Thursday, June 13, 2013

J.P. Arencibia Is Who He Is


By
Courtesy of Yahoo/USA Today
Charismatic. Passionate. Talented. These are all words that people would use to describe the Blue Jays starting catcher, J.P. Arencibia. While all the other adjectives are a nice touch, it's the final one that's the most important: talented.

J.P. Arencibia has received a lot of flak as of late (why now suddenly I'm not quite sure), but as the villagers get restless, I think it's because Arencibia's weaknesses are becoming more and more apparent as the season progresses.

It's odd because years ago, the prospect of a power-hitting catcher was enough to make anybody salivate. Heck, J.P. Arencibia's big league debut was probably one of the most entertaining games I've ever witnessed in person. But no one could have anticipated the side effects.

I guess what it all boils down to is J.P. Arencibia is looking more and more like a one-dimensional hitter. And in the modern era of baseball, that one tool is simply is not enough anymore when general managers and coaches are looking for upwards of five tools.

It's not as if Arencibia's defense gives him immunity from criticism, either. This year, he's had even more difficulty handling the starting staff. At the plate, J.P. is carving out a niche as a two outcome hitter, those outcomes of course being strikeouts (32% of his at bats) and home runs (5% of his at bats).

For someone who is arguably one of the faces of this franchise, J.P. Arencibia's future with the team is somewhat uncertain. He's eligible for arbitration for the first time this offseason, and is under team control through 2016. However, it doesn't seem as though Alex Anthopoulos is banging down the doors to sign J.P. Arencibia to a contract extension.

Low on-base power-hitting guys are a dime a dozen out there. Look at nearly every Major League roster and virtually every team has at least one (or in some cases two or three) players just like J.P. Arencibia.

The only difference is Arencibia is a catcher. And I think that is what's thrown a wrench into things for the Blue Jays; it's his position.

Last year, the Blue Jays had Eric Thames and Travis Snider, and because the Blue Jays were rich in outfield depth, they opted to deal them for relievers. I wonder if J.P. Arencibia were a first baseman or even an outfielder, would the Blue Jays have cut bait with him already?

It's a bit of a strange hypothetical scenario, but when you look at things that way, it really becomes evident that Arencibia is a one-dimensional player at a premium position.

Some have hinted that the future for J.P. is a possible move to first base, but if that's the case, his current offensive numbers would still rank him amongst some of the worst in the league. So is that really a viable option?

For the longest time, I thought having a power-hitting catcher like J.P. Arencibia was a luxury that the Blue Jays were extremely lucky to have. I mean, what other team could boast a backstop that had 20-30 home run power?

But the more I think about it, the more I see the benefits of that power don't outweigh the drawbacks.

So here's the burning question; would you trade the home run power of J.P. Arencibia for the defensive prowess of say a Jose Molina or even a Yan Gomes? If you're the Toronto Blue Jays, then yes ... because you can afford to make up the offense in other places.

Due to the bevy of injuries, J.P. Arencibia has been placed is some high leverage spots in the lineup. Of the 59 games he's played this season, J.P. has batted third, fourth or fifth a total of 38 times. 64% of his at bats have come in those premium spots in the lineup.

The truth is, if the Toronto Blue Jays are relying on J.P. to carry the load offensively, that's a huge problem. Again, this can be linked to the Blue Jays simply not having any other choice but to bat J.P. high in the order.
However, with a healthy lineup, Arencibia should not be batting higher than sixth.

It's the responsibility of John Gibbons to recognize the type of player J.P. Arencibia is. The onus is on Gibbons not to shoehorn Arencibia into a scenario where he's likely to fail, and recognize which spot in the lineup is suited best for J.P.'s strengths.

Here's the thing; J.P. Arencibia is going to be J.P. Arencibia. There is no change on the horizon, and it's very unlikely he's going to evolve into a different player. No one is expecting him to be the next Adam Lind, Jose Bautista or even Edwin Encarnacion.

J.P. Arencibia truly is a "take it or leave it" player. And I think the fan base should either embrace him for who he is; an okay defender, a not great thrower, an above-average framer, and power-hitting, high strikeout, low on base catcher.

Why? Because he's not going anywhere any time soon. At least, not until another catcher in the system starts to look like a much more viable option than Arencibia. And the only way to make the next few years more tolerable is to accept his flaws and move on.

I'm not saying fans should outright expect J.P. Arencibia to strike out every single plate appearance, but just know that he's going to be swinging for the fences pretty much every single time at the plate.

And while it may lead to strikeouts 32% of the time, the flipside of that is J.P. Arencibia has the uncanny ability to run into some home runs as well. The strikeouts come much more frequently, but it's the unpredictability of those home runs which make him exciting to watch.

As much as I despise the idiom "it is what it is", it's actually very appropriate in this instance. J.P. Arencibia is going to be J.P Arencibia. I don't expect him to change, and nor should he.

5 comments:

  1. Nice post Ian. I think people keep getting worked up about J.P.'s production so frequently because they're expecting way more out of him than he actually has to offer. Once we all realize he strikes out, occasionally hits home runs and doesn't often throw out base stealers, we can all get on with our lives and find more productive things to complain about. Although I'd absolutely take the defensive upgrade of a Jose Molina (who still wouldn't have a lower OBP than J.P.) knowing that the Jays could definitely make up for the lack of power at other positions, if that's the direction AA chose to go...

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  2. There is another catcher in the system, who is a viable option. Not right now at least, but Thole can be better offensively than JPA right now, and then come next season, or even later this year, AJ Jimenez will be ready. The projection systems already have him posting better offensive numbers than JP is doing now.

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  3. Good take. This has to be an area of concern for the Blue Jays in the offseason. Too bad we didn't give Russell Martin a look.

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  4. Good article. I however disgree with some of your analysis. JP being a catcher is a huge problem going forward.

    The catcher position is the single most important defensive position on the field. You can hide a player's weakness defensively in other positions, that is not a luxury that the catching position offers.

    JP is not a catcher and never will be. His poor footspeed, his poor blocking instincts, his poor throwing mechanics, and his inability to frame a pitch on close calls are some of the reasons why he should not ever be a catcher in the majors.

    As far as hitting, no one has better insight on the strike zone in a game then the catcher. Yet he seems in a fog on where the strike zone is at most of his at bats.

    As being a hitter is concerned, he has two many poor tendencies to be an everyday player in the majors. High strikeouts, poor percentage with runners on base, and inability to go opposte field consistently creates a no win situation.

    His homerun power is really insignificant since he rarely hits them when they are needed.

    He must be traded if Toronto wants any chance at post season play next year.

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    Replies
    1. As the season has progressed, J.P.'s weaknesses have really become apparent. The only real plus in his game is power, but that's about it. I'd say the Blue Jays should trade Arencibia, but frankly I don't know if there would be any takers for him.

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