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Aspiring Jays: A.J. Jimenez, Bluefield's opening day and more

In this week's edition of Aspiring Jays, we divide our attention between catching prospect A.J. Jimenez, the Bluefield Blue Jays, and some other assorted notes.


Lots to talk about this week, but let's start with A.J. Jimenez. The 23-year-old catching prospect had to miss most of 2012 because of Tommy John surgery, and has been on and off - but mostly on - the disabled list this year. Jimenez has played in only 17 games, but has a .468/.462/.661 line between High-A Dunedin and Double-A New Hampshire, with just one walk and eight strikeouts. Over his minor league career, Jimenez has drastically improved his ability to make contact, but taking walks has not been his best skill, to say the least. He does have the ability to hit for a decent average, and coupled with very good defense behind the plate, that should be enough to be a major leaguer. The question is whether Jimenez will be an adequate starter or just a backup catcher who earns his job with his defense. With so few at bats this season and last season, it's tough to tell how good Jimenez' bat is going to be. Catchers can develop their offensive skills quite slowly sometimes, and injuries certainly don't help developing them faster.

Let's compare Jimenez' last two healthy seasons (2010 and 2011) with somewhat similar seasons from major league catchers, just because we can:

Name Age Slash line League
A.J. Jimenez 20 .305/.347/.435 MIDW
A.J. Jimenez 21 .303/.353/.417 FSL
Salvador Perez 20 .290/.322/.411 CAR
Russell Martin 21 .250/.366/.421 FSL
Carlos Santana 21 .223/.318/.370 MIDW
Yadier Molina 19 .280/.331/.384 MIDW
Jarrod Saltalamacchia 19 .272/.348/.437 SAL
Jarrod Saltalamacchia 20 .314/.394/.519 CAR
John Buck 19 .282/.374/.444 MIDW
John Buck 20 .275/.345/.483 SAL
Brian McCann 19 .290/.329/.462 SAL
Brian McCann 20 .278/.337/.494 CAR
Ryan Doumit 20 .270/.333/.351 SAL
Miguel Montero 20 .263/.330/.409 MIDW
Mike Napoli
20 .251/.362/.392 MIDW
A.J. Pierzynski
19 .274/.308/.406 MIDW
A.J. Pierzynski 20 .279/.313/.405 FSL
Carlos Ruiz 23 .213/.264/.327 FSL

These examples are all high school draftees or international signings. Many of the better catchers (Mauer, Posey, Wieters) are drafted from college and breeze through high-A because they're older and more experienced. Interestingly, Carlos Ruiz became one of the best catchers in the major league, even though he was terrible in the Florida State League at an older age relative to the league. Here's an interesting tidbit from John Sickels' prospect retrospective on Ruiz:

Was there anything to warn us that this guy could go from solid Triple-A/major league backup catcher to becoming an All-Star? One thing that stands out in the statistical record: his career, even before the breakout, was marked by low strikeout rates. I have noticed that other players who take unexpected steps forward, as Ruiz has done, profiled similarly. They might not have been monster hitters in the minors, but they didn't strike out much, even when they were struggling.

Jimenez' best skills are his defense and his low strikeout rates, much like Ruiz in the minors. That's not to say that his career will follow a similar pattern, but I think Jimenez has been an underrated prospect for a while now, and hopefully he will give the Jays reason to consider their options at the catcher position.

Meanwhile, Santiago Nessy is still on the disabled list, former Jays prospect Travis d'Arnaud is on the road to recovery, while another former Jays prospect, Carlos Perez, has avoided injury and is now hitting .292/.364/.406 in Triple-A.


Bluefield, location of the Jays' Appalachian League affiliate, celebrated opening day in style yesterday, winning 5-0. Chase DeJong (5 innings, 0 walks, 2 Ks) and Canadian Shane Dawson (4 innings, 1 walk, 5 Ks) combined to throw a shutout, piggyback-style. Hitting prospects Mitch Nay, who went 2-for-4, and Dawel Lugo, who topped that with a 3-for-4 day, started the season in a positive manner. 1st round draft pick D.J. Davis went hitless, recording one strikeout.

DeJong admitted after the game that he didn't have his best stuff, and that he was helped out by an important outfield assist from right fielder Jesus Gonzalez in the first inning. DeJong recorded stellar strikeout rates in the GCL last season and in extended spring training this year, will be looking to get more strikeouts and weak contact in his next start. Shane Dawson also had good number in the GCL last year, but he's older and therefore will have to do more to impress. So far, so good, though.

Notably absent from the Bluefield roster is Matt Smoral, who missed a large part of extended spring training, which is probably also the reason for Tyler Gonzales, another supplemental round pick from the 2012 draft, to miss out on playing for Bluefield. Pitchers who were assigned to the Gulf Coast League in previous years, like Griffin Murphy and Mark Biggs, did not fare very well. Both pitchers will have to prove they're healthy and in command of their pitches, so that they can avoid going the Murphy-Biggs route of prospect flameouts.

Other notes

-Aaron Sanchez is listed as the probable starter for Dunedin today. Sanchez last pitched on the 18th of May.

-The Dominican Summer League is producing some interesting results so far; SS/3B Ronniel Demorizi (17) is hitting .276/.432/.534, though he is repeating the league.

-6'5 righty Miguel Castro (18) is also repeating the DSL, but 19 Ks in 15 innings with just 4 walks and a 0.60 ERA is worth mentioning, I think.

-As I'm writing this, the season opener for the Gulf Coast League Jays is just over an hour away. No starters are listed as of yet.