While the season is still plenty young, Arencibia is off to a horrendous start. In 28 at-bats, the right-handed hitting catcher has only two hits, which includes the go-ahead three-run blast in the Opening Day extra-inning extravaganza against the Cleveland Indians.
And it’s not like he’s making tough-luck outs. Arencibia has already fanned 12 times in seven games (38.7 percent), which is well ahead of his career strikeout rate of 28.2 percent.
His offensive woes have become such a problem that the Blue Jays have opted to spell him with the light-hitting Jeff Mathis, whose defensive value behind the plate continues to prolong his career.
Last season, Arencibia’s defense was tolerable considering his power production. While he did throw out 24.3 percent of hopeful base stealers, there were 87 stolen bases on his watch—everyone was willing to test him.
With the Angels last season, Mathis threw out 18 of 66 runners (27.3 percent) and sports a 24.8 percent success rate since 2005.
However, in the offense rich American League East, neither Arencibia's or Mathis’ bat is acceptable. And with the team’s top prospect, Travis d’Arnaud, lurking in the minors, it seems as though the time for change is near.
It’s worth noting that d’Arnaud, Prospect Pipeline’s No. 17 overall prospect, hasn’t exactly gotten off to a blistering start in Triple-A. Still, he’s definitely shown more signs of life than Arencibia, especially as of late.
After beginning the 2012 season in a 1-for-15 funk, the right-handed hitter has found his stroke at Triple-A Las Vegas, as he’s 7-for-18 with three doubles and three RBI over his last four games. Last season, d’Arnaud batted .311/.371/.542 with a .231 ISO and 150 wRC+ in 466 plate appearances.
It’s been common knowledge for some time that Arencibia would simply be keeping the seat warm for d’Arnaud, who is a significantly better defensive option—24 percent caught stealing rate and 8.48 RF/G over six minor league season—as well.
For the Blue Jays to continue giving Arencibia at-bats is becoming borderline moronic, regardless of how much power he provides at a premium position. And as for a potential Arencibia-Mathis platoon? Well, that’s about as temporary of a solution as can be.
The organization has been patiently waiting—and I’m not saying they’ve been hoping—for an opportunity to promote d’Arnaud. In my opinion, there’s not going to be a better time than now.
The Blue Jays should recall d’Arnaud and relegate Arencibia to a backup role, which in turn will hopefully reduce the pressure on his bat. If Arencibia finally rounds into his typical .220 batting average, 20-25 home run form then they will have excellent trade bait come the All-Star break.