Blue Jays: Hopes and expectations for Max Pentecost in 2016

Blue Jays catcher Max Pentecost at spring training in Dunedin, FLA. Mandatory Credit: Braydon Holmyard
Blue Jays catcher Max Pentecost at spring training in Dunedin, FLA. Mandatory Credit: Braydon Holmyard /

The Blue Jays 2014 first round pick is nearing his 2016 debut

Of all the Blue Jays’ top prospects 20 or older, few have such a significant gap between their potential floor and ceiling as catcher Max Pentecost.

This wasn’t supposed to be the case for the Kennesaw State product, who left college as a relatively safe pick for the Blue Jays at 11th overall. With plus athleticism for the position and the potential to be an above-average offensive catcher, Pentecost’s raw skills profiled him as a quick riser to the major league level.

Shoulder injuries have kept the 23-year-old grounded, but Shi Davidi reports that Pentecost could soon see his first game action of 2016 after not recording a single at-bat last season.

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“The hope is that he’ll be able to get full season at-bats pretty soon,” Blue Jays director of player development Gil Kim told Davidi. “The main goal is that he gets at-bats since he has had so much time off. For now, it’s getting at-bats and building that throwing back up better than it used to be.”

Following another minor offseason procedure on his shoulder, some time at first base or as a designated hitter are possible as the Blue Jays look to get Pentecost back in a regular baseball schedule.

Pentecost caught pitchers throughout the early stages of spring training, but the Blue Jays staff took a more cautious approach to him throwing. He is currently playing in full games at extended spring training in Florida.

“The best way to put that is we’re confident in Max’s ability and confident that he’s got a chance to be a major-league catcher, and a pretty good one,” Kim added to Davidi. “He brings some things to the table that, looking throughout baseball, you don’t see very often.”

Despite these two seasons of injury struggles, the Blue Jays should be open to working Pentecost behind the plate as much as his health allows. This could mean very limited action early in his return — and here’s where the Blue Jays’ new approach to player health and physical training will come in —  but his value at that position remains much higher to the organization.

Internally, Pentecost’s development into an MLB-ready catcher would give the Blue Jays a high-end second option if age or injury were to catch up to Russell Martin over the final four years of his rich contract.

As an asset for trade, Pentecost is also more valuable to the Blue Jays if he sticks at a premium defensive position. A first-baseman with 15-homer power, plus defence, and above-average speed is not nearly as attractive as a catcher with the same tools.

The season ahead: Reasonable expectations

In his limited 2014 action that spanned 109 plate appearances, Pentecost hit .324 with seven extra-base hits and 12 runs batted in. Being so far removed from that, though, setting a bar for his 2016 season becomes rather difficult.

Positionally, of course, the primary objective is to get Pentecost behind the plate on a semi-regular basis by the end of the season, perhaps even working a handful of back-to-back games to set him up for a “full” 2017 if possible.

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His raw power numbers won’t be of peak importance, but watch for doubles and reports of hard contact (which can grow into 2017 power with some consistent at-bats). A high on-base percentage will be the most important of the triple-slash averages, given that Pentecost’s last official at-bat came on August 7th of 2014.

The months ahead are all about re-establishing and getting Pentecost off the ground. In 2017, his age-24 season, some upper-minors success should be expected.