As we approach the All-Star game and votes are cast to make sure fans see who they want to see in that game, we also get to take a look at what the first half of the season has looked like for Jays player and pitchers. One individual who deserves some attention due to his possible record setting pace is non other than the Jays rookie catcher, John Paul Arencibia.
The man who often talks about going “beastmode” in the gym is putting up power numbers to match that saying on the field. Sure, he isn’t hitting for much of an average this season with a lowly .228, but he does have 11 HRs with 3 games to go before the halfway point of 2011. It doesn’t take a Rocket Scientist to figure out that he’s on pace to hit approximately 22 HRs this season, more than any catcher in Jays history.
What are the highest totals achieved by the most powerful catchers the Jays have had in their history?
* John Buck: Hit 20 HRs (2010)
Darrin Fletcher: Hit 20 HRs (2000)
* Rod Barajas: Hit 19 HRs (2009)
Bengie Molina: Hit 19 HRs (2006)
Ernie Whitt: Hit 19 HRs twice (once in 1985 and once in 1987)
Pat Borders: Hit 15 HRs (1990)
Gregg Zaun: Hit 12 HRs (2006)
* J. P. Arencibia: Already up to 11 HRs (2011)
Buck Martinez: Hit 10 HRs twice (once in 1982 and once in 1983)
(* = active)
It’s only June 27th, JPA has already achieved status of being the 8th most powerful catcher in Jays history, and we’re still talking about a rookie catcher. Talk about having a lot more of a power show to look forward to.
The best of it all is that JPA has also done this while sharing a ton of playing time with Jose Molina, so there’s even more in his power tank that has yet to be tapped.
Some other interesting notes about JPA’s power:
- He has already matched the output of Matt Wieters from his rookie season in 2010 (11 HRs)
- If he does continue on this pace and hits 22 HRs, JPA will have hit more HRs in 2011 than any catcher hit in 2010 in all of MLB.
- Only Victor Martinez, John Buck, and Brian McCann hit more than 20 HRs in 2010. VMart signed with the Tigers for an average salary of $12.5 million over 4 yrs (total $50 million), Buck signed for and average of $6 million per season ($18 million total) over 3 years with the Marlins, and McCann is making $6.5 million in 2011 and $8.5 million in 2012. Talk about the Jays getting their money’s worth out of JPA’s $0.417 million salary!
- JPA is currently 3rd among MLB catchers with 11 HRs and has at least 32 fewer ABs than the 2 ahead of him (Miguel Olivo with 12 and Brian McCann with 13).
- JPA is also 1st in triples (3), 5th in RBIs (35), and 6th in TB (97) among all catcher in 2011.
All of this and Jose Molina has squeezed in a third of the playing time (26 of 78 games). What’s important to remember is that with Travis d’Arnaud on the way, that isn’t likely to change any time soon. Hopefully, the Jays managers will be able to use the strengths of both backstops and will get the most out of the position overall. But, with JPA’s bat being so potent, his coming off the bench or playing as a DH occasionally sure won’t hurt the club. I, for one, have no idea why JPA isn’t used more often off-the-bench and have sometimes questioned why the Jays haven’t given him late inning opportunities to step in and hit one out in a pinch hit situation.
Best News of All
Bringing Travis d’Arnaud in to split time (before or in 2012 I hope) with JPA will mean that the Jays have one of the best tandem of catchers in all of baseball in 2012.
First, both are competent behind the plate, with Travis d’Arnaud having more pure catching ability (all-star caliber) and JPA putting in a ton of time to become at least average behind the plate. However, both call a great game, which is what pitchers want behind the plate. So, that’s set for them if this tandem were to be set in 2012.
Second, here are their “most beneficial to the Jays” splits for 2011 so far:
JPA: vs LHP = .320 AVG / .382 OBP / .660 SLG with 2 doubles and 5 HRs in only 50 ABs vs Southpaws
d’Arnaud: vs RHP = .269 AVG / .367 OBP / .515 SLG with 11 doubles and 7 HRs in 130 ABs while in AA
Combine the two and you’ve got a heck of a combination behind the plate. Now, JPA is still adequate against RHP and has managed 7 doubles, 3 triples, and 6 HRs against them, but he does also sport a .200 average against them to go with that power, making it less desirable than d’Arnaud’s abilities vs RHP (so far in the minors). JPA could certainly turn it on and find his way against RHP in the near future, but I still see their combination as being one of the most potent ones in MLB in 2012.
Although JPA still has a lot of work to do in 2011, I firmly believe that he will entrench himself as the most powerful catcher the Jays have ever had behind the plate by the time he’s finished his time in Toronto. If he can reach the 20-24 HRs range as a rookie, there’s no telling how far he’ll be able to go in the future. 30 HRs? 35 HRs? Maybe even 40 HRs? Such players bring their entire team to a new level (and get paid as such) because they provide their teams with an offensive boost at a position that has an extremely hard time producing such players. That’s why I presented the salaries above. Put the stats of all 3 of those players by the name of an outfielder, and all of the sudden they look mediocre. Put them behind the plate, and they’re stars. So long as their defensive abilities hold up, all of them get paid like stars as well.
The Jays may very well have to open up their wallets to the Arencibia-d’Arnaud combination somewhere down the line, but that somewhere down the line is still very far away. As the Yankees and many (if not most) other teams wonder what kind of production they’ll get behind the plate, the Jays seem set for years to come.
I think Jays fans should be very happy with JPA’s work behind the plate this season. It hasn’t been perfect, but he’s learning this as he goes and has made major improvements behind the plate this season. If his bat produces like I think it will in the next 4-5 years, he could become the greatest offensive Jays catcher of all time.
Enjoy the Beastmode show!
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