Is Josh Thole an adequate supporting catcher?

 

Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

With indications that J.P. Arencibia will be traded or non-tendered, Josh Thole is now in a position where he may become the second catcher on the Blue Jays’ depth chart.

If Thole does end up being the number two Jays’ catcher, at minimum he will be called upon to catch R.A. Dickey. Last season Dickey played in 34 games. This is a small number, and hopefully Dickey will be in good form and keep allowed runs at a minimum.

But Mike Wilner of Sportsnet made a good point on his twitter account that new acquisition Dioner Navarro hasn’t started in plus 90 games since 2009. Last season he played in 89 games and had a career season hitting .300 with 13 home runs. There’s hope that he can continue his production with a little more power thanks to the Rogers Center.

If the Jays decide to use Navarro in a similar role as he was used last season, this would mean using Thole in twice as many games than he would just catching for Dickey. Is Thole good enough to play around 70 games for the Jays next year?

Well he has at least had two plus 100 game seasons with the Mets in 2011 and 2012. But his 9 passed balls in 39 games at catcher is very troubling. And worse, his batting average has declined every season since he debuted with the Mets in 2009—not good for a hitter who lacks power.

At 27 Thole can still turn the corner and be productive next year. But do the Jays want to rely on him?

Mike Wilner could be correct that Navarro may only fill the role of a backup catcher. There could be another move yet to be made. If that’s not the case, the Jays may at least need to consider an alternate backup for Navarro. When all is said and done, Thole may end up third on the Jays’ catching depth chart.

Would you be okay with Navarro and Thole primarily catching for the Jays next season?

 

Topics: Dioner Navarro, Josh Thole, Toronto Blue Jays

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  • JaysHopeful

    It seems that fans and critics are exceptionally hard on Josh Thole. There is consistent and considerable doubt as to his ability to hit and catch based on the limited sample we were provided with this past season. It is important to keep in mind that Thole was coming off a series of concussion injuries in 2012 that contributed to his struggles at the plate that season. He then spent 41 games in AAA as the consistent starting catcher in the first few months of 2013. Here – with consistent at-bats – he hit .322/.383/.510. Then he spent the majority of the time on the Jays’ bench, and it took until September for him to hit .250/.273/.281 – still not good but passable, and significantly better than Arencibia. He also had a 4 hit game on Sept. 25th.

    Defensively Thole seems strong. He can get low, and has lateral movement. He seems to frame well, and call a good game. His arm seems more than adequate – 27% caught-stealing, 2 pickoffs, 2 double-plays. He had success with Redmond, Rogers, and Johnson – keeping them low in the zone and working the corners.

    Yes, he gives up passed balls, but he is a knuckleball catcher, AND when you look at his wildpitch rates, they are surprisingly low. Arguably, he is getting fewer wildpitch calls. (Wildpitches are often credited with “Still he should have caught that,” by commentators). For perspective JPA had 40 wildpitches.

    Thole is underrated. Given consistent at-bats I think he can be prove himself to be solid, though with limited power. He will always have passed balls, but he is a knuckleball and sinker/slider catcher, that’s the consequence. Keep in mind he is young, and will always be reasonably priced.

    • brad

      I love the wild pitch comment. Too often people stop after looking at passed balls. The best catchers make pitches that would normally be considered wild pitches look blockable and get tagged with a passed ball…. poor catchers have passed balls called wild pitches because they were so far out of position….. and commentators say “he still should have caught that”

  • brad

    I like Thole. I think he’s a lot better than he showed last year but it’s risky to have only him and Navarro. I think they’ll be fine though and should focus on pitching

  • BklynCowpoke

    You have to remember, when with the Mets, for all intensive purposes, Thole was Dickey’s personal catcher; so allowances for passed balls must be made.

  • Jefftown37

    Thole put up respectable hitting stats, for a catcher, in 2010 and 2011 with the Mets, with OBPs of .357 and .345, respectively.

    Where he lacks in power, he has the ability to walk and hit the ball to all fields. (He has more career opposite field hits than pull hits.) I hope Kevin Seitzer can bring him back to these two hitting strengths.

    What plagued him last year was a higher K rate and lower line drive %, the latter helping to reduce his BABIP to just .213. This could have resulted from being rusty after sitting on the bench a fair amount in the latter half of 2013, as JaysHopeful suggests.

    I’d also like to see Thole catch more than just Dickey’s games. This will help reduce the load on Navarro. Navarro will likely see all games vs. LHPs when Dickey is not pitching, as the switch hitter hits slightly better from the right side.

    But if Thole can slash .260/.330/.350 in a backup role — around 60-70 games, while helping Dickey, he will have made it a successful season.

  • Paul Miller

    From the critics I’ve heard is focusing too much on last years stats. Only starting 34 times is difficult for any player and stats will be inconsistent from year to year if this keeps up.

    In my view, Thole can take walks, play decent defense, which deserves some more starts next year.