Friday, March 2, 2012

30 Jays in 30 Days - J.P. Arencibia is a Dreamy Dreamboat

Who: J.P. Arencibia, No. 9. Catcher, tweeter, ESPN analyst impersonator, owner of Yogi the Dog and the hearts of the Jays’ female fans. 6’1, listed at 210 LBS. 26 years old.

Provenance: Miami, brah. Drafted out of the University of Tennessee in 2007.

Tao-Approved Nicknames: JPA. We’re sure there are a plenitude of other nicknames for him in which the gals compound some sugary-sweet substance and particular body parts, but we’ll leave those for you all to find on your own.

History: One full MLB campaign plus a cup of coffee, 140 games over those two seasons with Toronto.

Contract Status: Agreed to a one-year, $417,400 contract before the 2011 season. 2012 contract still pending. Achieves arbitration eligibility after the 2013 season.

Career Stats: .213 AVG, .275 OBP, .431 SLG, .706 OPS in 523 plate appearances. 25 homers, 82 RBI.

One Rate Stat and One Counting Stat: Among catchers with 450 plate appearances or more in 2011, Arencibia ranked first in isolated power (.219). On the other hand, he ranked 11th out of 15 in runs scored among that group.

Looking Back: For a young catcher in his first full year as a big leaguer, getting through the year mostly intact is half the battle. On that level, J.P. Arencibia had a very commendable 2011 season.

More often than not, young catchers are eased into their first full-time gig with a club, but Arencibia acquitted himself quite well, taking the starting job from the beginning of the year and showing an ability to handle all aspects of the job with aplomb. To our eyes, he improved his receiving skills, quieting him body as he crouched, though we’d still like to see him set a better target for his pitchers. (We’re probably seriously out of our depth in discussing this, but we caught a few games in mosquito league ball, so we’ll throw this out there and see if it sticks.)

Given the importance of the catcher’s role to the pitching staff, any offensive performance from a rookie catcher has to be considered a nice throw-in. However, Arencibia’s bat has always been his calling card, and his offensive output was likely going to be scrutinized more than your typical young backstop. And last year was a bit of a mixed bag on that level, with Arencibia posting the seventh highest slugging percentage (.438) among the group of 15 catchers mentioned above, but also the second-lowest on-base percentage (.282). He also had the second highest strikeout rate (27.4 %) in that group, and did little to offset the whiffs by walking just 7.4% of the time.

Looking Forward: If you like taters, dingers, bombs, long balls and other big flies, then JPA is probably your sort of guy. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Getting yourself around the bases with one swing of the bat is a commendable attribute.

But it’s worth keeping in mind that Arencibia’s power shouldn’t completely overshadow the fact that his bat wouldn’t play anywhere else on the diamond at this point. He’s a good offensive weapon…for a catcher. Arencibia’s minor league numbers show a .319 OBP over four seasons, including one PCL-inflated .359 mark in 2010.

It’s hard to imagine that his major league OBP would get that far above .300 any time soon, but so long as he’s still a decent catcher and he’s hitting jacks, he’ll continue to be a decent option in the bottom half of the lineup.

2012 Expectations: JPA has quickly become a fan favourite for a whole host of reasons, from his newfound love of hockey to his willingness to cart his arse to every city, town and region of our vast land in the middle of winter to promote the team. Such things buy a guy a lot of capital in the hearts and minds.

But throughout 2012, expect to hear the footsteps of top prospect Travis d’Arnaud sneaking up on Arencibia, especially if his PCL numbers look as gaudy as some of the others we’ve seen come across the ticker from Las Vegas recently. Even if d’Arnaud pushes this season, we’d imagine that the Jays will continue to have a use for this year and next, but expect that by 2014, a choice is going to have to be made between the two.

Is this a challenge that Arencibia can embrace? How much more room does he have until he hits his offensive ceiling? Our guess is that he’ll post some marginal improvements in his on-base and strikeout rates, but the power numbers could go in either direction. All told, an OPS in the mid-.700’s would be a reasonably hopeful probability.

(Picture snagged from JPA's Twitter homepage. Adorbs!)


Anonymous said...

I've become a JPA fan even though i had serious doubts at the beginning of last year. His catching game made some good strides and i've always thought catchers should be power guys offensively. I haven't seen much of d'Arnaud, but lets say he turns into the next Mauer. Is it possible for JPA to convert to DH or 1B? A backup catcher playing DH makes the bench look a little more interesting.

Tao of Stieb said...

Let me answer your question with another question, as though I am your rabbi:

Do you think JP Arencibia is a better offensive player than Adam Lind? Because the numbers say otherwise, and if you think people dislike what Adam Lind has done, what makes you think that JPA's low-.700's OPS would fly at 1B or DH?

In terms of DH bats, JPA ranks behind EE, Eric Thames, Travis Snider, possibly Rajai and maybe even Fransisco.

Tony said...

I really wonder where JPA's head is at in terms of the D'arnaud situation. Over the offseason, I think he fired off a bit of attitude at KLaw, who had told a reader that Arencibia would be headed out of town when D'arnaud was ready. I wonder what the D'arnaud/Arencibia relationship is like...

The Ack said...

I don't give a shit, I'm just going to say it: I want JPA on the Blue Jays for reasons above and beyond what he does on the field.

Of course it would be ideal if he develops into an .800 OPS catcher, allowing the team to peddle d'Arnaud for an emerging ace.

But I mean, if liking the guy and hoping he succeeds at least in part because he's embraced the city, country, and Blue Jay organization makes me an annoying fanboy, then so be it, I guess.

(of course, you can disregard all the syrup above if he churns out a .675 season)

Anonymous said...

I'd have to believe that without the daily catching grind JPA's offensive numbers would improve a bit. Catching daily is by far the hardest position physically. EE is a free agent after this season. JPA at the dh and back up catching. I guess i'm saying i'm not too much of an EE fan lol. Far too streaky for my liking. Love him for two weeks of the year when he bombs 12 homers in that stretch.

Plain_g said...

I'm with ack, flip d'arnaud for a stud pitcher, or as the centerpiece of a deal for votto.

Anonymous said...

Arencibia is a joke of a hitter. He ranked 16/21 in wOBA among C's with 350 AB and 15/21 in OPS. For a guy who is supposed to be an offense first guy, that's not a good thing.

It wouldn't be so bad if his defence was average, but anybody who has watched him for more than 5 innings know he's absolutely horrible behind the plate.

He's what, 25 or 26 now? We're not talking about a young prospect here. What you see is what you get offensively. Maybe his average shoots up 15-20 points, but he's gonna be a guy who struggles to post a 300 OBP.

The power is nice, but unless he's a top 10 catcher offensively, he's pretty worthless to the team because he's one of the worst defenders in the league. Because of his skillset (HR, RBI and no OBP) the Jays should be able to flip him for somebody who thinks he's actually a good hitting catcher.

I guess it's nice that he's fun to be around, but I like good players who contribute to the team's success over mediocre players who make people laugh.

Anonymous said...

30 jays in 32 days