and the decision to allow all of their players to go off to the Classic were terrible decisions (not having the starting team play together until the last two games!)that fall on the shoulders of Gibbons and AA. Great to get it all off my chest. Thanks.