JP Arencibia’s smashing debut

Yesterday the Toronto Blue Jay’s top prospect, JP Arencibia, made his ML debut. And what a debut it was.

On the first pitch he saw, he drilled a home run. In his next at-bat, he singled. Then he doubled. So in the sixth inning he came to the plate looking to hit for the cycle in his first game. Instead, he hit another home run. He finished the day 4/5.

Arencibia was Toronto’s first round pick in the 2007 draft. He signed early and was sent to the NY-Penn League, where he struggled, posting a line of .254/.309/.377 in 242 PA. In 2008 he moved up to A ball, and eventually reached AA halfway through the season. His total season line was .298/.322/.527 with an ISO of .229. However, his BB% was a very poor 3.4%, as he had only 18 walks in 528 PA.

After his 2008 campaign, BA and many others considered Arencibia a top 100 prospect. But then 2009 happened. He hit .236/.284/.444. Yikes. A .284 OBP is atrocious. However, his BB rate did improve to 5.3% and his ISO was a strong .208. Also, his LD% jumped to 17.2% compared to 14.5% in 2008. So 2009 could have been due to some bad luck. His K% increased to over 20% for the first time, but his BABIP was lower despite a higher LD%. It was still a poor season, but not as bad as the numbers suggested. Still, Arencibia dropped off many top prospect lists.

So he responded by hitting .303/.360/.639(!) with a .410 wOBA and .336 ISO. Holy shit, that’s amazing. Yes, he played in the PCL and yes, he played in Las Vegas which was a big hitter’s park. But those numbers are still amazing, especially considering he was a catcher. His wOBA is park-adjusted, so considering it still comes out at .410 it shows how great he’s been in 2010. His BB% is up to 8.2%, so he has a three year trend of improving his on base skills. It’s still not a good mark, but it’s getting better. His power has been legitimate his entire career and he’s maintained his 2009 LD% with a 17.3% LD% in 2010.

Many scouts doubted his ability to perform in the majors because of his discipline, because they thought it was THAT poor. But he’s been getting better in that department and proving the critics wrong. His power is real and will play in the majors. Arencibia may never be the best hitting catcher in the majors because his on base skills will never be good, but he has the power to be one of the better hitting catchers in baseball, and that is still valuable. Toronto has a nice, young kid on their hands.

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