The Blue Jays J.P. Arencibia has made a statement at the plate this season, showing that he has more than enough power to hang in the Major Leagues. He entered play on Monday with 23 HR in 435 AB, helping him also deliver 78 RBI.
Of course, the risk was always that he could struggle in the average department, something that he’s delivered on with a .221 average. It has come courtesy of a 27.4% strikeout rate. If that wasn’t enough, it appears like he is swinging for the fences every time up with a 50.0% fly ball rate (helping to a .256 BABIP). With numbers like that, does he even have a chance to hit for a strong average?
Couple that with a lot of concerns with his ability behind the plate and could he be long as the Blue Jays’ regular catcher?
Lucky for them they actually have another young catcher who could be on the precipice of making an impact. Drafted in the first round of the 2007 draft by the Philadelphia Phillies, Travis d’Arnaud was acquired by the Blue Jays as part of the Roy Halladay trade.
He was always known more for his defense, but at 22-years old and reaching Double-A for the first time, d’Arnaud showed that he knows how to handle the bat as well. In 424 AB he hit .311 with 21 HR, 78 RBI, 72 R and 2 SB. Do these numbers make him a shoe-in to produce in the Major Leagues? Absolutely not.
One major concern for d’Arnaud is his ability to make consistent contact. He struck out 100 times in 2011, a 21.5% strikeout rate. A strikeout rate like that, against Double-A pitchers, is extremely concerning. A players strikeout rate generally rises as the move up levels, so how high could it get as he proceeds to Triple-A and the Majors? It helps tell us that his 2011 average (which also came courtesy of a .365 BABIP) is an unsustainable mark.
If we are hanging our hat on his average being his ticket to taking over regular catching duties, we are going to be sorely disappointed.
At least d’Arnaud showed that he could hit for power, with the 21 HR. He added 33 doubles and a triple, giving him a .542 slugging percentage. In 2009 at Single-A he slugged 38 doubles (and 13 HR), so it’s not impossible that he develops into a consistent 15-20 HR hitter.
His ticket to the Majors is more his glove, however. Baseball America, who ranked him as the team’s #4 prospect prior to 2011, said:
“Defensively, he has a plus arm and threw out 30 percent of basestealers in high Class A in 2010. He sometimes rushes his throws, which affects his accuracy. He has quick feet and the athleticism and agility to stay behind the plate.”
At this point I would say that it is unlikely that d’Arnaud breaks camp with the Blue Jays. While it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get an opportunity in 2012, the chances of him hitting enough to be fantasy viable appears to be a long-shot. While he offers some power, the average is a major risk. Those in dynasty leagues can keep him stashed, otherwise he is probably a player to look at more towards 2013.