Prospect of the Week: A.J. Jimenez

Catcher of the future? - Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The post this week looks at a possible Jays catcher of the future.

Hello again, hope everyone is enjoying watching some real baseball for the first time in months. I watched three games yesterday so I know that I definitely am.

A.J. Jimenez is a 22 year old Puerto Rican catcher who stands 6 feet tall and weighs in at slightly over 200 pounds. Drafted #279 in the 2008 draft, Jimenez has slowly climbed his way up the Blue Jays organizational depth chart. His 2012 season was cut short (just 27 games played) due to a busted up UCL in his right throwing arm. Tommy John surgery was required and it sidelined him for the rest of the year. Before the injury A.J. was raising eyebrows with his solid 2011 numbers in High-A Dunedin. In 422 plate appearances he hit .303/.353/.417 with 4 homeruns and coupled it with great defence behind the plate.

Jimenez's future with the team was uncertain due to the back log of catchers ahead of him in the Jays system, but with the trade of Travis D'Arnaud clearing things up, Jimenez is the #1 catching prospect in the organization .

Hitting

Jimenez nearly split his K% in half from 24.5% in his first full season to 14.2% in his 2011 season. His stable walk rate of 6% isn't fantastic but he still gets on base at a fairly good clip. Right now Jimenez seems to have doubles power that may eventually translate into homerun power but that's yet to be determined. At this point, all signs point to Jimenez being able to hit enough to start behind the plate.

Here's a good video of how he looks at the plate:

A.J. Jimenez, C Toronto Blue Jays (via baseballinstinct)

Defence

Jimenez's calling card is his defence and will likely be the deciding factor on how far he goes in the big leagues. Baseball America calls Jimenez the best defensive catcher in the organization (even before the TDA trade) which would be a nice switch from the inconsistency of JP Arencibia behind the plate. It also seems that the defensively sound Henry Blanco is helping Jimenez out this spring which should definitely help him develop as a complete catcher. According to Baseball Instinct, "There's no questions about AJ Jimenez's defence behind the plate; he has great glovework, game-calling ability and is excellent with the catch-and-throw game". They go on to say that he only had 6 passed balls in 2011 to go along with throwing out 44% of base stealers (55% in his small sample size 2012 season). He certainly seems to be the anti-Arencibia.

Basepaths

Generally 6 foot catchers that weigh in over 200 pounds don't have much base-running ability but Jimenez stole as many as 17 bases in the 2010 season so he definitely is a moderate threat in the running game.

There isn't any videos online of Jimenez on defence or running the bases that I can find, but here's a video of Jimenez batting against the Canadian National Junior Team before the 2011 season:

Blue Jays C A.J. Jimenez vs. Canadian National Junior Team - Spring Training 2011 (via MLBProspectPortal)

Outlook

A.J. Jimenez will almost certainly start the 2013 season where he ended 2012, in New Hampshire. It wouldn't be surprising if he spent all year there trying to bounce back from his injury and regain his 2011 form. A mid-season call up to AAA Buffalo wouldn't be shocking but there is still a fair amount of catchers in the upper levels of the Jay's system. A longer term outlook for Jimenez is much more difficult to predict. While he was impressive in the 2011 season, hitting .300 in high-A is very different than succeeding in the high minors. If he continues to keep his strikeout rate low and develops his line drive power he could make Jays fans quickly forget about Travis D'Arnaud. If he can't make the jump against more advanced pitching, his defensive skills will only carry him so far (likely a back-up role at best). If a replacement for JP Arencibia is ever needed, hopefully Jimenez can step up and be that guy,

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