The 2011 Jays Infield – Catcher and JP Arencibia


There are a lot of people out there who believe that the Jays may seek to add a catcher who can also play 1B – such as Victor Martinez – in order to supplement the current likely duo of Jose Molina and J.P. Arencibia. I guess that last season’s display of power from JP and the fact that he’s worked with the majority of the Jays staff while in the minors has no bearing on his ability to take on a full time roll in 2011. I doubt the Jays will get VMart and see him as a likely option for either the Chicago White Sox or the Texas Rangers. When you consider the Jays would have to give the Sox a high pick to get VMart, it all makes more sense that they’ll pass.

J.P. Arencibia has been a favorite Jays prospect of mine for some time because I believe that he can become a game changer at a very important position. Not only can he call a good game and get pitchers on track when need be, but he has prodigious power that will not allow opposing pitchers to sleep through the bottom of the Jays lineup as they may when Jose Molina comes to the plate.

You don’t need to look any further than his AAA stats in 2010 to see what I mean in terms of power and plate presence potential:

412 AB/ .301 avg/ .359 OBP/ .626 SLG/ .986 OPS/ 36 doubles/ 32 HRs/ 85 RBI/ 38 BB/ 85 SO

These stats followed an injury plagued 2009 season that had most of J.P.’s numbers looking ugly aside from his usual power. These stats prove that he’s able to handle MLB pitching and will provide the Jays with a huge boost in all offensive numbers at the catcher position.

The Jays already proved in 2010 that they are ready to mash with the best teams in MLB. What happens when J.P. adds his 25 to 35 HRs to the Jays lineup? Sure, John Buck provided the Jays with 20 HRs, but adding to that total with a better average, OBP, and better SLG would go a long way to turning the Jays lineup over more often and tiring opposing pitchers more quickly. The particular interest I have is in the OBP portion, which was a downfall in the Jays lineup all season long in 2010. If J.P. can provide a boost in that category near the bottom of the lineup, look for the Jays to do a ton of bruising in 2011.

There are a couple of weaknesses to J.P.’s makeup, however, and none more glaring than his struggles with LHP. He had a meager .228 average vs LHP in 2010 and mashed only 2 of his 32 HRs versus the South paws, an indication that the Jays may try to sit him when facing LHP starters, but could always use him off the bench later on in the game. Either way, it’s a weakness that he’ll have to work on in order to take away the possibility of other teams neutralizing his bat with a LH RP later on in the games. The problem here is that Jose Molina‘s numbers are not great vs LHP, but they’re no great vs either, so he can take the hit and at least manage a great defensive game to give the Jays a better chance of winning.

J.P. also tired at the end of the season in AAA as his average and power numbers really dropped from the all-star break on. He hit .319 with 25 HRs before the break, and .252 with 7 HRs after. I’m not sure if it’s a conditioning issue or the getting accustomed to playing a full season issue, but J.P. should be able to sit often enough with the Jays to get the rest he needs in 2011, so it’s not a major issue.

I do believe that the Jays can look forward to a .280 or above average, about 28 HRs, and a .340 or above OBP from J.P. in 2011. If they’re able to get this or more, the lineup as a whole will be much improved and the chances of the Jays adding to their surprising win numbers from 2010 in 2011 will be much better. As we saw in his first game playing for Toronto, when he hit 2 mammoth HRs in the same game, J.P. has a chance to be the difference maker the Jays are looking for in 2011.

The Jays will have a glut of young catching talent moving up the ranks in 2011. Travis d’Arnaud will be in HiA or AA, Carlos Perez will be in LoA or HiA along with A.J. Jimenez, and Brian Jeroloman will probably make the move up to AAA. This all adds up to J.P. feeling the heat of those coming up behind him and having them give the Jays options down the road. Some may be used as trade bait I’m sure, but the Jays seem to have a good handle on the C position for a long time to come with all of these great in-house options.