With pitchers and catchers reporting in about a month and the Jays being not giving us much for news to talk about (there is a story about Scott Richmond and how he tired at the end of the last season in the National Post) I thought we'd look at our options at catcher. The Jays let Rod Barajas and his .258 OBP leave as a free agent (though no one has signed him yet, he could still be back). So who do we have to catch?
John Buck looks, at least at the moment, to be our number one catcher. Now if the Jays were looking for someone to be just like Rod, Buck is as close a match as you are going to get. Rod's career batting line: .238/.284/.408. John Buck's .235/.298/.407. So both low average hitters, neither likes to walk (though Buck will a bit more) with occasional power. Buck strikes out more and has a bit more speed. More speed in a catcher sort of way. The biggest difference is that Buck is 5 years younger. Buck missed time last year with a back injury. The Jays have to hope he doesn't miss significant time this year, because we don't have a lot for catchers after him.
Raul Chavez is the only other catcher in the organization with much major league experience. He has a .231/.285/.346 life time batting line. He will be 37 this year and is a good defensive catcher. Talking about guys that don't like to walk, Raul didn't take his first base on balls until July 22 last year. As a guy that catches once or twice a week he is ok. If Buck was to miss time with an injury I don't think we'd be pleased watching Raul catch every day. His 51 games as a Jay last year was the second most he's ever played in a major league season.
Kyle Phillips was given an invite to spring training. We saw Kyle last year; he got 18 at bats with the Jays and 5 hits, the sum total of his major league career. Kyle will be 26 next year and is pretty much ok as an emergency catcher. His career minor league line is .265/.334/.383, nothing to really get excited about and the last couple of years he's played as much first and third base as he's played. Not really a prospect but better than putting John McDonald out there in an emergency.
Others getting spring training invites:
J.P. Arencibia who has a career minor league line (.266/.305/.467) that does sort of remind you of Barajas and Buck. Doesn't like to take walks, though took 26 last year (which would tie Rod's major league high). He had a bad year in Vegas and had hip surgery after the season. I don't know if that had something to do with his poor year. Pitch selection seems to be an issue for the guy, but then 23 and having his first look at Triple-A pitching, he can be allowed one down year. If Buck were to miss some time this season I wouldn't be against trying JP. I've heard good things about his defense this last year and it really isn't like the bar at catcher is set all that high. Barajas had hot and cold months last year, I'm sure Arencibia could do the same. The trouble is the Jays wouldn't suffer through an .182/.193/.327 month with JP like they did with Rod.
Brian Jeroloman got an invite too. Jeroloman is 25 and had a terrible year at Double-A New Hampshire last year and had surgery at the end of the year too. A defense first catcher, his upside is Raul Chavez. Like Phillips, if the Jays were forced to have him as an emergency backup catcher, who got 18 at bats, we'd likely live through the experience. And unlike the guys above him, he does know how to take a walk. I'm sure it won't happen but I don't think the difference between having him or having Raul as a backup would be all that much.
Travis d'Arnaud also got a spring invite, more on the 'we need someone to catch all these pitchers we have coming this spring' than anything else. He'll just be 21 in February and was just in A-ball last year. Hopefully we'll see him in Toronto in a couple of years, but it would be nice to get a look at him in a game or two this spring.
Beyond those guys there are still free agent catchers that haven't signed yet. Here is the list:
Brad Ausmus (41)
Paul Bako (38)
Rod Barajas (34) - Type B, offered arb
Michael Barrett (33)
Toby Hall (34)
Bengie Molina (35) - Type A, not offered arb
Jose Molina (35)
Yorvit Torrealba (31) - Type B, not offered arb
Javier Valentin (34)
I doubt that we'll sign any of them, though waiting until spring and signing one to a minor league contract might not be a bad move.
Wild guess on what we might get this year?
Buck 400 plate appearances, 230/.300/.425 line with 14 homers.
Chavez 150 PA, .240/.270/.310, 1 homer.
Arencibia 80 PA, .230/.280/.410 3 homers.
Phillips (or someone) 20 PA .250/.250/.325
What do you see happening with our catchers this year?