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J.P. Arencibia’s potential breakout season was almost jeopardized before the season started when the Blue Jays traded for Mike Napoli. Fortunately for the young slugger, Napoli was subsequently shipped off to Texas, restoring Arencibia’s fantasy value.
Arencibia failed to wow in his cup of coffee with the Jays last year. He hit just .143 (5 for 35) with three runs, a double, two home runs, and four RBI. He walked twice and struck out an alarming 11 times. With an on-base percentage, let alone average, below the Mendoza Line, I don’t blame you if you can’t bring yourself to trust the rookie in 2010. Just remember that you may be shying away from a good source of power.
Arencibia has a long history of the long ball. In his three seasons at the University of Tennessee, Arencibia hit 33 HRs in 690 at bats. He had an OPS of .913 in his first year with the Vols, a 1.002 OPS in his second year, and a .995 OPS in his final year. He struggled a touch in his first taste of professional baseball, hitting .254 with a .686 OPS for Single-A- Auburn Doubledays. He then hit .315 with a .904 OPS for Single-A+ Dunedin and .282 with a .798 OPS for Double-A New Hampshire. He struggled once again when he made the jump to Triple-A hitting .236 with a .728 for the Las Vegas 51s. He came back the following year and hit .301 with 76 runs, 32 HRs, 85 RBI, and a .985 OPS.
Last year’s struggles at the Major League level shouldn’t have been unexpected. He improved in his second and third years at Tennessee. He improved the next year after debuting in the Minors. He improved the following year after struggling with Triple-A pitching. He has shown that once he gets a taste for it, he knows what to work on to improve.
Does that mean he’s going to suddenly hit .280 with 20 HRs? Probably not, but I do expect Arencibia to be much more comfortable at the plate next year. He has the power, and he is hitting in the right ballpark. Rogers Centre had the fourth highest home run ball park factor (1.358) in the league last year. The number was bloated, in part, because of Jose Bautista’s 33 home HRs, but it has been a top ten home run park for the better part of the past decade. The Jays aren’t afraid to swing for the fences. They have ranked first and fifth, respectively, the past two seasons in HRs.
You don’t even necessarily have to draft J.P. His ADP, according to Mock Draft Central, is 311. Just keep an eye on him. If he starts off swinging the bat well, it would make a lot of sense to give him a shot.
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Written by Eric Stashin the Rotoprofessor

In his first full season as a professional, the Toronto Blue Jays 2007 First Round selection, J.P. Arencibia, quickly thrust his name among the top catching prospects in all of baseball.  Out of the University of Tennessee, Arencibia played for both Single & Double A, hitting a total of .298 with 27 HR, 105 RBI and 70 R.  Those are extremely impressive numbers, but we have to look at a few other things before we declare him an obvious sleeper for 2009.

First is the strikeouts:

  • Single A: 46 K in 248 AB
  • Double A: 55 K in 262 AB

Overall, that means he struck out 19.8% of the time.  Is that an awful number? No, not really, but I wouldn’t consider it a good one either.  Luckily, it wasn’t like he struck out an increased amount as he moved up to Double A, so things certainly could have been worse.

Still, the only catcher who would have qualified for a batting title with a greater percentage was Geovanny Soto, who struck out 24.5% of the time.  Others, like Russell Martin (15.0%), Brian McCann (12.6%) and Joe Mauer (9.3%), were significantly better.

To further show how he may have problems with his batters eye, over his 510 AB, he walked just 18 times.  That, honestly, is a terrible number, and one major league pitching could easily exploit if given the opportunity.  Yeah, he’s been able to get away with it at the lower levels, but if he doesn’t force pitcher’s to throw him strikes, he has little chance to hit for a respectable average at the major league level.

That .297 average could easily be .250 or .260, if not worse, if the Blue Jays are not able to work with him and help him get a better command of the strike zone.

The other numbers are impressive.  He has the power and the ability to drive in runs.  To go along with the 27 HR, he picked up 36 doubles, showing that the HR power is not a fluke.  The 22-year old (he turns 23 in January) could have the ability to hit 30+ HR once he does reach the majors.

The runs aren’t the greatest, but as a catcher what exactly do you expect?  Bengie Molina is considered one of the better offensive catchers in the league and he scored just 47 runs.  If he can score in the 65-70 range, he’ll be just fine.

I don’t think his time will come early on in 2009, but I could see him starting at the Triple A level and if he continues to thrive, the Blue Jays will have little reason not to give him a chance in the majors as the season wears on.  Given the numbers he produced this season, that certainly makes him a prospect to watch next season.

My recommendation: Owners in long-term keeper leagues stash him away as power catchers like this don’t come around too often.  Owners in keeper leagues with extremely deep benches also could stash him away at the start of the season.  Otherwise, if you’re in a yearly league, you are better off just waiting until he actually gets the call before snatching him up.

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