J.P. Arencibia vs. Travis d’Arnaud: Who is the Jays Catcher of the Future?
Saturday September 24, 2011
April Whitzman (Blue Jays Writer – MLB reports): Two weeks ago, I posted that the toughest question Blue Jays’ fans are dealing with right now is figuring out whose comeback, whether that of Dustin McGowan or Adam Loewen, is more impressive. Today I pose a question that some would say is equally hard to answer: who is the Toronto Blue Jays’ catcher of the future – J.P. Arencibia or Travis d’Arnaud?
What they have in common:
Interesting, while many people do not realize this, both catchers share their origin in common – the 2007 MLB first-year player draft. In fact, Arencibia was drafted 21st overall by the Blue Jays out of the University of Tennessee. As the 37th pick overall, the Philadelphia Phillies went with Travis d’Arnaud, out of Lakewood High School. At the time it was believed that the Jays were interested in d’Arnaud’s potential and would pick him with the 38th pick and move Arencibia to first base. Yet the Phillies chose the young star from Florida one slot before, forcing the Jays to choose left-handed pitcher, Brett Cecil. That said, a persistent GM, Alex Anthopoulos, would get his player; as the Blue Jays acquired Travis d’Arnaud two years later in the well-known Roy Halladay trade.
How they differ:
It is difficult to compare these players, as Arencibia has already made the jump to the majors while d’Arnaud just finished his season in AA New Hampshire. Arencibia has more professional experience having been drafted out of college, while d’Arnaud came out of high school. Here is a graph to compare how each player performed during their time at AA New Hampshire:
JP received the promotion from Dunedin to New Hampshire half-way through the season; his stats have been doubled to receive a more accurate comparison.
Both players are pretty evenly matched. Nevertheless, d’Arnaud has the slight advantage on errors committed, fielding percentage, and passed balls. Meanwhile, Arencibia has a higher caught-stealing percentage.
Despite one player being in the majors and the other in the minors in 2011, an interesting comparison can be depicted if we compare both catchers’ stats for this season:
With each player in their fourth year of professional baseball, these stats show how close their defensive game truly is. Having committed the same amount of errors, the same fielding percentage and only one passed ball being the difference between them, the biggest distinction is that d’Arnaud has the slight advantage throwing out base runners.
Don Wakamatsu, a former catcher himself, and now the Toronto Blue Jays bench coach has admitted that he has seen a drastic improvement in Arencibia’s defensive abilities. Wakamatsu credits the improvement to a significant amount of practice and hard work. He stated: “Arencibia has done a phenomenal job trying to understand how to get the most out of our pitching staff.”
Defensively, Arencibia has a good arm, but he struggles at times with blocking pitches in the dirt. In his minor league career, Arencibia threw out close to 30% of base stealers, though charged with 60 passed balls in 357 lifetime games.
In regards to his defense, Arencibia stated, “Defense is obviously first, and I know that, and whatever comes with the bat is secondary.” He continued: “I feel like my biggest thing is getting that pitcher through that game and I feel like I’m starting to get a real good understanding of my staff and giving us opportunities to win.” Since making these comments, Arencibia has improved his defense considerably in the second half of the season. For example, in the eighth inning of Friday night’s game against Tampa Bay, JP was able to throw out Rays outfielder B.J. Upton.
Comparatively, Travis d’Arnaud’s defensive skills are stronger. He has a great game-calling abilities and he has a strong arm. While his career caught-stealing rates have suffered due to inexperience, he has also improved his game by working on his footwork behind the plate. At 22 years old, d’Arnaud is already one of the better defensive catchers in the minors and he has plenty of time to develop into a premier defender in the big leagues. This was proven when he was named the Catcher’s Captain Award recipient for 2011 by Baseball America. The award is given to the catcher who displays strong defensive qualities, including leadership and dedication.
There is no denying that both players are also solid offensively. In 409 games in the minors, JP hit .275 with 121 doubles, 83 HR and 290 RBI. That said, he has also proven what he can do at the plate at the major league level as well. There is not a Blue Jays fan who does not remember J.P. Arencibia’s major league debut last year against the Tampa Bay Rays, as he launched the first pitch he saw over the left field wall for a home run. He later singled and doubled and capped the day with a home run to right field. That game showcased Arencebia’s talents and his ability to hit the ball for power.
Offense is where Arencibia and d’Arnaud differ most. Essentially, while JP hits for power but not average, d’Arnaud is a more complete player at the plate, as he hits for average and power. This year with the Fisher Cats, d’Arnaud was named the Eastern League MVP after hitting .313 with 20 homers and 77 RBIs. Here is how their 2011 numbers compare:
Prior to the 2011 campaign, many fans and analysts alike were not sold on d’Arnaud as anything more than a defense-first catcher. However, as his numbers this season have indicated, Travis experienced a bit of a learning curve early on in his career, as he made the jump from high school to the minor leagues. With his bat coming around this season, the offensive edge at this stage goes to d’Arnaud. It is evident that both players (as can be seen from the table above) need to work on the amount of times they strikeout, but other than that, both look solid at the plate and behind it.
Although both J.P. Arencibia and Travis d’Arnaud came from the same draft class in 2007, it appears that d’Arnaud has the greater upside. In essence, Arencibia has received the call to the majors quicker because he was able to develop in college before jumping to the professional ranks. As displayed through various charts, d’Arnaud appears to be more efficient both with his glove and bat. His numbers indicate that he could make the jump to the MLB as early as next year. In a recent interview with Fisher Cats beat reporter, Dave Gershman, d’Arnaud showed that he has the confidence to make it to the big leagues, as he stated: “Hopefully one day I can get up to Toronto, and play like I’m playing now. And who knows what will happen? Maybe I’ll be a good player.”
At the same time one cannot discredit J.P. Arencibia, as despite his quick progression to the MLB, he is still learning at the age of 25. Arencibia recently stated as much when he admitted, “On both sides of the plate I’ve been maturing and making adjustments in different things,” Arencibia says. “But it’s still a work in progress. You’re always trying to get better.” With catchers requiring the most seasoning from all the positions, Arencebia can still be considered to be at this stage ahead of the curve.
Whoever is chosen as the lead catcher, one thing is certain: the Blue Jays are blessed with two young catchers – both at the plate – and behind it! If the team’s worst problem is having two number one catchers on its roster within the next two years, then that is a great dilemma to have. It is very possible that one of the above (likely Arencibia) will be moved when both catchers have proven themselves at the major league level. Until then, with injuries and slumps being a reality of the game, the Jays will enjoy their abundance of talent behind the dish and lets the cards play themselves out.
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Posted on September 24, 2011, in On the Verge: MLB Prospects, Players: Fantasy Baseball Articles and tagged anthopoulos, arencibia, baseball, bluejays, cecil, darnaud, fishercats, halladay, jays, loewen, mcgowan, mlb, phillies, prospect, upton. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.