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

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