A.J. Jimenez is the Toronto Blue Jays top-rated catching prospect. Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
We are back with the Toronto Blue Jays top prospects and are inching our way towards the top 10. Next up is catcher A.J. Jimenez, who battled back to a strong comeback campaign in 2013 after he missed most of the previous season with an injury.
Name: A.J. Jimenez
Date of Birth: 5/1/1990 (23)
Acquired: 9th round of 2011 draft
High School: Academia Discipulos de Cristo (Bayamon, PR)
Height/Weight: 6’0″/210 lbs
Awards and Accomplishments:
- Previously ranked #8 on 2013 Jays Journal Top Prospects
- Named to 2013 Sirius XM All-Star Futures Game
- 2011 Florida State League All-Star
- 2010 Midwest League All-Star
Stats and Analysis:
Jimenez suffered a torn ligament in his right (throwing) elbow in May 2012, which led to Tommy John surgery and nearly a year of missed playing time. He started the 2013 campaign on a rehab stint in Dunedin and returned to Double-A New Hampshire in June.
He began the year on fire and early success in Dunedin carried over in his return to the Eastern League. He had 26 hits in his first 14 games with the Fisher Cats, which included seven extra base hits. He doesn’t walk much and his first base on balls at Double-A didn’t come until his 13th game of the season. He had only five walks in 113 plate appearances with New Hampshire in 2012. He was moved up to Triple-A in August and finished the year playing with the Buffalo Bisons.
His power numbers stagnated a bit – his isolated power in the Eastern League was .115 in 2012 and .118 in 2013. He struck out slightly more often (by percentage) and was helped out by a catcher-friendly .319 BABIP but overall he was making modest improvements by the end of the season.
As a defense-first catcher Jimenez threw out 48% of baserunners at Double-A and 46% at Triple-A, which was a solid follow-up to the 55% mark he posted pre-TJS in 2012. However his 2013 season came to an unfortunate close when he was diagnosed with nerve irritation in his throwing elbow in late August.
Video Credit: Mike Ashmore
Jimenez has a wide stance and has good balance throughout the swing. He starts with his hands slightly high and gives a quick toe tap before pulling his hands back and dropping them, which creates a late load. He makes up for it with very good bat speed and a short, compact swing path.
Jimenez profiles as an excellent defensive backstop. His glove is easily solid average and I’m tempted to call his receiving skills plus. He’s said to frame pitches exceptionally well and handles velocity with ease. He’s very good at keeping the ball in front of him and has good footwork, which helps control the running game as well.
It’s tough to make a definite call on Jimenez’s arm since he likely wasn’t at full strength for most of 2013. Even so, he still showed impeccable accuracy and very good arm strength. He likely has an average MLB arm as it stands now and I wouldn’t be surprised if he turns it into another plus tool.
Jimenez’s hit tool grades as below average. He has a line drive type swing but can be fooled by good off-speed pitches. However he still has decent enough contact skills to grind out at bats but needs to do a better job of swinging within the strike zone. His power is gap-to-gap and should hit a fair number of doubles but very few home runs.
Jimenez is a slow runner but is quick enough behind the plate and has good instincts on the field.
Risk, Outlook and ETA
If another injury hadn’t cut Jimenez’s season short, he likely would have been called up to play with the Blue Jays last September. Hopefully it’s something that the Jays are just being cautious with but the hiccup does raise a bit of a red flag about his health going forward.
Injury concern does increase the risk associated with Jimenez but his defense alone should get him to the majors. Whether he can hit enough to become an everyday player is less likely as his low OBP will be magnified at the next level.
Determining where Jimenez will start the 2014 season is a bit tricky. The Blue Jays will likely start one of Erik Kratz or Josh Thole at Triple-A, meaning Jimenez could once again be starting the season in Double-A just to get enough at bats to stay sharp. I’d prefer if the Blue Jays could find a way to give him a full season of Triple-A before his presumed September call up but the configuration of the current roster confuses the situation. Wherever he ends up, it will be interesting to see if the Blue Jays are able to match him up with converted knuckleballer Tomo Ohka‘s destination.