DUNEDIN, FL - FEBRUARY 26: Catcher J. P. Arencibia #9 of the Toronto Blue Jays takes the field for play against the Detroit Tigers February 26, 2011 at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium in Dunedin, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
One of the players I was interested in watching while in Florida was J.P. Arencibia.
Just looking at his stats you can tell he isn't hitting, so far this spring he had a .140/.240/.163 line with 14 strikeouts in 43 at bats. Watching him at the plate, his timing is way off. I don't think I saw him get a hit. Saw a couple of soft flies and some strikeouts and a couple of walks. The walks are nice, since he hasn't been able to take walks in his minor league career. I don't think his lack of hits in a handful of spring at bats is a big deal really, some guys take j[longer than others to get their timing down and it isn't like JP hasn't had other things to work on.
On the defensive side, you hear all sorts of things. Bob Elliot had a thwip saying:
Scout on Arencibia: "I'm surprised at how many pitches he misses. No, not his swings and misses. Pitches thrown from his guys."
So I watched him, and I can say that I don't understand this. I didn't see him miss pitches behind the plate. But then I'm not a scout. A quick question to Alex about his defense got a "we are pretty happy with how JP is doing behind the plate."
I did see him make poor choices on pickoff throws a couple of times. Once, with runners on 2nd and 3rd he tried to pick the runner off 3rd. I didn't think the throw was all that bad but Bautista couldn't come up with it and both runners scored. The throw really put Jose in a tough spot, he had a ball coming to him, low and close to the bag. Low and close to the bag is where you would want the throw, so that the glove doesn't have to go far to make the tag, but with a player diving back to the bag at the same time, it makes for a tough catch.
JP has made a a couple of bad pickoff throws this spring, I guess spring is the time to try these throws but I'm not thrilled with the choices. I also saw him throw out a runner trying to steal.
On a different subject, in the last game I saw had Brett Cecil pitching and JP catching. Brett had a terrible first inning. He gave up 3 hits, including a home run, a walk and a hit batter. The next inning I noticed that Don Wakamatsu was calling the pitches from the bench. I'm not 100% sure that Wakamatsu wasn't calling the pitches in the first inning, but I think I would have noticed if he was. Wakamatsu was sitting pretty much right in front of me. Unfortunately, since his back was to me, I couldn't see the signs he was giving, but he was giving them on every pitch. After Cecil's 4.1 innings, Wakamatsu stopped giving the signs and JP was on his own for the relievers.
It seemed strange. I don't know if Cecil is particularly hard to call a game. Or perhaps it was just part of the training that JP going through. And I don't truly know that Wakamatsu was calling every pitch. I was sitting directly behind Don, so I couldn't see his signs. All I really know is that JP was looking at Don (we need a nickname for the guy) and was getting some sort of signal before every pitch, after the first inning, until Cecil left the game. Maybe JP asked for the help. One of the innings John Farrell sat beside Wakamatsu and they seemed to be discussing what was going on, but most of the time Don was sitting by himself, giving the signs without consulting Farrell.
Anyway, I still have faith that JP will do a good job this year, though I wouldn't mind seeing him get some hits, sometime this spring, just to ease my mind a bit.
I saw Jose Molina catch a bit too. He still isn't great at blocking balls in the dirt but that's something we'll have to live with. He really does look like a leader out on the field. And he hit a home run off AJ Burnett, which makes him a hero in my eyes. It sounds like the Jays would like him to catch Brandon Morrow and Kyle Drabek, assuming Kyle makes the team. That would make the catcher's spot a 60/40 split between JP and Jose. Likely not a bad way to start the season.