Top 50 Jays Prospects, Jays Journal Edition: #6 J.P. Arencibia

The next player on our list is one of my personal favorites, and yet another catcher that the Jays will depend on for some much needed pop at the bottom of the lineup….

#6: Jonathan Paul Arencibia

image courtesy of minorleaguebaseball.com

Catcher / 25 years old / 6’1″ 210 lbs

Born: January 5th, 1986 in Miami Florida

Bats: Right   Throws: Right

High School Team: Westminster Christian High School

College: University of Tennessee

Drafted:

  • In the 17th round of the 2004 draft by the Seattle Mariners, but decided to attend college.
  • In the 1st round, 21st overall, of the 2007 draft by the Toronto Blue Jays

Signed: for $1,327,500 by Matt Briggs

Quick Facts:

  • Won the Southern Conference freshman of the year award, beating TB SP David Price for the award.
  • Baseball America named him to their First Team Freshman All-American squad.
  • Was team mates with fellow Jays prospect catcher Yan Gomes and also TEX CF Julio Borbon while playing at U of Tennessee.
  • Made it onto the Team USA College National team as a Freshman and led them in average (.404) and slugging (.579). Won the 2006 World Games with that team in 2006.
  • Was rated as the #2 catching prospect out of college by Baseball America, behind only Matt Wieters.
  • J.P. was named the Jays minor league player of the year in 2008.
  • Won the league title while playing with the Auburn Doubledays in 2007.
  • In a Batter’s Box interview, he credited Greg Zaun for previously taking him under his wing.
  • In that same interview, he stated that Brett Cecil has “great stuff and he’s got a lot of poise on the mound, he has a great mound presence and he is not scared of anybody and he challenges every batter, one through nine, the same.  And he is gifted with some of the best stuff I have ever caught.” Bodes well for them as they get reunited in Toronto.
  • Being a Cuban-American, Arencibia is fluent in both English and Spanish, and has therefore been known to hang out with Jose Bautista, Yunel Escobar, and Edwin Encarnacion on the Jays bench.
  • Was rated as the 43rd best prospect in all of MLB by Baseball America prior to the 2009 season.
  • He was also rated the 2nd best prospect in the entire Florida State League by Baseball America after that 2008 season (Rick Porcello was ranked ahead of him).
  • J.P.’s vision issues were part of the cause for a below average performance in his first try at AAA in 2009.
  • Got his vision issues resolved with laser surgery, and proceeded to win the PCL MVP award for the 2010 season.

Jersey: #9 for the Toronto Blue Jays

Stats:

Yr Age Lev AB R H 2B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
07 21 A- 228 31 58 17 3 25 14 56 0.254 0.309 0.377 0.686
08 22 A+ 248 38 78 22 13 62 11 46 0.315 0.344 0.56 0.904
08 22 AA 262 32 74 14 14 43 7 55 0.282 0.302 0.496 0.798
08 22 AA-A+ 510 70 152 36 27 105 18 101 0.298 0.322 0.527 0.85
09 23 AAA 466 67 110 32 21 75 26 114 0.236 0.284 0.444 0.728
10 24 AAA 412 76 124 36 32 85 38 85 0.301 0.359 0.626 0.986

Interviews/Videos:
Opposite Field HR in the AFL

J.P. While with the Fishercats

Finally, A Sportsnet Interview with Arencibia is available here.

As a note, there are many other Arencibia videos available on Youtube, so check them out if you get a chance.

Extra Information and previous experience:

  • As a Junior in high school, he hit .440 with 10 HRs. As a Senior, he hit .500 with 17 HRs. His 17 HRs tied a school record with none other than Yankee 3B Alex Rodriguez.
  • 2007 College Stats: 52 GP / 191 AB /  .330 AVG / 15 DB / 8 HR / 42 RBI / 104 TB / .450 OBP / .545 SLG / 33 BB / 38 SO
  • 2006 College Stats: 55 GP/ 216 AB / .352 AVG / 17 DB / 11 HR / 52 RBI / 126 TB / .419 OBP / .583 SLG / 20 BB / 30 SO
  • 2005 College Stats: 67 GP / 283 AB / .322 AVG / 16 DB / 14 HR / 71 RBI / 151 TB / .379 OBP / .534 SLG / 24 BB / 37 SO (this team made the College World Series)

I’m not going to sit here and say that J. P. Arencibia is going to be the starting catcher of the Blue Jays for the next 10 years. With Travis d’Arnaud, A.J. Jimenez, and particularly Carlos Perez coming up behind him, and the power Arencibia holds in his bat, it’s possible – if not probable – that he will one day become a 1B or DH to go along with catching duties. But, what I will sit here and say is that many people around MLB still under rate Arencibia and will be surprised by his performance in his first year as a full time catcher in The Show.

Here is one statement I am sure nobody can dispute: the Toronto Blue Jays franchise has never had a catcher with the offensive potential close to that of J. P. Arencibia. Never. He’ll bring more power (doubles and HRs), run-driving potential, and slugging to the position that any other catcher ever has for the Jays.

Now that we know the high side of his game, here’s the low side.

Arencibia has learned enough about how to call a game and how to play defensively to become a catcher that has slightly above-average potential behind the plate. The recurring statements about Arencibia’s defensive abilities are not that they don’t exist, because his arm is plenty strong and his pop times are plenty fast, it’s the focus and consistency that seems to be lacking. Instead of making the most of his abilities each and every game, some scouts contend that he lacks focus and gets lackadaisical about the game defensively. Still, he is very mobile behind the plate, has made huge strides in getting better at blocking the ball, and his arm is very strong and accurate. You know that the abilities exist because he has been able to throw out a lot more than 30% of would be base stealers 3 times in his minor league career and has better overall defensive stats than Travis d’Arnaud.

Now for the hope portion of Arencibia’s game.

He’s coming into the perfect situation. His catching partner in Toronto is none other than Jose Molina, a player who actually wants to pass on the most information possible and loves to teach. Oh, and he happens to be one of the best game callers and defensive catchers in all of MLB, so I guess we can say that Arencibia will get plenty of help to hone in his defensive abilities behind the plate with the best teacher imaginable.

Then we add the fact that Arencibia knows full well that competition is coming up the ranks, increasing his motivation to improve his game on both sides of the plate. He has very little pressure in the Jays lineup since the power is expected to come from Jose Bautista, Adam Lind, Aaron Hill, and Travis Snider, allowing him to bring a calm approach to the plate. He has worked with much of the staff during his time in the minors, most notably Brett Cecil and Marc Rzepczynski, and therefore already has good knowledge of their stuff and holds a report with them personally.

The one issue that Arencibia is going to have to address in 2011 is his swing. He needs to quicken it and to level it out a little, as many point to an uppercut in his swing and length that can both lead to numerous strike outs and a low batting average. A quicker stroke to the plate, such as the adjustment Jose Bautista made in 2010, could prove disastrous for AL pitchers, as his power would still be very much present and would be joined by more consistent contact.

What he won’t need to change is his aggressiveness, because it fits in extremely well with the Jays approach at the plate. If he sees a pitch he likes, chances are he’ll be told to take a great swing at it. With a 70 power rating on the 20-80 scouting scale, when Arencibia does make contact, it’s going to hurt. I still have faith that he’ll hit for decent average, somewhere above the .270 mark, and that he’ll combine that with more than 35 doubles and more than 30 HRs to go along with a well above-average OBP, something that the Jays have never received from a catcher. That may not come as early as 2011, but it’s what I expect he may grow into for for 2012 and beyond. How many runs he drives in depends on his placement in the lineup. Arencibia could work his way into the #5-7 spots in the lineup if he can hit for decent average, but will likely begin his career in the #8-9 spots.

Finally, I’d like someone to explain to me how the PCL MVP finishes as the 8th best prospect in the PCL according to Baseball America’s best PCL prospect list post-2010. That he was beat out by Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, and Mike Moustakas doesn’t really bother me much since two were promoted to MLB and the other from AA, but the others on that list definitely deserve to sit behind the MVP. That’s just my humble opinion, as I really don’t believe the likes of Michael Pineda and Tanner Scheppers deserved to sit ahead of him in the league rankings. And therein lies the problem with rating J. P. Arencibia. So many scouts and game observers expect him to have a low average and general issues with hitting MLB pitching that they rank him lower than he deserves to be ranked based on performance.

To all of those who doubted his ability to hit MLB pitching, I say watch him hit in 2011 and 2012, because I’m betting he’ll outdo expectations tremendously and will quickly become one of the core bats in the lineup of the Jays for years to come. While everyone has eyes and ears on Jesus Montero and Carlos Santana, I say that they should pay just as much attention to J. P. Arencibia, because his mammoth power and abilities behind the plate will make him a star in short order.

Expected performance in 2011 with the Jays:

  • Something close to a .260/.340/.490 line with 22-28 HRs, and 30-37 doubles.

Enjoy the show Jays fans, as I’m certain Arencibia will earn a big spot into your hearts in 2011. If his debut is anything close to what we can expect this season, we all in for one big and powerful treat! A 2012 combination of Arencibia and d’Arnaud for the 2012 season may very well prove to be one of the best in baseball, while this season’s Arencibia and Molina combination should still earn rave reviews.

- MG

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Tags: AJ Jimenez Alex Rodriguez Brett Cecil Carlos Perez Carlos Santana David Price Greg Zaun Jose Bautista JP Arencibia Julio Borbon Matt Wieters Rick Porcello Travis D'Arnaud Yan Gomes

  • Tal

    Nice! I just hope we don’t look at half of a season or even the first year too critically. Within his first couple seasons, if he can manage anything close to what John Buck did last year (within his reach, if not more, I believe) then I believe we’re doing just fine at catcher, thank you very much.

  • Josh

    I find it hard to believe that J.P. will have a 360. OBP in his first year in the majors after having an OBP above 330 only twice in the four years of his minor league career. The year he had a 359 OBP? o yea, that was when he had a 300 average to go along with that.

    So you think he is going to have a 265 average, and a 360 OBP next year?! His walk rates over his minor league career finds this proposition highly improbable.

    I think more along a:

    265, 325, 500 line is more realistic.

    • Mat Germain

      Thanks for the comment Josh,

      I do think JP will walk more than he has historically in 2011, but, having said that, just how many hits do you think are the difference between a .265 and a .300 average when going up to bat 450 times anyway? I think that if you calculate it, you’ll be very surprised (for those without a calculator, it’s about 15 hits). Do I think he could manage 15 more walks…..yes, I do. Particularly when he may be forced to take pitches in certain counts.

      Also Josh, OBP and AVG don’t always go up or down simultaneously. You pointed to the season where JP hit .300 and had a .359 OBP, well, in 2008 he had a .314 AVG and .344 OBP….so how do you explain that? A lower OBP to go with a higher average? Well, he wasn’t walking as much, that’s why. Over the years, and as he has matured, JP has learned to walk a lot more, as was evident by his career high 38 in 2010 in AAA. It’s also the reason he achieved the .359 OBP you alluded to, and I believe he’ll continue to build off of that because he saw how much success it brought him throughout the season.

      • Eric

        his point that was Arencibia’s OBP in the minors were mostly fueled by batting average and that he wasn’t keen on taking walks. If he couldn’t do it in the minors, what makes you think he could do it in the majors?

  • George

    I think they kept the right catcher to back up JP all right. I’m not going to be watching his slash line this year so much as his ability to call games and catch the ball. He will be a good hitter eventually, but right now, his job is to learn the big league hitters and run his pitching staff. I also think that once he gets established, he will be pretty hard to dislodge, no matter who is behind him.

  • Kelekin

    Actually, the Jays have once before had a catcher with that kind of power. His name was Carlos Delgado. ;)

    • Mat Germain

      Cute Kelekin….but very true…in terms of prospects that is…

      You do have to wonder if JP will eventually move to 1B as Deglado did…

      • Kelekin

        To be honest, I don’t believe JPA will move to 1st base. The one reason I have never been sold on JPA is because of his plate discipline. Players with plate discipline like that rarely fully adjust to the majors – thus I gave him the nickname “Olivo Jr” as I believe he will have a Miguel Olivo type path, with high power but low OBP. Which, unfortunately, wouldn’t play well at 1B or DH. So his value is based on how well he’ll be at catching.

  • george

    that line = ROY, SS, AS appearance, and MVP votes.

    nutbar!

    my sane prediction – .240/.300/.475 20 homers.

    • Kelekin

      To be honest, I don’t believe JPA will move to 1st base. The one reason I have never been sold on JPA is because of his plate discipline. Players with plate discipline like that rarely fully adjust to the majors – thus I gave him the nickname “Olivo Jr” as I believe he will have a Miguel Olivo type path, with high power but low OBP. Which, unfortunately, wouldn’t play well at 1B or DH. So his value is based on how well he’ll be at catching.

      • Kelekin

        Uh, oops. Replied to the wrong thing.

  • lolwut

    Please tell me you’re joking with that expected 2011 performance?

    You’re expecting a .935 OPS from a rookie? Mauer OPS last year was 871. Soto had the highest OPS out of all the catchers last year and his was .890. That .935 OPS would rank 13th out of all the batters in the league.

    Those are ridiculous expectations. I would be happy if he ever hit like that in his entire career but I doubt he will… ever. Sorry, but if his bat was like that, he would be our #1 prospect and one of the best prospects in the league.

    I would be happy if he hit something along the lines of .255/.315/.485

    • Mat Germain

      I adjusted my numbers to be closer to Carlos Delgado’s, just to mix and match the comments from our fans. Besides, to predict such a thing as anyone’s like is as close to impossible as you can get. All I know is that JP should provide more in the way of SLG than the majority of catchers.

      The prediction wasn’t really the focus of the article, so I hope you enjoyed the rest of it!

      • lolwut

        I definitely enjoyed reading it like the rest of the prospect lists you guys have posted so far.

        It’s pretty great, well done guys!

  • Stump

    In 2011, JP will have his hands full just trying to learn how to Catch at the ML level. Based on what I saw in his limited appearances last season, it is safe to say that he has a lot of improvements to make before we can call him a Major League back stopper.

    With all that on his mind, it seems to me that we are expecting away too much if we predict 20+ HR’s in his rookie season. I wish him nothing but the best, but I will be very surprised if he hits over .250 this season, and expect a lot of K’s, because they won’t be serving up too many fastballs to JP this season.

    My prediction is the following line: 495 AB, .250 BA, 17 HR’s, 25 Doubles, 55 RBI’s, .325 OBP

  • Mylegacy

    My prediction is: JP will turn into a unique, special, high ceiling, full time – at least once All-Star catcher.

    He’s bi-lingual, got a great arm, very good receiving and game calling skills and massive power when the pitcher makes a mistake. I expect his career yearly average of HR’s to be 28 to 32. In 2011 I expect 25+. His other offensive contributions – I’m not so sure about. Because of his power I expect pitchers to be wary of him and thus try to pitch him carefully – if he learns to fully understand this he could develop into a high walk, high power guy – IF he does he could be a frequent All-Star.

    So far he hasn’t shown the pitch awareness or patience to approach his potential – but I think he’s got a 30 to 40 % chance of reaching it.

    Unless he bombs he’s got 2011 and most of 2012 as our undisputed number 1 pitcher. I would not be surprised to see D’Arnaud and the others have a very hard time of unseating him. I think he’s going to make good use of that old marketing concept, “first mover advantage.”

  • Eric

    he’s a John Buck clone, perhaps with a slightly higher ceiling at about .850 OPS.

  • kwjays

    So how high exactly is Aaron Sanchez on this list?
    But on the topic of JPA I do think he will have speed bumps this year like most rookie catchers, but once he gets going he will be hard to stop. There is the chance of a change in position with at least one of :Perez, d’Arnaud and Jimonez turning into well above average defensive catchers with offensive upside.

  • Tarun

    Excellent read on JPA. Many people always want to find failure in success, not exactly sure why. Many people forget while JPA is supposedly “below average defensively “his defensive stats at AAA were very good. His clock time out of the box is excellent for a young catcher. Infact people always point out JPA disappointing 30 at bats after his breakout game forgetting he was pitted vs the likes of Bucholz, King Felix, Lester, David Price ect. Sure he will eventually learn to hit them, not in his first taste of the Majors though.

    I personally can see a future lineup (possibly as early as 2013) with Travis Darnau’d at catcher, Carlos Perez at 1B and JPA at DH. If all 3 progress like they should AA will have some excellent tradeable peices in AJ Jimenez and Adam Lind, the latter who I think will be able to pry a Yonder Alonso or Mitch Moreland talent away or even be flipped for a young high ceiling SP such as a Jarrod Parker, Matt Moore or Hector Rondon.

    And ive heard JPA Player comparison Rod Barajas but he is much more athletic than Barajas ever was. I think Jorge Posada with slightly less batting eye isnt too bad.

    Thoughts Matt?

    • http://www.jayjournal.com Jared Macdonald

      Tarun,

      In terms of the Jays’ future at catcher, it really depends on what Perez and Jimenez bring to the table offensively, but nothing exorbitant or anything though. Personally, I feel Perez is the best catching prospect the Jays currently have, and if he develops any kind of power, given his defensive skill set already, he’ll likely be the Jays’ starting catcher of the future.

      If Jimenez develops with the stick at least a little bit, I see him as Perez’s backup because he has another defense-saturated skill set. A Perez/Jimenez catching tandem – if they continue to reach their potential, IMO – is drool worthy.

      That would mean JPA could be a 1B/DH like you said above, because it’s obvious the power potential is there, with D’Arnaud as the moveable piece instead of Jimenez.

      Personally, I’m not sold on the D’Arnaud hype aside from his power potential, and given the star prospect status he’s been dubbed as being part of the Halladay deal and born on American soil with more information on him available to the media (not internationally like Perez/Jimenez) he could net the Jays a better return if he were moved. If Jimenez slips in his development a bit though, he could be a moveable option as well instead of D’Arnaud like you stated. Regardless, it’s likely there will be a position switch and potential trade involved with the Jays’ bevy of solid catching prospects.

      Also, on the topic of the Barajas comparison, I agree.

    • Mat Germain

      In my opinion, JPA will surprise, d’Arnaud will disappoint many scouts who have him rated way too highly for him to live up to their expectations, and Perez will be the best catcher of the bunch.

      For now, JPA is still my favorite and if he winds up being a second coming of Rod Barajas, I will be the most disappointed Jays fan ever. I expect Barajas + 5-10 HRs per season with better average and more doubles. I also expect JPA to drive in a ton more runs that Rod ever did.

      As for Perez at 1B, I doubt he’ll ever have enough power. I see it more as d’Arnaud becoming the backup Arencibia and then for Perez, since his ceiling (Suzuki) and health issues (back) may come into play. But, that’s a long ways off for now and just my humble opinion.

  • mutton chops

    In his minor league career, JPA has had exactly one bb% above 6, and he’s had only one season where his k% has been below 20%. Not exactly a guy who’s going to be producing OBP’s above .320 I also kind of doubt he’ll ever have a batting average worth bragging about, especially if his extreme fly ball tendencies (ridiculously small sample size(I hate Cito)) continue. That won’t fly outside of Vegas.I know JPA is closer to the MLB, and has a better chance of amounting to anything, but D’arnaud is by far the better prospect (according to Klaw). I see JPA, at his BEST as a 3 WAR player, at his worst, a circa 2010 John Buck.

    P.S love the list

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