Now here’s a guy who was not even on my radar when I started these prospect profiles.
J.P. Arencibia (AAA Las Vegas 51’s – .317/.371/.662 28 HR, 29 BB, 68 K, 360 PA): Arencibia entered the year as a prospect that some watchers were prepared to turn their backs on. He went from 43rd on Baseball America’s top 100 prospect in 2009 to off the list in 2010. The general murmur was that despite his above average power for a backstop, his plate discipline limited his upside. This was supported by walk rates that barely climbed above 5% (5.6% in ‘07, 3.4% in ‘08, and 5.2% in ‘09), strike out rates ranging between 18-25%, and scouting reports labeling him as an excessive free swinger. Some began talking about Travis D’Arnaud, one of the goodies acquired for Roy Halladay and currently in the FSL, as the Jays catcher of the future.
Things have changed. I like to monitor Kevin Goldstein’s Future Shock Blog over at Baseball Prospectus as a rough measure of a prospect’s “heat.” Goldstein looks at the best prospect performances from the previous day and comments on them. Since June 11th, Arencibia has appeared in 14 articles. The month of July has seen 8 of those write ups. Goldstein’s comments on July 6th sum things up nicely:
His .317/.365/.645 line is impressive enough, but the streak that he’s on almost defies words. In his current 14-game hitting streak, the 2007 first-round pick is 28-for-63 (.444) with nine doubles and eight home runs, good for a .968 slugging percentage. In other words, going two-for-six with a bomb was actually a below-average night for him of late. Ridiculous.
Given his rocky ‘09 season, the Blue Jays could definitely decide that he will benefit from another full season in AAA. However, All Star John Buck becomes a free agent at the end of the season and is in danger of missing Type B status. That presupposes the Jays would even be willing to offer him arbitration. It’s possible and perhaps even likely that they will attempt to trade him sometime in the remaining week before the deadline. Buck’s put together a career season with a .357 wOBA which should make him a popular target. Should the Jays parlay Buck’s All Star season into a decent prospect, the only man left standing in Arencibia’s way is career backup Jose Molina.
If Buck is sent to greener pastures, we can expect Arencibia to fill his shoes adequately at the dish. THT Forecasts indicates that Arencibia’s Major League Equivalent is .247/.294/.472, good for a .326 wOBA. While that’s nothing like the .425 wOBA he’s tallied in the PCL, it’s a very solid performance to get from a rookie backstop. He’s shown plenty of encouraging signs this season. His walk rate has climbed to a career best 8% this season while his strikeout rate has remained steady at 18.8%. And of course the power output is great, even with the PCL as an aid. His 28 bombs are matched by 28 doubles and one triple (105 total hits).
Altogether, I suspect there’s a decent chance that J.P. Arencibia will be finding himself in Toronto in the near future. His season to date has been fantastic, current incumbent John Buck has no future with the franchise, and the triple threat of the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays have effectively ended the Jays’ ill-fated 2010 playoff pursuit. Everything seems to add up here, now we wait to see what the Jays do with Buck.