Thursday, October 23, 2014

What's In the System: Catchers

  This is the first of a number of surveys of the depth (or lack thereof) of prospects at several positions in the Blue Jays system.

   A year ago, we concluded that catching is probably one of the thinnest positions in the Blue Jays system.  The situation has improved slightly a year later, but outside of AJ Jimenez, there is no one on the immediate horizon who could fill a spot on a major league roster, Sean Ochinko's hot Arizona Fall League start notwithstanding.

     And with R.A. Dickey back for at least one more year, it seems likely that the athletic Jimenez will continue to be blocked at the major league level by Josh Thole.
    Jimenez battled arm and shoulder woes in his first full season after Tommy John surgery two years ago, and he was limited to 83 games between New Hampshire and Buffalo.  We've seen a fair bit of him in action behind the plate, and we like what we've seen.  He is quick to deftly block balls in the dirt, and is a good handler of pitches.  The question has always been if his bat will play in the majors.
    The Blue Jays drafted Kennesaw State catcher Max Pentecost with their second first round pick this year.  The bat-first, defence-second Pentecost had his own injury woes in his pro debut after a lengthy collegiate season, and was shut down in early August for rest and rehab in Florida after only 105 pro at bats.  It turns out Pentecost had a partially torn labrum in his throwing shoulder, and underwent surgery in early October. Recovery from full tear surgery takes 9 months, on average, putting Pentecost's return to the tools of ignorance somewhere in late spring, although like Jimenez last year, he may DH for a spell prior to that.
   There were concerns about Pentecost's defence in his limited run at Vancouver, but injuries and fatigue may have been a factor.  He loomed as a back end of our top 10 list prospect, but this certainly slows down his timetable and puts him back a bit.
   Derrick Chung was part of a strong core that propelled Dunedin to one of the best won-loss records in all of Organized Baseball at the start of June.  Finally settled in at catcher after playing a variety of positions in his first two years in the organization, Chung was lauded for his play on both sides of the ball in the Florida State League.  At 26, he was a bit old for the league even though he was learning a new position, and was promoted to AA at mid-season.  Chung's numbers with New Hampshire fell far short of the ones he posted at A+, although he finished strong.  Given his age, Chung has to be considered a borderline prospect at this point.
  Santiago Nessy at one point was considered a potential catcher of the future.  Injuries and inconsistency have marked his past two seasons, and he appeared in only 69 games between Lansing and Dunedin.  At 21 (he doesn't turn 22 until December), time is still somewhat on his side.
   Danny Jansen was having a solid second pro season at Bluefield when a knee injury ended his season in early August.  The 16th round 2013 pick was considered a steal by some, and should make his full season debut in 2015 if he's healthy.
   Matt Morgan was a well-regarded 4th round pick in June, but had monumental struggles at the plate in the GCL.
   Mike Reeves started the year sharing the catching duties with Chung at Dunedin, and was sent down to Lansing to get more playing time, and finished the year at Vancouver, taking over duties behind the plate for Pentecost.
  Jorge Saez has been praised for his leadership skills, but after a promotion from Lansing to Dunedin, showed that he may have reached his ceiling.
  Michael De La Cruz caught 43 games for Vancouver before the arrival of Pentecost, and at 21 has time to develop.
   Kevin Garcia posted some decent numbers after filling in for Jansen, but it's a small sample size for the June draftee.
   Ochinko, Jack Murphy, Pierce Rankin, and Aaron Munoz are org guys at this point.

Our ranking of the Blue Jays catchers:

1.  Jimenez
2.  Pentecost
3.  Jansen
4.  Nessy
5.  Chung
6.  Reeves
7.  Morgan
8.  Garcia 
9. Saez
10.  De La Cruz


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