Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Road to Third Place Is Paved With Catchers of the Future

We've got catchers on the brain today, what with the to and fro regarding whether if J.P. said he was going to look for a backup catcher in the coming weeks. (The Nat Post says yes, as mentioned in the comments from yesterday, but Jon Hale says J.P. said no such thing. And that the Post is full of shit.)

You have to think that this team doesn't see Gregg "Let me write you a cheque for that" Zaun and Sal Fasano as the long term answers behind the plate. Both are getting older, and let's be honest: Fasano's offensive prowess lingers somewhere around the Huckaby level.

There are options on the way, with both Curtis Thigpen and Robinson Diaz on the horizon. But having watched both youngsters last year, we don't get that "ready-for-prime-time" vibe off of either of them.

The same said Mr. Hale has also posted a link on his Mockingbird (Let's! Get! Mocking!TM) blog to the Jays' non-roster Spring Training invitees, Among the catchers showing up in Dunedin (if only to catch soft-tosses) are 2007 first-rounder J.P. Arencibia (pictured above), Pal Sal, and Brian Jeroloman, a walks machine who posted a .421 OBP in the Florida State League last year.

There's catchers everywhere you look...so why are we still worried? Likely because we've seen one too many Jays Catcher of the Future turn to dust as soon as they get the call to come north. It's almost uncanny. (Maybe Ernie Whitt's sabotaging these up comers as a part of his evil plan to make Blue Jays fans eternally nostalgic for his squatting prowess and his extreme pull uppercut swing.)

The Graveyard of Catching Dreams
Check out the roster of the 2002 Syracuse SkyChiefs, which is a veritable smorgasbord of lost souls when it comes to the Jays future backstops: Josh Phelps? Check. Kevin Cash? Check. Jason Werth? Guillermo Quiroz? Joe Lawrence? Check, check, check. They may not have projected to be stars, but they were all supposed to be full-time Major League catchers at the very least.

(And Ken Huckaby is in there too, even if he was never a prospect to do anything more than separate Derek Jeter's shoulder.)

In the end, two of them (Werth and Lawrence) switched positions and never caught a game in the bigs, while Phelps caught four games this year. It was the first time in six seasons that he donned the tools of ignorance, but we suppose that when you're a marginal player on the Pirates, you do what you gotta do.

Guillermo Quiroz and Kevin Cash are now both doing the organizational two-step, hopping from one team to another. Cash did manage to land in Boston when the music stopped last year, just in time to bask in some of the refracted glow of the Sox' World Series glory.

So who's laughing now?

4 comments:

PRQ said...

So who's laughing now?

Me in my $130 Kevin Cash jersey. Sigh.

kevin cash' mother said...

I was pretty excited about Robinson Diaz, then I saw this on Bastian's blog:

9. Robinzon Diaz, C
DOB: 9/19/83
Height/Weight: 5-11/220
Bats/Throws: R/R
Acquired: NDFA, 2000, Dominican Republic
2007 Stats: .316/.344/.409 at Double-A (74 G); .338/.358/.431 at Triple-A (19 G)

Year In Review: The slow-developing catcher finally made it to the upper levels of the system and just kept on hitting... for average at least.

The Good: Diaz is a contact machine with solid bat speed and outstanding barrel control: he just hits anything that's thrown to him. He's more athletic that your average catcher, and a decent defender with a plus arm.

The Bad: Whatever the opposite of a Three True Outcomes player is, Diaz is just that; in 366 at-bats last year, he had four home runs, 12 walks, and 22 strikeouts. He has little power and projects for no additional pop down the road. His career so far has been filled with minor injuries, and many wonder if, with his smallish frame, he can handle the rigors of a full season.

Fun Fact: In four games against Rochester, Diaz went 7-for-14 with his only Triple-A homer.
Perfect World Projection: A solid backup catcher or starter for a second-division team.

Timetable: While Diaz' progression through the minors has been a slow one, he's finally on the verge of making the majors and will begin the year at Triple-A.

--Not only was he ranked only 9th in a pretty thin Jay farm system, but his "projection" is far from mind-blowing. *Sigh* I do miss Ernie Whitt. So very much.

Lloyd "the Barber" Moseby said...

Find a decent catcher is like finding a cab on New Years Eve: you hope it happens early but are resigned to the fact that you're going to have to wait. So few teams have a solid starting catcher, and when they do they fall all-over themselves trying to get them out from behind the plate (see Mauer, Joe.) If you can find a guy that can play everyday and has the capacity to learn the pitching staff, you are ahead of the game.

Anonymous said...

Don't listen to J Hale. He doesn't have the connections. The Jays are currently talking with a catcher and I know of three of the staff who have spoken to the guy.

Just wait and see if he decides this is where he wants to be...