Friday, July 4, 2014

Time for A.J. ?

   As the absence of Jose Bautista painfully showed during the week he was lost to the club due to a hamstring injury, the Blue Jays are extremely vulnerable to left handed pitching.  With Brett Lawrie out at least another month, that situation isn't getting any better.  With the club rumoured to be seeking to bolster the club through the trade market, we suggest that there's one upgrade already on the club's 40 man roster in Buffalo catcher AJ Jimenez.
   Josh Thole has had a decent season with the bat, although he's regressing to his career mean, and has actually hit left handed pitching well this season, albeit in a limited sample size, and with no pop.  Jimenez has hit .295/.301/.366 at Buffalo this year, including .359/.390/.513 over his last 10 games.  He would be an upgrade both offensively and defensively over Thole.
  Of course, there's the no small matter of Thole's expertise at catching R.A. Dickey's knuckleball.  Thole has caught Dickey almost exclusively for the past three seasons.  There was plenty  derisive chatter on Twitter last evening about Dickey having a "personal catcher," but what many fans fail to realize that Dickey is not the first knuckleballer to pitch to one catcher.  The pitch is that difficult to catch, and one has to look no further than the difficulties J.P. Arencibia had trying to catch Dickey early last season.  That Dickey has a personal catcher owes more to the capricious nature of the pitch, and less to the contractual status of the former Cy Young winner.
   The Blue Jays signed converted knuckleball pitcher Tomo Ohka in the off-season, and sent both he and Jimenez to AA to start 2014, likely with the idea of giving Jimenez exposure to handling the pitch in mind.  That move didn't pan out after Ohka's knuckler was pounded in the spring, and he's now pitching in the independent Atlantic League.
   So, Jimenez may have limited experience in catching the pitch.  Everything we have read and seen suggests that he is more than ready defensively to be in the majors.  Jimenez's presence would also take some of the pressure off of Dioner Navarro, who is not an every day catcher.   He would be an upgrade over Eric Kratz, who quite frankly leaves something to be desired when it comes to handling pitchers and blocking balls in the dirt. Jimenez would give the roster some flexibility in this day and age of multi-man bullpens.  
   The question mark has always been the bat, but Jimenez appears to have answered that.  Jimenez will never post high OPS numbers, but he would definitely solidify the position, and has some familiarity with young pitchers like Stroman, Sanchez, and Norris. Whether the Blue Jays want to throw a rookie into a pennant race, and have him handle a difficult pitch at the same time is something the front office types are likely debating as the season reaches the halfway point.
Post a Comment