This is the first in a series of posts looking at the Jays on a position by position level, assessing both the 2011 performance and the future outlook at the position. Inspired by Rick's franchise overview series, my goal is to break down the analysis into smaller, more in-depth parts for the team I'm most familiar with. Where applicable, I'll refer back to my 2011 projections to review the team next to my expectations.
2011 Catchers Overall: .238/.302/.446, 26 HR
Despite the low BA and OBP, 26 HR from behind the plate is a very good total and helped make this a respectable position in 2011.
Starter: JP Arencibia
2011 line: 129 G, .219/.282/.438, 23 HRI see a similar skill set here: real power, poor on-base skills, and adequate defense. I expect a step back next year, however. JPA will show power - I expect 15-20 HR - but I expect an adjustment period at the MLB level. a batting average in the .220-.240 range wouldn't surprise me, and with few walks, and OBP south of .280. I like JPA a lot, just not for 2011.
Arencibia met my expectations. He had a few more HR, a few more BB, a slightly lower BA than I anticipated, but overall was the player I thought he'd be.
JPA has two major things going for him: the ability to handle a tough position, and plus power. Those two factors made him a useful MLB player this year, even with his poor contact and plate discipline skills.
Backup: Jose Molina
2011 line: 55 G, .281/.342/.415, 3 HR
Though more of a defense-first backup catcher, Molina actually had a decent year with the bat, hitting 40 points above his career average, and above average overall batting numbers.
While the position was not bad in 2011, there's a lot of promise going forward. Arencibia's already shown enough game power that He could be one of the better offensive catchers in the game if he can get his batting average into the .250 range with the accompanying rise in OBP.
Beyond Arencibia, prospect Travis d'Arnaud had a breakout year in AA, hitting .311/.371/542 as a 22 year old. With Arencibia in place, there's no reason to rush d'Arnaud, but many feel d'Arnaud's overall game will eventually help him overtake Arencibia as the team's starting catcher. Arencibia has more power, but d'Arnaud is generally considered the better defender with the more rounded offensive profile.
Beyond that, they have a couple of younger catchers (Carlos Perez and AJ Jimenez) who draw strong praise for their defense and have shown flashes of offensive potential, but who are too far away still to expect anything in the short-term.
Overall, he Jays have serious depth at the position. They have a decent young player with upside who's proven he can handle MLB, a high-level prospect scheduled to make the jump to AAA next year, and legitimate prospects peppered throughout the system. They'll eventually have some decisions to make here, but that's a good problem to have.
Arencibia's almost certainly the starter in 2012.
Projection: .240/.300/.460, 25 HR.
I wouldn't be surprised to see his BA rise and his K rate drop, and he should be good for 20+ HR again. I don't expect he'll ever be a guy who gets on base consistently, however. Perhaps the bigger question regarding his future is his defense; he showed in 2011 he can handle the position, but if d'Arnaud's bat continues to progress, JPA will need to take a step forward defensively to secure his job for the near future.
Depending on how he fares in AAA, d'Arnaud could see a September call-up, but I don't expect him before then, unless a trade or injury forces the issue. Beyond 2012 is anyone's guess, but there will be options available.