J.P. Arencibia: Ranking the Toronto Blue Jays Backstop Among AL East Catchers

Craig Amos@@CAABRMMAFeatured ColumnistFebruary 27, 2012

J.P. Arencibia: Ranking the Toronto Blue Jays Backstop Among AL East Catchers

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    The five catchers that will enter the 2012 season perched upon the pinnacle of their team's depth chart include Matt Wieters (Baltimore), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (Boston), Russell Martin (New York), Jose Molina (Tampa Bay) and J.P. Arencibia (Toronto).

    Here, we will contrast the value of each starting backstop to determine which teams have a positional edge entering the season, and which squads are lacking.

    The Blue Jays' representative, Arencibia, will enter his sophomore campaign with high expectations, but will encounter some stiff competition from division rivals.

5. Jose Molina, Tampa Bay Rays

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    Former Jays catcher Jose Molina shed his blue feathers in the offseason and departed for Tampa Bay. The 36-year-old was lured away from the Jays by the prospect of winning a starting gig with a former division rival.

    Molina did a fantastic job last season in Toronto, hitting .281 in 55 games. And, he showed the defensive prowess that the Molina family is known for, gunning down a sizable 33 percent of would-be base thieves.

    Despite his impressive 2011 season, Molina is a career .241 hitter, with microscopic power and laughable speed. Furthermore, few catchers can maintain a high level of play into their late 30s.

    Though he was a great backup in Toronto, he ranks as the division's least valuable starting catcher heading into the 2012 season.

4. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Boston Red Sox

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    Once a highly regarded prospect, Saltalamacchia struggled mightily during the first four years of his career. In the fifth, his inaugural campaign with the Bo Sox, he was finally able to put in a consistent effort.

    Consistent, but not terrific.

    Salty hit .235 last season, compiling 16 home runs along the way. He also foiled 31 percent of would-be basestealers, a step up from his previous career high of 24 percent.

    Though he showed marked improvement in 2011, the Red Sox backstop still fits the "mediocre" label. He has power, posting a .450 SLG a year ago, but struggles to get on base consistently.

    If he continues to develop he may turn out to be one of the better catchers in the American League, but that is a big if.

    For now, he comes in as the division's fourth-best plateman.

3. Russell Martin, New York Yankees

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    Putting Martin into the No. 3 spot may be low-balling him a bit.

    The Canadian native came into the league like a horror, but fizzled out a bit in his last two seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers. His power numbers made a resurgence in 2011, no doubt a product of hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium, but Martin hit a career-low .237.

    Despite the underwhelming average, Martin was able to get on base at a .324 clip. He also nabbed eight stolen bases, and threw out 30 percent of baserunners.

    Martin's so-so performance last season earns him the bronze here, being only ever so slightly edged out by...

2. J.P. Arencibia, Toronto Blue Jays

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    Arencibia stakes his claim to the AL East catching bridesmaid rank due to a potent mix of power and potential. 

    Though the Miami native struggled to make consistent contact last season, hitting a poor .219, he was able to set a Blue Jays franchise record for home runs by a catcher, with 23.

    JPA's OBP leaves much to be desired; he got on base at a .282 rate last season. There is also room for improvement defensively. Though he made great strides during the 2011 campaign, Arencibia was only able to throw out 24 percent of runners.

    The reason why Arencibia gets the nod over the New York Yankees' Martin is because of his upside. The Blue Jay has explosive power and should see his average increase during the 2012 season. 

1. Matt Wieters, Baltimore Orioles

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    Speaking of potential, look out for Matt Wieters this summer.

    After a season-and-a-half of moderate success, the Orioles backstop officially announced his presence in 2011, mashing 22 long balls. He also set career bests with a .262 AVG, .328 OBP and .450 SLG.

    The Oriole also proved to be quite capable defensively, throwing out 37 percent of runners that tried to move up a base.

    Wieters has long been touted as the next big thing behind the plate and really started to tap into his potential last year.

    In 2012, Wieters should continue to come into his own, and earns the honor of being the AL East's most valuable catcher entering the 2012 MLB season.

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    Still to Come

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    Blue Jays: Ranking the Bench Among AL East Benches