Blue Jays top prospect Max Pentecost went under the knife again recently, and Toronto may be exploring a transition to first base to feed him some healthy at-bats
Max Pentecost was drafted as the catcher of the future for the Toronto Blue Jays, 11th Overall in the 2014 MLB Draft. It’s a term that’s been tainted by the J.P. Arencibia years, but with plus offensive tools, athleticism and the ability to stay behind the plate long-term, he fit the billing of a prospect that gets fast-tracked to a big league club.
Then a pair of shoulder surgeries and a five-year contract to Russell Martin got in the way. Now, after a third shoulder surgery that Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi reports to be a rotator cuff interval repair, his big picture is looking profoundly different. A lot can change in a year and a half.
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Thankfully this seems to be a maintenance procedure required after Pentecost continued to have problems with his throwing in the fall instructional league, and he’s expected to be back at 100% by spring training. In order to protect that shoulder and get Pentecost his first consistent dose of at-bats, however, the organization is considering a move to first base.
“The biggest thing is we know the kid can hit, we want to find a way to get him in the lineup and get him at-bats,” said Doug Davis, Toronto’s minor league field co-ordinator. “If that’s having him play a different position or DH, we have that available to us.”
Most scouting services now rank Pentecost around the back-end of Toronto’s top-5 prospects, but a move to first base or designated hitter, depending on the length, decreases his open-market value fairly substantially. With Martin under contract for the next four seasons, Pentecost had represented one of the few remaining pieces that Toronto could conceivably move in a larger deal, but without the positional value of being a catcher, his prospect shine begins to lose a little lustre.
Establishing a bat with with 15-20 home run potential at catcher or the middle infield is much more valuable than at first base, where such a tool is very common. Now, this move is surely (and hopefully) being made with the intention of having him continue to catch in the future, but it’s Pentecost’s value outside of the organization that is in question here.
Then again, if the strain of throwing from the catcher’s position is going to lead to further issues, this may be the team’s only choice. Pentecost is no plodder, so with some reps, his athleticism should help transition him into the field without much issue. If he can find his way into 80+ games in 2016, that’s got to be viewed as a success.
This potential move also puts the entire weight of his prospect status on his bat. Whereas a .270 average with modest power numbers could sustain his value in the past “because he’s a catcher”, those numbers will see him tumble down prospect boards without the immediate positional value attached to them. Especially as a college draft pick turning 23 next March.