February 14, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia (9) talks with catcher Henry Blanco (22) during spring training at Bobby Mattick Training Centre. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Reader Weigh In: Who’s Catching Dickey’s Knuckle-ball?

With camp opening this past week and players funneling into Florida Auto Exchange Stadium to begin the 2013 season, there is an excitement in the air.

One of the players fans have been most excited to see was new ace R.A. Dickey. The man with the mystic knuckle-ball is already being looked upon as the staff savior and the debates are raging over whether or not Dickey can translate his success to the American League East. Most feel that it will be a rougher ride for him in baseball’s most grueling division, but they expect him to be a much needed improvement nonetheless.

Still, there is one mystery surrounding the arrival of Dickey, and that is the determination of who will be the primary backstop when the ace is on the mound.

J.P. Arencibia has been vocal about wanting that gig. After Dickey’s acquisition, the two trained together in Nashville, Tennessee, and Arencibia caught Dickey’s first bullpen session in Dunedin and will continue to see him when the two play for Team USA during the World Baseball Classic. Obviously, Arencibia is taking it seriously and trying to acclimate himself to the knuckle-ball. That said, J.P. is not exactly known for his defensive work behind the plate and the Blue Jays may look for a qualified back-up to handle Dickey’s starts.

That would lead us to either Josh Thole or Henry Blanco.

Thole was acquired in the Dickey trade with the Mets, primarily for his experience working with Dickey. The Blue Jays thought so much of having Thole on the roster with Dickey that they signed him to a two-year deal this winter, rather than go year-to-year through arbitration with the backstop. Thole’s ability to hit Major League pitching is not quite up to par with Arencibia – he lacks J.P.’s power component – but his familiarity with the knuckle-ball already puts him ahead of the curve. That said, Thole also has minor league options available, and the Blue Jays may take advantage of that.

Which moves us toward Henry Blanco. Another former Mets catcher who has caught Dickey, Blanco is a non-roster invitee to camp this spring and the Blue Jays are said to be considering him as the back-up at this stage. The 41-year-old Blanco is a career back-up who last appeared in more that 74 games in 2004. The career .227 hitter has a .994 career fielding percentage as a battery mate, so he could become this year’s Jeff Mathis.

So Blue Jays faithful, which of these three candidates do you think will become R.A. Dickey’s primary catcher when camp breaks?

Who is going to catch R.A. Dickey's Knuckle-ball

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  • malna

    Uhhhhhh …… Thole is a worse major league hitter than JPA? Sure, Thole had a bad 2012 likely as a result of his concussions, and it has been stated that Thole will likely start in AAA with Blanco on the roster to prove that he is fully recovered. That being said, a very good argument can be made for Thole being a better or equally as productive offensive catcher as JPA, based on their Major League track records. Thole may be a much different hitter than JPA – hits for average and obp rather than power only (and with JPA, literally power is the only thing he hits for – he is very bad at everything else, seen by his career .275 OBP?) – and Thole’s career 85 wRC+ is very similar to JPA’s 89 wRC+. Basically, they are both not very good hitters. Both should consider themselves lucky to be competing for fulltime jobs next year, given how relatively poor they have both been with the stick over their collective 5 years total of major league service time.

    Then, when you consider defense added in with offense, such as the fangraphs WAR stat, you can actually make the argument that Thole is a definably better catcher than JPA. Thole’s career 2.8 WAR is better than JPA’s career 2.0. Then you consider the fact that Thole debuted in the MLB at a year younger than JPA (technically, based on player age seasons when they entered the 2010 season), and that Thole is apparently successful enough with the glove to be trusted with Dickey on a regular basis. On the other hand, we have AA stating over the winter that JPA will not be catching any Dicky games this year barring unforeseen injuries, despite the fact that JPA is getting practice this spring. We have three Catchers in Blanco, Nickeas, and Thole that are capable of handling Dicky, and in AA’s words there is no reason to screw the other catcher up handling Dicky, especially when there are others capable.

  • raffa

    I hope that Thole returns to pre concussion hitting form.. and then improves from there… otherwise I guess thats why Blanco.
    I dont know what to make of JPA character. Lots of positives and enthusiasm I see in him but how is it good for team morale when AA brings in not one but two ex Dickie catchers who have to compete for such a small piece of the playing time … and then JPA makes lots of noise about he wants to catch Dickie too. Reminds me of when he was complaining publicly about being pinch hit for once last year. Too alpha-dog for me .. wheres some sensitivity to others needs.