In order to have success in MLB, you must have a strong catcher who can manage both handling the games, and hits in clutch situations. The Jays have lacked this for a long time, but things they are a changing folks. The Jays have concentrated much of their recent efforts in steadying themselves behind the plate and it seems to be working. From Arencibia to Ochinko, the Jays have a good stream of offensively and defensively capable catchers coming up the ladder. Here they are in order of talent:
1. Travis d’Arnaud: will be 21 in 2010. He was the “add-in” piece in the Doc Halladay deal and the lesser known of the 5 on this list from Jays fans perspectives. In 2009’s edition, BA had ranked him 7th best PHI prospect and stated that he has “premium catch-and-throw tools, such as soft hands, quick feet and plenty of arm strength” and added that he has “a line-drive swing and gap power with a willingness to use the opposite field.” They considered him trade fodder due to the presence of Lou Marson in PHI, and they were right on that count. That was in 2009 when he had just hit .305 with 6 HRs and 30 RBI in 239 AB between SS and LoA. In 2010’s edition, BA ranked him 4th in the PHI system, adding this important statement: “got better as 2009 wore on, clubbing 25 doubles in his last 224 at-bats. He led the SAL in doubles and is tapping into his plus raw power.” It’s important because sure, every team wants a catcher who is excellent defensively, which explains the continuous employment of guys like Jason Kendall and others, but that he developed some real power and became a doubles machine makes him that much more attractive. It also makes it more likely that if his power plays as well in MLB, he could unseat JP Arencibia who is due to arrive at some point in 2010. That BA statement was according to 2009 stats in LoA at age 20, which totaled 438 AB, 38 doubles, a .255 avg, 13 HRs, 71 RBI, 8 SBs. D’Arnaud may eventually force the Jays to allow him to split time with Arencibia, or force for JP to move to 1B – if Brett Wallace is not already there. D’Arnaud is a better defender, has the power to take advantage of the gaps at Rogers Center, and may be a more important piece to the Doc Halladay deal than people give him credit for.
2. Carlos Perez: will be 20 yrs old in 2010. Carlos signed with the Jays in 2007 as an international free agent for $700,000 and showed maturity last season with the GCL Jays. He hit 11 doubles, 3 triples, and a homer in 141 ABs, while walking 16 times and only striking out 23 times. His OBP and AVG were respectable at .364 and .291 respectively. BA ranked Perez as the 6th best prospect in the GCL this past season and see him as yet another “catcher of the future for the Jays” if all goes according to plan. His defense is pointed to as his strongest asset. Perez threw out 49% of base stealers this season and has a 1.9 second pop-time. He’s a good size for a catcher and should make the jump to LoA Lansing in 2010 where he’ll be tested both offensively and defensively. However, with Ochinko and Gomes both fighting for spots at Lansing, something’s got to give. The Jays have the enviable problem of finding spots for 4 guys (Perez, d’Arnaud, Gomes and Ochinko) between 2 levels, which leads me to believe one of these guys will go to AA, most likely d’Arnaud. That leaves the likeliness of Perez and one of Gomes or Ochinko manning the plate in LoA. Where ever Perez plays, he’s one guys to keep a close eye on during 2010, as he could jump to the top 3 of the Jays prospect list in BA’s 2011 list.
3. JP Arencibia: will be 24 yrs old during 2010 season. JP was selected 21st overall in 2007 by the Jays and jumped up the ladder along with Travis Snider. Unlike Snider, he stopped at AAA instead of jumping to MLB in 2009. He had an awesome 2008 between HiA and AA, accumulating 27 HRs and 105 RBI in the process with a decent .298 average. However, as most already know, JP took a step back in 2009 and showed some holes in his swing. He hit .236 on the season and managed 21 homers, which in my opinion is still great when you consider the fact that he played hurt half the season. Some scouts doubt that he’ll be able to hit for average, but his power is off the charts. This is the guy who beat Alex Rodriguez‘s home run record in High School. He did finish the last 10 games of 2009 with a .349 average and 6 dingers, so he could surprise many with a call up in August or September. I love JP’s bat and think it’ll play better than most believe in MLB, however, I also doubt JP will stay at catcher long term, which is why I ranked him 3rd on this list. It’s also the reason I’d like to see the Jays keep Wallace at 3B. With d’Arnaud and Perez coming up to take the catcher’s position, and JP having as much prodigious power as he does, he would be the perfect 1B compliment to what would be a potent lineup. Although he is 3rd on this list, he is by far the #1 offensive catcher in the system and deserves more recognition than he’s getting from minor league evaluators. He’ll need to minimize his strike outs to do well against MLB pitching, but should hit for better average overall than someone like Adam Dunn did most of his career. Look for great things from JP in 2010, I certainly do.
4. Sean Ochinko: will be 23 yrs old in 2010. Chosen in the 11th round in the 2009 draft, Sean played well enough to be named a NYP All-Star at the mid-season point. Getting 188 AB in Auburn, Sean hit 6 homers, 20 doubles, and carried a .324 average overall. His OBP was outstanding at .382 and he only struck out 26 times in 188 AB. Sean already has some experience at 1B, which leads me to believe that if JP, Carlos, or Travis really do take over the catcher position for the Jays for a long time period, Sean could become a 1B of the future for the Jays, something the Jays have a half-dozen candidates for! Still, Sean is more likely to be ready to compete very soon and may begin the 2010 season in HiA Dunedin. He has more leadership ability and clutch performance potential than the top 3 on this list and could be a great find in the 2009 draft for the Jays.
5. Yan Gomes: will be 23 yrs old in 2010. The Jays drafted Gomes in the 10th round, one round ahead of Ochinko in the 2009 draft. He’s bigger than the other catchers at 6’2″ and 215 lbs. He spent some time in the GCL before heading for SS Auburn in 2009. In 223 AB, he managed 23 doubles, 2 HRs, 44 RBI and a .300 average. He caught 38% of all would be base stealers, and committed only 2 errors during his short season. Since he has more size and makes good contact, he could develop a lot more power as he develops. The Jays really solidified their C position with the addition of both Gomes and Ochinko. I’m not really sure how the Jays will organize these catchers in terms of progression, but the fact that Gomes is the 5th best catcher in the Jays system indicates just how strong it really is.
Those who didn’t make the cut (in order of potential): 16 yr old Santiago Nessy (DNP), Brian Jeroloman (AA-AAA), AJ Jimenez (LoA), Jonathan Talley (LoA), Jonathan Jaspe (HiA), Matthew Liuzza (HiA), Leonardo Hernandez (DSL), C.J. Ebard (AA), Chris House (LoA), Alexys Rodriguez (DSL).