Blue Jays potential back-up catcher A.J. Jimenez getting valuable reps in Puerto Rico Winter League and making the most of his opportunity
Blue Jays fans have a long list of concerns this off-season. What is going to happen with Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista and the rest of Toronto’s free agents? How will management fills these holes and improve the bullpen?
One area of ‘weakness’ which has been overshadowed by these other concerns is the role of back up catcher. On November 7th, the Blue Jays selected the injury prone, former top catching prospect, to be added to the 40-man roster.
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJaysNetwork) November 12, 2016
When Jimenez failed to be added to the Blue Jays 40-man roster during the 2016 off-season or when he was outrighted at the end of the 2016 spring training, many fans thought his time with Toronto was up. Fortunately, Jimenez wasn’t selected during the Rule 5 draft and passed through waivers.
Over the years the 7-day disabled list appeared to be Jimenez’ second home during the season thanks to shoulder issues, wrist issues, and a variety of other aliments . The 2016 season was no different with Jimenez missing time between June 26th and July 21st.
As a potential Major League back-up catcher in 2017, any offense he provides would be a bonus. Unfortunately, Jimenez doesn’t possess much power, won’t hit for a high average and won’t have a very high OBP. After 4 years of Josh Thole anything that Jimenez can provide would be huge.
Since 2008, Jimenez owns a career triple slash of 268/311/380 with 25 HR. His 2016 numbers, 241/290/377 with 4 HR, fell right in line with his career averages. As 26-yr-old, Jimenez is what he is with the bat at this point in his career.
In the field the former 2008 9th round pick only had one passed ball, and 4 errors, while throwing out 26 of 75 stolen base attempts. Some solid numbers with the glove.
After not even getting a September call-up in 2016, Jimenez thought his time in the Toronto’s organization was up. He felt it was time to move on. A.J. went Winter League in hopes of earning a future major league contract.
“I honestly did not expect this opportunity,” Jimenez confessed in a recent interview with the spokesperson said. “I thought, as I was not given the opportunity (to climb to the majors), the Blue Jays was a team of the past. That was my first thought, but honestly, I am extremely grateful to them and a little more comfort in knowing that I work next year. ” (full article)
— LBPRC (@LBPRC) November 17, 2016
Jimenez went to Winter Ball to play for the Cangrejeros de Santurce (Crabbers) of the Liga de Beisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente (Puerto Rican League). A.J. has split time behind the plate with Boston Red Sox’ Christian Vazquez.
Cangrejeros de Santurce owns a 17-7 record with Jimenez splitting his time between catcher and DH. He’s hit 236/278/315 with 5 doubles, a triple and 7 RBI in 24 games. Jimenez has shown good patience with 5 walks and 8 strike outs, while stealing 3 bases.
The native of San Juan, Puerto Rico has spent 12 of his 24 games behind the plate. In those 12 games the Cangrejeros de Santurce own a 7 and 5 record with 4 shut outs. This means that Vazquez owns a 10-1 record and 4 shut outs while behind the plate, giving their team two excellent catchers.
Jimenez has committed 2 errors, with 4 wild pitches while behind the plate. One of Jimenez’ best tools is his arm and ability to control the running game. During his 12 games in the field, A.J. has allowed 7 stolen bases, catching 5 stolen base attempts. That’s a 42% caught stealing percentage.
With Toronto’s need to shore up the bullpen and outfield taking top priority, the role of back-up catcher shouldn’t be one of them. It is time to give A.J. Jimenez a spot on Toronto’s 25-man roster and the reps he’s getting in Puerto Rico will help prepare him.
A.J. Jimenez understands that nothing is guaranteed. He’ll need to produce in spring training if he hopes to make the trip north in April.
“This opportunity they are giving me is to keep working and try to earn that position of ‘backup’. Currently, they have made no other movement. As they say, this is a business. Today you are there, but tomorrow you do not know who will be. But that is what is seen, ” (full article)
Jays From the Couch would like to wish A.J. Jimenez good luck in 2017.
*Featured Image Credit: Dave Nelson UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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