The news of the day for the Jays is that they assigned Sean Ochinko, their 11th round selection in the 2009 draft and the player I ranked as their 4th best catching prospect, to the big club and had him in the game today. He went 2 for 3 with a double and 1 strike out, but that wasn’t the big news, it was the position he was playing – 3B. Now I know that it’s just a spring training game and that it means nothing in terms of the position he may play in the minors, but it is significant when you consider the fact that JP Arencibia is expected to get the majority of playing time in AAA, Brian Jeroloman is expected to get the majority of the playing time in AA until Travis d’Arnaud joins him after leading the catching core in HiA. You then have Carlos Perez who is expected to move to LoA and still have to find room for Yan Gomes, who is also very highly thought of after being selected in the 10th round, 1 ahead of Ochinko.
It would make sense for the Jays to try Ochinko at 3B when you consider the depth is so shallow at the position within the franchise (if you consider Brett Wallace a 1B, as most do). The only true 3B prospects with value for the Jays are still very young in Balbino Fuenmayor (21) and Gustavo Pierre (18). I know most of you are thinking “what about Kevin Ahrens?” Well, I have little hope for him and don’t think he’ll be much more than a bench player unless he really turns it on in 2010. I really do hope he proves me wrong, but both him and David Cooper have really shown nothing at all in my books. So, why not try Ochinko and see how it goes?
Ochinko’s an excellent and smart ball player, has been a leader on the teams he’s played for – especially for LSU, and proved in his short stint in LoA last season that his bat can play as high as AA. He hit .324 in 188 ABs, with 6 HRs, 20 doubles and only 26 strike outs to his 16 walks for a .382 OBP. While in LoA he played some 1B and Catcher and did the same throughout his College career, so it’s not known whether he’ll make the switch to 3B easily (if that’s in the plans). Before getting his chance in LoA, Sean had accumulated 9 HRs in 234 ABs while catching for LSU, where he also maintained a .333 average. For those keeping score, that’s 16 HRs in 422 ABs, so there is some power potential there.
Here’s what I know for certain:
- The Jays are very hopeful that JP Arencibia will be an almighty power bat at the catcher position, which would make it hard for anyone to unseat him;
- If anyone does unseat him, it will be one of Travis d’Arnaud or Carlos Perez, not Sean Ochinko;
- The Jays have a surprisingly abundant gathering of catchers and 1B (McDade, Cooper, Dopirak, Wallace) between LoA and AAA, making Ochinko a much better fit at 3B;
- Wherever the Jays want to put him, Ochinko will do his best and won’t complain, he’s not that type of guy and he loves a challenge; and
- If he does stay at 3B, he has a much better chance of making it to the big leagues (with the Jays) than if he remains a catcher.
Like I said at the beginning of this post, this may be non-news and Ochinko could return to catcher in the minors for all of 2010. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in HiA or AA manning 3B as well as catching the odd game. He’s definitely someone to keep an eye on in 2010, as he is gritty and could move quickly if his bat stays as hot as it was in 2009.