JAYS FROM THE COUCH BRINGS YOU THE PLAYER HIGHLIGHTS AND LOWLIGHTS FROM THE TORONTO BLUE JAYS’ 2016 SEASON. THIS TIME: JOSH THOLE
This season was another forgettable season for Toronto Blue Jays catcher Josh Thole. Thole served as the primary backup catcher for the Blue Jays, as catching depth this season was pretty thin. Only playing in 50 games, starting catcher Russell Martin would pick up most of the workload for the pitching staff, as Thole would be the primary catcher for knuckleball pitcher R.A. Dickey, and didn’t receive much playing time other than Dickey’s starts.
Since Thole’s fate is linked to that of the knuckleballer, check out the Dickey’s 2016 Highlights & Lowlights.
It’s hard to pin point a ton of positives with the amount of playing time Thole had this season. When any player is playing once every fifth day, and then being completely replaced on the roster, it’s hard to gather much rhythm at the plate.
Defensively though, Thole actually showed subtle improvements behind the plate. His arm and ability to throw out base runners improved drastically this season, throwing out 6 of 18 base runners. The one downside to catching a Knuckleball pitcher is the amount of passed balls a catcher will have, due to the freakish late movement of the knuckleball. This season Thole had 17 passed balls, the second most of any catcher in the MLB, falling one passed ball short of Boston Red Sox catcher Ryan Hanigan, who caught a lot of Steven Wright, another fellow knuckleballer.
The 17 passed balls was the second most passed balls Thole had let by in a season, to his 18 he had in 2012 with the Mets. The only difference is Thole caught 455.1 more innings that 2012 season, for the workload he had this season, Thole had a very difficult time keeping track of the pitches. A lot of this problem could be caused due to Dickey’s increased wildness with his pitches this season.
In 136 plate appearances this season, Thole slashed .169/.254/.220, posted a WAR of -0.5, had a 20.6% strikeout percentage. If you’re getting the picture, Thole wasn’t good this season. It’s nice that he was able to catch for R.A. Dickey, but a position player playing every fifth day isn’t really worthy of a roster spot if they can’t hit.
The season got worse for him at the trade deadline. First the Blue Jays reacquired catcher Dioner Navarro from the Chicago White Sox, bumping Thole down the depth chart. Then Dickey was demoted to the sixth stater with the acquisition of starting pitcher Francisco Liriano. Thole was basically out of a job. He was now the third catcher, and the pitcher who he strictly caught for was not playing. Thole would go up and down through the minor league system, and would only have four plate appearances in the month of September.
Thole is a specialist, I’m not trying to diminish his value but he’s simply on the roster as an attachment to Dickey. If it wasn’t for Dickey, it’s hard to imagine Thole playing on many MLB teams. This offseason Thole is in his final year of arbitration, most likely about to make equal to or a little more than a minor league deal. With Dickey becoming a free agent, reaching a deal between the Blue Jays and Thole seems unlikely.
Only if the Blue Jays struggle to find anymore catching depth would they consider potentially resigning, as Dickey and Thole are somewhat of a package deal. If the two do decide to go their separate ways, it’s probably best for the Blue Jays to cut ties with Thole and look for catching depth elsewhere. Thole will most likely bolster another teams minor league system for the time being.
*FEATURED IMAGE CREDIT: Doug Kerr UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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