When We Learn Something About a Prospect

At one point during yesterday’s edition of FanGraphs Audio, Carson asked an excellent question. In talking about Sean Smith’s new job with a major league club, he asked what an outsider such as Smith might learn that that is inaccessible to the rest of us. I gave the bland answer about scouting players. Dave, however, came up with quite the interesting insight.

I think one of the things that is interesting is the access to information that could help to project the development paths of certain types of minor leaguers.

Dave went on to talk about how prospects can bust for non-baseball reasons, which was an interesting take on the matter. The overall point is that while we might see Baseball America rate these guys highly, and we might see them produce quality numbers in the minors, there is still plenty that we don’t know about them. Given what we learned yesterday, there might be something we don’t know about Toronto catching prospect J.P. Arencibia.

After the 2009 season Baseball America rated Arencibia the Blue Jays No. 2 prospect. At age 24, there was a good chance that he’d make his debut in 2010, though the Jays had just signed John Buck as their starting catcher for the season. But when Buck got hurt, Arencibia got the call. He caught everyone’s attention in his major league debut, hitting two homers and barely missing another. The rest of his season didn’t go too well, but it lasted just 37 PA, so it didn’t mean much. With the expectation that Buck would seek a multi-year deal, the easy assumption had Arencibia starting behind the plate in 2011, with Jose Molina backing him up. But yesterday we learned that might not necessarily be the plan.

In the evening word broke that the Blue Jays were close to an agreement with A.J. Pierzynski. That immediately put Arencibia’s situation in question. With a young player, a team might opt to carry two low-cost veterans and call up the youngster when they feel he’s ready. But what else can Arencibia prove in the minors? He hit .301/.359/.626 last season and won the Pacific Coast League MVP. True, there’s more to a player’s readiness than his numbers, but it sure seems as though Arencibia is as ready as he’s going to be. But, again, that’s just us looking in from the outside.

Arencibia’s plate discipline issues are well known. He might have made some progress on that in 2010, as his 8.3 percent walk rate was an easy career high. Even if he does walk only 5 or 6 percent of the time in the majors, his power should help mitigate his lack of on-base and contact skills. The problem, though, is when you combine those issues with defensive ones. From Baseball America’s 2011 Blue Jays prospects write-up:

His defense also is in question. He has solid arm strength but threw out just 23 percent of PCL basestealers. His receiving and blocking skills are improving though just average at best, and he can get lackadaisical at times

That he’s a poor defensive catcher is also no secret. What gets me is that lackadaisical line. Does that hint at something greater than the Blue Jays have let on? Or is it just an innocuous line in a scouting report? Again, this is where we simply have no way of knowing. The Blue Jays will keep that information far away from the public eye — as they should. But it does leave us at a loss when analyzing how the Blue Jays construct their roster. That information about Arencibia becomes invaluable when trying to decipher their moves.

The Jays, of course, didn’t end up signing Pierzynski. He’s back in Chicago, where he’ll keep home plate warm for Tyler Flowers. But the most interesting part of this transaction is not where Pierzynski landed, but of Toronto’s intentions. Does this indicate their true feelings towards Arencibia? I wish I could answer. That would make our analysis a bit more complete.



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Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.


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Bret
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Bret
5 years 6 months ago

Alex Anthopoulos was on the radio in Toronto this morning, and while he didn’t say it directly, he pretty much hinted that he’d never even spoken to or shown much interest in Pierzynski. So, I wouldn’t read much into that part. He seemed to indicate that because of his policy of not saying much about players he’s targeting, the Blue Jays have become an easy team for agents to use as a mystery team to drive up prices for their players.

The rest of the analysis about JPA is interesting, though. It is tough to know what do expect from him next year. Though I do expect the Jays give him a good shot, at least.

larry
Guest
5 years 6 months ago

using the same logic, it tells you what the white sox think about tyler flowers.

OremLK
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OremLK
5 years 6 months ago

Well, Tyler Flowers is a pretty iffy prospect. Serious questions about the bat (strikes out far too much) plus serious questions about the defense (can he even stay at catcher?).

will
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5 years 6 months ago

I’m of the opinion that major league GM’s are terrified of the catcher position for the most part. Thinking that, I’d bet any good GM will want a good, solid (if boring) veteran catcher even if they’re high on a kid. It’s a lot easier to sign Pierzynski and have him eventually back up the young stud than to throw the kid out there and have no legitimate backup

-w

Jay
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Jay
5 years 6 months ago

I think you are reading to much into rumors and AA being a very active general manager.

Steve
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Steve
5 years 6 months ago

He hit .301/.359/.626 last season and won the Pacific Coast League MVP.

Yes, but that’s an OPS+ of 86 in the PCL…

Lee
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Lee
5 years 6 months ago

Hahaha I hope that’s a joke…

Matt
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Matt
5 years 6 months ago

Yeah, I see this being kind of similar to the situation the Giants had last year.

Before the season and during the year everyone was clamoring about why Buster Posey isn’t the starting catcher to start the year, and a lot of people were speculating it was to postpone arbitration, but I honestly think the organization was afraid he wouldn’t be ready and his PCL numbers wouldn’t transfer over. They were scared to put all their eggs into one basket made out of a rookie catcher who hadn’t been catching for very long.

The Blue Jays might just be a little hesitant to count on Arencibia without a safety net when he had some struggles last year.

Grant
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Grant
5 years 6 months ago

Apparently the Jays hadn’t even talked to Pierzynski, we’re reading too much into this I think.

siggian
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siggian
5 years 6 months ago

“The rest of his season didn’t go too well, but it lasted just 37 PA…”

This is where a little personal observation helps. If you look strictly at the numbers, he didn’t look good. But if you then look at who was the opposing pitcher, his lack of hitting at least becomes understandable. JP was doing most of his batting against elite pitchers. It was becoming a cruel joke where Jays fans would simply look at the upcoming rotation and say “JP is going to catch that game because that one’s against the ace.”

This was a side effect of Gaston trying to get Buck his 20 HRs.

Jesse
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Jesse
5 years 6 months ago

4 starts in Sept: Price, Lester, Felix and Sabathia. I despise Cito, didn’t even give the kid a chance.

YD
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YD
5 years 6 months ago

I suppose that’s as good of an article as you can get written entirely on hypotheticals based off one word from a BA scouting report…

Captain Hindsight
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Captain Hindsight
5 years 6 months ago

Right. I thought (and hoped) this was going to be about when — that is, at what point in a prospect’s timeline — can we replace his pre-draft scouting report with a truer projection.

Al
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Al
5 years 6 months ago

I feel like MLB teams always view catching prospects a little differently than other positional players. They are more difficult to project because they are in charge of more than what they do at the plate or defensively.

They are in charge of handling pitchers and managers/organization maybe worry about that fact more than they should. Seems like they have a hard time trusting young players to do that.

Table
Guest
Table
5 years 6 months ago

Martin lands in Toronto calling it.

Omar Little
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Omar Little
5 years 6 months ago

If the Jays signed a catcher I’ll be pissed. JPA and Molina is a perfectly fine combo this upcoming season, the Jays aren’t ready yet to make to seriously contend yet. I see them being very good in 2012 and beyond, 2011 should be tuning up for that.
He needs some goddam experience, they might as well trade him if they sign another catcher.

Table
Guest
Table
5 years 6 months ago

What if they signed Manny, Martin, and……Nick Johnson, which would not be difficult.

Escobar
Johnson
Manny
Bautista
Wells
Lind
Snider
Hill
Martin

u tellin me that dat lineup with Toronto’s young pitching couldn’t contend for the wildcard next year?

Torgen
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Torgen
5 years 6 months ago

That assumes signing Nick Johnson results in Nick Johnson being in the lineup. If you believe that, you haven’t been paying attention.

Table
Guest
Table
5 years 6 months ago

No, it just gives them someone to be in the mix at first and DH. He would hardly be the key to that lineup.

TammyBeth
Guest
5 years 6 months ago

I’ve seen just as many reports saying that JPA had made great strides on defense as I have those which questioned it. I’m not sure how much we can ever know from that kind of reporting especially when it conflicts.

but even though I think the OP kind of misses the point about Arencibia in particular, to the extent that you are using JPA to illustrate the greater point that there are things those of us outside the organization can’t know.

let me offer a better illustration of the point using the same player.

After JPA struggled through 2009, there was all sorts of “analysis” offered as to why a previously successful hitter had failed so badly. i myself offered the view that he’d been rushed (which I still think is true). Some time after the season was over, it was reported – as far as i can tell for the first time – that JPA would undergo LASIK surgery because he’d had some problems picking up the ball especially at night, AND that he’d been playing through some kidney problems that he had surgery for after the season.

Neither of these had been reported during the season and either alone, and certainly both together, would have greatly informed everyone’s analsis of what was going on with him. but looking in from the outside, none of use was able to draw the correct conclusion about his 2009 results.

In my limited experience, it’s notoriously difficult to get real insight into what’s going on with minor league prospects beyond the stats and the most basic reporting.

So your point is well made, even if I’m not convinced that the Jays are worried about JPA (beyond the extent you worry about breaking in ANY rookie at a key defensive position)

exxrox
Member
exxrox
5 years 6 months ago

To me, the obviously BETTER comparison than Arencebia, and the one that this article should have covered, is Dan Uggla.

Every fan and analyst mentioned how this was a bad and/or uncertain trade for the Marlins, but the fact of the matter is that the other 29 teams didn’t pony up for an otherwise known productive hitter…I have heard the talk that the Marlins’ GM simply failed and did not even try to create a bidding war, and moved him too soon, but there was likely something else at play here.

I feel that there were other factors at play that are foreign to the outsiders of the industry. This isn’t about a prospect, per se, but still worth mentioning.

John S
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John S
5 years 6 months ago

Dudes, its looking more and more that D’Arnaud is their guy. They had a golden opportunity to get JPA’s feet wet and a little experience for 2011 and blew it entirely on the lame excuse they wanted Buck’s 20 hr’s. Thats so lame you’re FORCED to look for a reason. The reason is theyre waiting for D’Arnaud and dangling JPA for trade bait. They’re hoping they can get someone to bite on the PCL’s MVP and give up a 3rd/1st baseman. They sure blew that idea showcasing him against those pitchers though.

John S
Guest
John S
5 years 6 months ago

Also That lineup of Escobar Johnson Manny Bautista Wells Lind Snider Hill Martin? This is me telling you it wont get a sniff at wild card contention. Manny’s bat may be ok still …but he and Lind scare me in the field. Lind ,Hill and Martin’s bats are all iffy as well as Snider. Escobar and Johnson I would expect to be ok.

The Bunk
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The Bunk
5 years 6 months ago

Manny and Lind won’t be playing the field together, Manny would be DH.

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