Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Thole Starting? Not So Fast...

Via Metsblog:
According to Brian Costa of the Star Ledger, Mets GM Omar Minaya has said Henry Blanco will be the team’s back-up catcher, “We don’t see him as a full-time guy.”

So, in terms of the starting catcher, Minaya said, “It’s going to be between Omir Santos and Josh Thole.”

The 23–year-old Thole hit .321 with three extra base hits in 17 games for the Mets last season.

My how things change. It was only a few weeks ago that the Mets were dead-set on bringing in a veteran catcher and pushing Thole to AAA for at least the early part of 2010. Now, all of a sudden, he is being considered an option to start?

We have been on the Thole Bandwagon here for a while. In fact, we may be DRIVING the Thole bandwagon:
I just want to put it out there right now. Josh Thole could be a stud. He could be up with the Mets THIS SEASON. He's hitting .352/.447/.451 with AA Binghamton as a 22 year old. He's had more walks than strikeouts the last three seasons... I know this is a long shot, but... keep your eye on Thole. - May 7, 2009
However, he should not be considered for the starting role at this time. In November, we wrote an article here saying that the Mets should avoid free agent catchers and give Thole a chance to take the starting job.

I don't think that Thole is ready to dominate the National League. In fact, I think Thole might end up being a better baseball player over his career if he had more time in AAA to learn and maybe hit for a little power. However - if there ever was a time to throw a rookie into the fire, it is now.

My justification for letting Thole start was two-fold. First, there didn't appear to be any backup plan behind Santos. Second, I thought the Mets were going to be fielding a better team and having a legitimate chance to win in 2010.

Those two considerations no longer apply. We have depth behind Santos (even if it is not good depth) in Henry Blanco and Chris Coste, and the Mets do not seem to be in "go for it" mode. Because of this, it may be prudent to begin Thole in AAA regardless of how he starts the season.

At this point, you need to consider two things:

-Will Thole make the Mets better than a Santos/Blanco platoon?

Probably not. Although Thole seems to have the best offensive potential of the three, Santos and Blanco are considered to be defensively superior. In addition, Santos and Blanco platooned properly make for only a bad (not awful) hitter. We wrote in December:

Santos, 2009, OPS: 616 vs. LHP, 727 vs. RHP
Blanco, career, OPS: 739 vs, LHP, 627 vs. RHP

IF (and I repeat, IF) the plan is to platoon Santos and Blanco, and have Coste mentor Thole in AAA for the first few months, then I approve... If they can platoon and hit somewhere around .280/.320/.400 together, I'll take that... until Thole, as I anticipate, forces a promotion

-Will starting Thole hurt his development?

Maybe. I'm not a scout, but every scouting source that I've read or person that I have spoken to has insisted that Thole needs more time to work on his defense. It seemed pretty clear that Chris Coste was brought in just for that reason.

This kind of came out of nowhere, but there is a chance that the Mets may have stumbled onto their catcher of the future here. It would be smartest for the Mets to give Thole time to try and develop all aspects of his game before forcing him into the major leagues - where he will he will be fighting every day to perform and keep his job.

Letting Thole start the season in the majors made sense in November - but it doesn't make sense anymore. Let him go to AAA and hone his skills, and if the Mets are still in it, we can bring him up in July.

1 comment:

James Esatto said...

Thole's bat, while near MLB ready is not going to light the world on fire, so I don't see any need to hurt him long term by sending him to the majors before his defense is ready. I've always thought starting him in the minors was the best move.