Toronto Blue Jays Catching Depth
The Toronto Blue Jays currently have good depth in catching prospects. Per reader request, let's take a look at the backstops of the future in Toronto.
Carlos Perez, Grade B: This 20 year old Venezuelan hit .298/.396/.438 in the New York-Penn League last year, showing good plate discipline (34 walks, 41 strikeouts in 235 at-bats) and beginning to tap into his power. He threw out 36% of runners while drawing strong reviews for his glove potential, though he needs to cut down on mistakes behind the plate, having coughed up 13 passed balls in 44 games. Perez has the best combination of offensive and defensive upside of all the catchers in the system, and I gave him a Grade B in the book this year. He was signed as a free agent out of Venezuela in 2008.
J.P. Arencibia, Grade B-: Arencibia hit two homers in his first 11 major league games, but also fanned 11 times in 35 at-bats with just two walks. After a disappointing 2009 season, Arencibia showed improved contact ability and strike zone judgment in his second try in Triple-A, hitting .301/.359/.626 with 32 homers for Las Vegas. I remain concerned that his approach will result in a low batting average and OBP against major league pitching, but he should provide home runs. His glovework has improved somewhat but isn't going to be his best asset, though it will be adequate if he hits as expected. As I wrote in the book this year, he "could be really good" if he can add polish to his glove and control the zone at least adequately, but could also "slip into role player status if he can't remedy his remaining weaknesses." I gave him a Grade B- in the book, but you can make a case for both a Grade B (if you believe that the bat will continue improving) or C+ (if you think he was just lucky repeating the league). He was drafted in the first round in 2007 from the University of Tennessee.
Travis D'Arnaud, Grade B-: D'Arnaud missed half of 2010 with back problems, and hit .259/.315/.411 in the Florida State League (71 games) when he did play. He is mobile, blocks the plate well, doesn't make many mistakes, and gets good reviews for his glove, though his throwing needs work: he caught 30% last year but has the arm strength to do better than that. I don't think defense will be a problem; his glove will be fine and perhaps way above average. He also gets good reviews for his hitting: scouts seem to like his swing a lot, though his actual performance hasn't been spectacular. He hit .259/.315/.411 last year. He has some pop and hit 20 doubles in 263 at-bats, but his strike zone judgment needs some work. I gave him a B- and I see him as more of a solid player than a future star, but there is nothing wrong with being "just" a "solid" catcher, something like Kurt Suzuki maybe. D'Arnaud was drafted in the supplemental first round in 2007 out of high school in California, by the Phillies, then acquired in the Roy Halladay trade.
A.J. Jimenez, Grade C: Jimenez hit .305/.347/.435 last year in 70 games for Low-A Lansing, with 17 steals in 21 attempts, 18 walks, and 56 strikeouts. He's got impatience issues but Midwest League sources seemed to think he has a good chance to keep hitting at higher levels. His defense is also intriguing: he caught 51% of runners and didn't give up an excessive number of passed balls or errors. I gave him a Grade C in the book, but with the notation that he could take a big step forward in 2011. Looking at him again right now, you can make a really good case for a Grade C+ and that is how I would rate him today, though of course it is too late to change the book grade. He was drafted in the ninth round in 2008 from high school in Puerto Rico.
Brian Jeroloman, Grade C: The 25-year-old Jeroloman is a defensive specialist, catching 27% of runners last year in Double-A but with better success earlier in his career, with low errors and passed ball rates and good reviews for his glove overall. He hit .261/.429/.412 last year at New Hampshire, showing a high walk rate and OBP, though he won't have much power at the major league level. He seems ideally-suited to be a backup catcher in the majors. He was drafted in the sixth round in 2006 from the University of Florida.
Also keep track of Santiago Nessy, an 18-year-old from Venezuela who played in the Dominican Summer League last year. He's supposed to have considerable offensive potential despite a weak .248/.327/.376 performance in the DSL. We should see him in North America this year.
Catching prospects often fail to develop along a linear path, but the Jays have a nice group here. Perez and D'Arnaud are both capable of becoming regular catchers who combine strong defense with at least adequate hitting and possibly very good hitting. Arencibia is more offense-oriented and has a mediocre glove, but will get to the majors sooner and might make a big impact with his power if he keeps the zone under some semblence of control. Jeroloman should be a good backup, and Jimenez is the darkhorse who could surprise us in '11.