Blue Jays minor league catcher has been hitting, and more importantly, he’s healthy
In late March, it looked like the Toronto Blue Jays might lose catcher A.J. Jimenez after eight seasons in the organization. Designated for assignment following the claim of Jesus Montero, Jimenez snuck through waivers to triple-A Buffalo despite some quiet trade rumours earlier in spring training.
Now healthy and receiving regular reps as the Bisons’ starting catcher, Jimenez is rounding out his game on both sides of the ball.
Jimenez profiles well behind the plate, having thrown out 40% of base stealers in his career (27% this season). In 2011 and 2012 (his age-21 and 22 seasons), the now-26 year old was named the organization’s best defensive catcher by Baseball America.
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It’s with the bat, though, that Jimenez’s ceiling has been limited. In 112 triple-A games over four injury-riddled seasons, Jimenez is batting .245 at the level with an OPS of just .648.
That’s changed over the past two weeks, however. The right-handed Puerto Rican is hitting .371 over his last 10 games with eight runs batted in. This includes a three-run shot last night that made the difference for Buffalo.
The obvious appeal of Jimenez within the current construction of Toronto’s roster is as a strong defensive backup behind Russell Martin. Given the offensive struggles of Josh Thole, who is hitting .150 over 46 plate appearances and has already allowed ten passed balls, the home-grown Jimenez is the logical next step for the affection of Blue Jays fans. (Let’s forget, for a moment, that Thole currently owns a higher OPS than Martin.)
Jimenez earning the backup role is a natural transition next season with R.A. Dickey scheduled to hit free agency. Dickey’s presence will likely continue to keep Jimenez at the triple-A level in 2016, though, especially since Jimenez’s 40-man roster spot was lost in the late-March move.
What this all means, however, is that Toronto does have a legitimate option at the triple-A level in the case that Martin or Thole are injured. Both Jimenez and his triple-A companion Tony Sanchez opened the season very slowly, with Sanchez still hitting just .155 over 17 games.