J.P. Arencibia: Why the Toronto Blue Jays Catcher Is on the Hot Seat

Steven GoldmanMLB Lead BloggerApril 16, 2012

J.P. Arencibia: Good power, but little else.
J.P. Arencibia: Good power, but little else.Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

The Blue Jays enter Monday’s action with the fourth-best average of runs scored per game in the AL (5.22) despite not hitting very well overall. They rank 12th in the league in OPS+ at 86 (100 is average), whereas the teams above and immediately below them are all over 110.

The Jays have been over-efficient, which is to say, "lucky."

Several Blue Jays have underperformed thus far, but one of the worst—in fact one of the worst in the entire league—has been Jonathan Paul Arencibia, the sophomore catcher.

Last year, Arencibia hit .219/.282/.438 with 23 home runs. The power was helpful, but not quite enough to make up for an on-base percentage that was about 40 points below league average.

Still, as I said in an earlier post, “At 26 he is what he is, but my, does he have power—think of him as the new, more robust Miguel Olivo. Last I checked, Olivo was worth about $3 million a year right now, which is to say that Arencibia has value even if he never posts a .300 on-base percentage.”

But what if doesn’t even post a .200 on-base percentage? That’s a different story. When a player doesn’t walk or hit for average, all it takes is a little slump to completely destroy their value. In Arencibia’s case, he’s not in a little slump, but has gone 2-for-28 this season.

Seven games do not or should not make or break his season, even if that .071 batting average is ugly to look at, but the Jays do have a potential replacement at the ready in prospect Travis d’Arnaud.

The Jays acquired D’Arnaud from the Phillies in the December 2009 Roy Halladay trade. His first year in the Toronto system was wrecked by a back injury, and year two had its own injury problems with a concussion early and thumb ligaments torn while playing for Team USA after the season.

In between, though, D’Arnaud had a breakthrough, hitting .311/.371/.542 at Double-A New Hampshire.

The 23-year-old right-handed hitter could use a little more time at Triple-A. His caught-stealing percentages are not great (27 percent last year; none caught in three attempts this year) and he’s off to a weak-for-Vegas .242/.342/.333 start. That includes five walks, or about 15 percent of Arencibia’s total for last year.

As soon as D'Arnaud gets on a hot streak, Arencibia is in trouble, and that’s true even if the incumbent gets as hot as he can, and that may not be much: Last year, he hit .258/.319/.497 through the end of May, but then the pitchers adjusted and he didn’t, and he averaged .199/.263/.408 the rest of the year.