Thursday, February 2, 2012

2012 Top Prospects #18: A.J. Jimenez

Name: A.J. Jimenez
Position: Catcher
Acquired: 9th round (2008)
Opening Day age: 21
Height/weight: 5’11”/200 lbs
Best/worst tool: Arm/power
Risk factor: Low
ETA: 2013

Scouting Report

The scouting report on A.J. Jimenez has changed dramatically since being selected in the 9th round of the 2008 draft. At the time, Jimenez was a young Puerto Rican catcher who fell into the dreaded “catch and throw” category. The defense is still there, but the bat skills have improved enough to give him starting catcher potential. His hit tool has evolved from below average to above average, perhaps due almost entirely to improvements in his plate approach. He’s never going to be a big walk guy, but the improvements he’s made since 2008 in that regard are like night and day. His power is his worst tool, grading out as below average. Jimenez’ swing is level, generating primarily line drive power as opposed to loft. At 21 years old it’s unlikely he’s going to grow much bigger, so his home run power should be capped in the single digits. Jimenez is very athletic and his solid-average speed makes him an excellent base runner. While speed isn’t required to be a good catcher, it also shouldn’t be overlooked. With that being said, Jimenez truly shines with a mask and glove on. His arm is his best tool, grading out as plus, if not plus-plus. He has excellent instincts behind the plate, playing balls in the dirt aggressively and taking a leadership role with his pitcher. His arm and glove alone should get him to the big leagues, his bat will determine what type of role that is.

2011 Statistics and Analysis

379 AB, .303/.353/.417 (.770 OPS), 29 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 52 RBI, 11 SB, 28/60 BB/K

For the second consecutive season Jimenez finished with a batting average in the .300 range. While batting average is a poor indicator of a players true ability, it’s a good sign considering the questions surrounding Jimenez’ bat when he was drafted. Beyond the hitting improvement, he has also drastically improved his plate approach. In each of the past three seasons, he has increased his walk rate while reducing his strikeout rate. The power numbers aren’t there and probably never will be, but as long as he can maintain an ISO of 100 or higher, it shouldn’t be detrimental to his value. What’s not listed above are his defensive statistics, which are perhaps even more impressive. Jimenez caught 44% of potential base stealers, which is actually down from his 53% caught stealing rate in 2010. He also allowed only 6 passed balls in 98 games. For comparison, Toronto’s top catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud caught only 27% of base stealers and allowed 13 passed balls in his 98 games.

Expected 2012 Assignment: Double-A New Hampshire

Future Outlook

Over the past two seasons, Jimenez has really come into his own as a prospect. He has transformed himself from a “catch and throw” catcher into an all around ball player. The biggest obstacle for him to conquer at this point might be Toronto’s catching depth. Despite ranking as Toronto’s 18th best prospect, he has J.P. Arencibia (MLB) and Travis d’Arnaud (AA) immediately ahead of him on the depth chart. What Jimenez has on his side, however, is his defensive ability. Toronto will face a franchise changing decision within the next two years, as they’ll need to decide which of the two aforementioned catchers will be the starter going forward. It’s likely that the loser of the battle will find himself as trade bait, opening the door for Jimenez to sneak in as the backup. With Double-A on the immediate horizon for 2012, he could see both Triple-A and Toronto at some point in 2013.

Perfect World Projection: Everyday catcher who could contend for Gold Glove awards

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