The Mets' Very Own Joe Mauer or the Curse of the Southpaw?
Josh Thole played most of the year behind the plate in Port St. Lucie and had been selected to the Florida State League mid–season and postseason All Star team. Thole is presently playing in the winter leagues and from what I have read thus far, his numbers in winter ball are likely to improve before I am done typing.
Born: October 28, 1986—Now what do I remember most about October of '86. I forget.
Drafted: 2005 player draft. 13th round, 389 overall.
Vitals: Bats left, throws right. 82 point disparity between batting average and on base percentage. Struck out 38 times in 347 at bats, which means he puts the ball in play almost 90 percent of the time.
Stats: St Lucie 2008: 111 games, .300 avg., 347 ABs, 49 R, 104 H, 25 2b, 2 3b, 5 HR, 56 RBI, 45 BBs, 2 SB, .427 SLG.
AFL 2008: 16 games, .368 avg., 58 ABs, 15 R, 21 H, 1 2b, 2 HR, 15 RBI, and 1 stolen base for good measure. He only struck out four times in 58 at-bats. Did I mention that he has plate discipline?
Potential: Difficult to predict as he has not played AA ball as of yet. With main focus on patience and pitch selection, possible spring training invite, and subsequent promotion to Binghamton. He could work his way north to Buffalo as soon as July 2009.
Then its anybody's guess. His numbers in the AFL are starting to create a little buzz.
Could he become trade bait? Could he be the future starting catcher at Citi Field? Back up catcher to big league club?
We must keep in mind that the area behind the plate wherever the Mets play is the closest piece of real estate the Mets have to the coveted center field at Yankee Stadium. And we sure do have an affection for our own home grown talent.
I would need to see more at the higher levels to be definitive. I hope he gets an invite to spring training because I plan to make a few trips down there next year. I would need to see the way he calls a game against A-level big leaguers.
Up-Side: Patience and plate discipline (Or didn't I mention that). Josh batted .667 in 12 at bats vs. left handed pitching in the AFL (Lefty against lefty advantage: pitcher).
X-Factor: Josh has only recently become a full (or most of the) time catcher. When it comes to defense behind the plate, I do not trust any other reports but my own.
As a catcher myself, I need to be in the building to see his footwork and arm. More specifically, how he gets his throws off.
Are his throws merely academic? Or does he have that look in his eyes that every good catcher should have? The look that sees the runner and says “dead.”
A possible “down side” believe it or not is the fact that he bats left handed. I have never seen any organization with this problem, but the Mets have too many left-handed everything.
This may prove a short term disadvantage, but when all is said and done if the player rises to the league and does not wait for the league to lower itself to the player (which seems to be the case in the early stages), there will be room for him.
We learned to live with a left handed batting catcher for a good chunk of the big club's season this year. But this could be an eventual.
Down Side: He was drafted in 2005 and has not crossed A-ball. Again, in a world where lefties are rare, and even more rare in baseball players, the Mets have found a way to have too many.
The best example I can think of to elaborate on this point just in case I haven't beat it to death and again back to life is, Ryan Church of the big club.
The man went through hell to get back on the field, having began to prove his critics wrong by hitting left handed pitching at the beginning of the season, returns just in time to have to face southpaws in six of his first seven starts. The Transition may have been easier if they did not already have Delgado, Chavez, Schneider and often Daniel Murphy in the same lineup.
Of course this is the kind of problem baseball teams generally wish for. And considering how patient he is at such a young age this should be no great obstacle.
Finally, consider this, there were two catchers selected in the first round that year and by the 79th pick (all supplemental rounds included), six catchers had been selected. This was also the same draft that brought us such names as Ryan Braun, Jacoby Elsbury, Ryan Zimmerman, Troy Tulowiyski, Clay Bucholz and the Mets' own Mike Pelfrey.
Surely, this could be a draft were a great talent was overlooked until the mid rounds. Anybody remember a Mets' back stop who was drafted with the last pick of the last round (as a favor to Tommy Lasorda I might add) by the Dodgers in the early 90's?
All told, I like the numbers this kid is putting up. I must admit to being (on occasion) a little too optimistic when it comes to Mets farm hands because the first name I think of when I see a lefty hitting catcher is Joe Mauer. I will conveniently overlook the offensive numbers of the Mets' present catcher, also a lefty.
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