It’s hard to argue that the Blue Jays may have more depth at catcher than any other team in Major League Baseball.
Somewhat forgotten about among the Jays’ impressive collection of catching prospects is a defensively gifted young man at No. 17 on our list…
Catcher / 20 years old / 5’11″ 200 lbs
Born: May 1st 1990, in San Juan, Puerto Rico
Bats: Right Throws: Right
High School: Academia Discipulos de Cristo (Bayamon, Puerto Rico)
Drafted By: The Toronto Blue Jays in the 9th round (279th overall) of the 2008 Amateur Entry Draft and signed for $150,000
Jersey Number: #6 for the Lansing Lugnuts
- 2010 Midwest League Mid-Season All-Star
- Caught Stephen Strasburg in the Arizona Fall League in 2009
- Was an outfielder before becoming a catcher 4 years ago
- Spends his offseasons playing and training at home in Puerto Rico
- Roomed with fellow Jays prospect Dickie Joe Thon
- Threw a runner out from his knees in 2010
Lansing Lugnuts Team Stats Ranking for A.J. Jimenez:
- 3rd in RBI (54) and stolen bases (17)
- 4th in doubles (22)
- 5th in AVG (.305) and SLG (.435)
- 6th in hits (80) and total bases (114)
- Tied for 6th in home runs (4)
- 7th in OPS (.782)
- 8th in OBP (.347)
- 9th in runs (35) and strikeouts (56)
Pregame interview with Lansing Lugnuts announcer Jesse Goldberg-Strassler from 2009. Jimenez talks about his offseason prior to the 2010 season, his hitting approach, catching Strasburg in the AFL, and more.
A clip from the “Jays Talk” radio show with Mike Wilner in Toronto, with Lansing Lugnuts announcer Jesse Goldberg-Strassler as a special guest. Jesse talks about A.J. Jimenez from 7:26 to 8:30 but the entire interview is worth listening to, as Kevin Ahrens, Justin Jackson, Sal Fasano, Tim Collins, and baseball overall in Lansing, Michigan are all discussed.
- A video of A.J. in an at-bat with the Lugnuts in 2009 can be viewed here. (Courtesy of Gerry McDonald)
- An HD video of Jimenez at the plate during an Arizona Fall League game in 2009 can be seen here.
- A second HD video of Jimenez effectively blocking the plate and applying a tag can be seen here.
Extra Information and previous experience:
Jimenez was ranked as Baseball America’s No. 200 draft prospect heading into the 2008 draft, and even drew some consideration to be the first Puerto Rican player taken in the draft. Jimenez could have been selected much higher in the draft had it not been for an elbow injury that he suffered just before the draft. The majority of Jimenez’s value was attributed to his strong defensive skills, so teams were reluctant to select him because of his unfortunate elbow injury. The Blue Jays ended up being the team that took the chance on him in the 9th round, and they got one heck of a player.
After signing with the Jays in 2008, Jimenez managed to get into 19 games with the Gulf Coast League Blue Jays that season. The results weren’t the greatest, as he hit .191/.255/.234, but he threw out 28% of base stealers and went 5-for-7 in stolen base attempts. Thankfully the Blue Jays, as everyone should with prospects in general, put little stock into Jimenez’s first taste of professional ball and they promoted him to Class-A Lansing to open the 2009 season anyway.
Defensively, Jimenez is very polished. His arm is his standout tool; he can throw to second base in 1.9 seconds, sometimes even from his knees. His blocking skills are superb, and pitchers like throwing to him given his above-average receiving skills.
His 2009 season with Lansing was a step in the right direction, as he got accustomed to playing more often and he continued to make strides defensively, but his offense left more to be desired. He started to learn how to use the whole field when hitting, and he finished the year with a respectable .263 average. The main concern with his offensive game was his ability to get on base, finishing the year with a .280 OBP after drawing just 7 walks in 278 at-bats, and he finished the year with 72 strikeouts in 80 games. His .636 OPS was tops among Lansing catchers and he threw out 35% of base stealers, but the Blue Jays still wanted to see more from Jimenez going forward.
After Brian Jeroloman was unable to make the Arizona Fall League in 2009, the Jays opted to replace him with Jimenez. While Jimenez appeared in a very small sample size of 14 games, it was more of the same from him. Jimenez continued to impress scouts behind the plate, but he walked the least out of Blue Jays prospects playing in the AFL and struck out the most.
The bad news kept coming for Jimenez in 2010 unfortunately, when he opened his second consecutive season with Class-A Lansing on the disabled list.
When he was activated from the DL midway into April though, things really started to get better for him. In his first game back, which Mat touched on at the time, he went 4-for-5 with 2 runs, 3 doubles, 2 RBI, and 2 stolen bases. Overall with Lansing this season, Jimenez hit .305/.347/.435 in 70 games, while spraying the ball across the entire field and hitting to the gaps more. He threw out an unbelievable 35-of-69 base stealers (51%) and committed just 5 errors as well.
While Jimenez definitely made strides offensively this past season and fine-tuned his craft behind the plate, he also possesses above-average speed, especially for a catcher. He went 17-for-21 in stolen base attempts this past season with Lansing – including a few swipes of third base – and he is quick out of the batter’s box. His breakout performance this year earned him a promotion to Hi-A Dunedin late in the season for 2 games.
According to the Jays’ Senior Advisor of Player Development Mel Didier, in an interview with Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun, Jimenez is a special talent.
“Jimenez has the ability to be a front-line catcher,” Didier said. “Our manager here [in Lansing], Sal Fasano, has done a real good job with him.”
Has he ever. Jimenez flourished under Sal Fasano’s tutelage, and they shared a special bond, given Fasano’s extensive professional history as a catcher. According to Fasano himself, he predicts only more good things to come for Jimenez.
“He blocks the ball better than any young guy I’ve seen in a long time,” Fasano said. “Plus, he knows how to hit to right field, he gets the ball to 2nd in 1.9 seconds and calls a game. I cleaned up a couple of small things. He’s pretty polished.”
Fasano even managed to teach Jimenez how to frame pitches; the art of moving one’s body or glove slightly to turn a ball into a strike. It was something that Fasano excelled at during his years as a player, and he was quite proud when he saw Jimenez pull it off in a game situation.
“He caught a pitch that was a ball and the way he presented it made it look like a strike, and the umpire called it a strike. He looked over at me in the dugout, and he smiled. I was like, ‘Yep, there it is.’ Those little moments of satisfaction are the best part of the job,” Fasano said in an interview with the National Post.
Expected 2011 Team: Hi-A Dunedin
Ultimate ceiling if he puts it all together: Everyday MLB catcher
Jimenez will still be only 20 years old when he starts out the year at Hi-A Dunedin in 2011.
His hitting significantly improved this past season, but whether or not he’ll continue that with Hi-A Dunedin is the question. He’ll need to continue to improve his plate discipline by drawing more walks and cutting down on his strikeouts, all while working on developing more power at the plate. He had 3 different stints on the DL this past season too, limiting him to just 70 games, so he’ll have to ensure he is healthy next season.
That being said though, Jimenez is very mature for his age and he possesses a strong work ethic. If he makes the necessary offensive adjustments and continues to play like he did this past season, a reunion with new Double-A New Hampshire manager Sal Fasano before the end of the 2011 season is definitely possible.