Henry Blanco is a Backup

henry-blanco-foldedAccording to Mets GM Omar Minaya, Henry Blanco is a backup catcher.

And you thought Minaya didn’t know things.

Unfortunately, Minaya also announced that the Mets’ starting catching position would be a competition between Omir Santos and Josh Thole, both of whom are also backup catchers. So maybe Omar only knows some things.

If this is really the way the Mets think about the backstop position, it might have made sense to sign veteran free-agent Mike Sweeney and have him platoon with Mike Jacobs behind the plate. Both Mikes started their careers as catchers, both would be at least as good defensively as Santos/Thole, and both would have a better chance of providing offensive production that approaches the best that Jerry Grote ever mustered.

It might be different if either Thole or Santos were remarkable defensively — you could live with substandard offense. But if you’re going to hit like Charlie O’Brien, you darn well better catch like Charlie O’Brien.

My apologies to the Kool-Aid drinking Mets fans who believe Thole will hit better than .240, and/or think Santos is going to duplicate his surprising offensive “prowess” of 2009.

At this point the Mets may as well sign Jose Molina and make him the starter. He’ll at least give them a strength on one side of the ball … and it’ll give the Mets an excuse to apply Tony LaRussa’s strategy of hitting the pitcher eighth.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. gary s. February 17, 2010 at 9:54 am
    why does the old bob uecker joke about how to catch a knuckelballer? “you pick it up it when it stops rolling” come to mind when i think of the mets catching squad.anybody else think of the same thing?
  2. Timo February 17, 2010 at 10:55 am
    Maybe the METS should sign Uecker to a minor league deal. At least he would bring laughter to the club house and relax the team.
    I think this is another METS front office jamming down our throats a player (thole) in their minor league system (like Murphy). A good but sub-par player who will only be an average (at best) player in the major leagues.
    Right now, I think the Mets are playing for 2011, they have no minor league system and the free agent market is suppose to be great at the end of 2010. However, what the Mets don’t realize is that NOBODY wants to play for them. They will have pay alot of money to free agents if they “think” they will sign anyone. Then we’ll be stuck with the contracts. The Mets future is not looking good.
    i just hope that the Mets do OK this season since they won’t be under any pressure. This way, free agents may say it could be a winning ballclub. If we have the same season as 2009, we are doomed!
  3. isuzudude February 17, 2010 at 11:03 am
    Omar hung his hat on signing Bengie Molina this offseason, and misjudged Molina’s desire to play for the Mets over anybody else. Omar was right not to offer Bengie anything over a 1-yr deal + a 1-yr option, but he was WRONG for not drafting a Plan B strategy in case Bengie signed elsewhere. Hence, we’re left with a plethora of backup catchers (Blanco, Santos, Coste, Thole, Riggans) who were envisioned to alternate as Molina’s backup, but instead are now being thrust into roles they don’t belong in. And we’re also left with a scrambling general manager who is said to be chasing Rod Barajas now that he’s left with crap, junk, trash, filth, and a steaming pile of monkey dookey as his current cacthing options. Barajas would bring a boost to the power department, but his AVG and DEF would make his addition a moot point at this stage. Alas, the Mets’ catching woes are just ANOTHER blemish on Omar’s report card this offseason, on top of the mountain of blemishes he and the rest of this franchise has made over the past 3+ years. It’s no wonder I can’t get myself excited for the start of the 2010 season.
  4. Mike February 17, 2010 at 11:04 am
    Oh I’m sorry Joe but since when is a career .291 BA in the minors and a BA that has gone UP every level not translate into better than a .240 hitter? I realize you are commenting on dummies who think he is already Paul LoDuca, but there is no reason to think he won’t be a capable hitter in the ML. It will be a light .300, but .300 is absolutely possible for him.
  5. joejanish February 17, 2010 at 11:40 am
    Mike – some day, Josh Thole MIGHT hit .300 in the big leagues. Not in 2010, over 100+ games, while also trying to learn how to catch MLB pitchers and call big league games and deal with the constant media scrutiny and the expectations thrust upon him.

    By the way, Kevin Rhomberg was a career .301 hitter in the minors who led the SAL with a .366 AVG in 1981. Remember his MLB All-Star career? Neither does anyone else, because it didn’t happen, because minor league success is not always a precursor to MLB success.

    Forgive me for being a bit snarky with the Rhomberg example, as I appreciate you commenting here and regularly stimulating the conversation. The truth is, I do think that Thole has a chance to do something, eventually, in the bigs, but I don’t see it happening this year, in this city, under these circumstances.

  6. Mike February 17, 2010 at 11:53 am
    Joe, thanks, and I wasn’t saying he’ll do it this year either, but I think you know that. I like Thole and I’ve said before I think he will be a very good hitter in this league. His biggest obstacle is his defense, and for a catcher that is like saying a pitcher’s biggest obstacle is his fastball. Supposing he does become a capable backstop I think a low slugging, high avg, high on-base catcher does have a place on a winning ball club, don’t you think? True that is his ceiling but 3 years or so of that sort of production is typically what MLB teams get from young players so what is wrong with that? Not every player has to be a star.

    BTW have you heard the Mets are “pushing hard” for Barajas now? I thought the Mets were out of money. This just shows how little the media actually knows about the Wilpon’s purse. So I will stop listening.

  7. isuzudude February 17, 2010 at 12:15 pm
    This post is less directed at Mike and more directed at the “kool-aid drinkers” who see Thole as ready to take over the reigns of the starting catching position in 2010:

    One doesn’t really need to look very far in the past for a reason to be skeptical of quick success by Thole at the major league level. Dan Murphy was a .290 minor league hitter before his promotion to the big leagues. Like Thole, despite skipping AAA, Murphy made a great first impression by hitting .313 in his first 131 ABs with the Mets as a 23 year old; while as a 22 year old, Thole hit .321 in his first 53 ABs with the Mets. However, in his second season with the Mets, Murphy SIGNIFICANTLY regressed from his minor league averages, hitting mainly in the .240s and .250s all year before getting hot in August and September and finishing the season at .266. So, as you can see, minor league success does not automatically translate into immediate major league success. Seeing that Thole is a year younger than Murphy, playing a far more physically demanding position than 1B/LF, it is a just assessment that Thole will have a HARDER time acclimating himself to the rigors of the major league level, thus resulting in a larger drop-off from his minor league norms. Not to mention Thole isn’t the most adept defensive presence behind the plate at this stage of his career, and though his offensive game may need little adjusting as he matures at AAA, his defensive abilities do need to be improved before he can be considered a viable starter at the major league level. Being a slap-hitter with a .300 average is nice but not very helpful when you’re giving the runs you produce back to the opposition with shoddy defense. See Luis Castillo.

    I’m mildly optimistic Thole can become a Jason Kendall type catcher, but it’s doubtful he’s at that level now. Looking for a .300 season out of him in 2010 is a lofty expectation that is more than likely only setting him up for failure.

  8. astromets February 19, 2010 at 6:44 am
    Wow you have low expectations of Thole! I don’t think anyone else would expect him to come to the majors and hit less than .260, albeit with no expected power. Now youre going Mets fanness over the top in the other direction.
  9. astromets February 19, 2010 at 6:55 am
    As for what you say Izusudude, I agree that we shouldn’t get our hopes up sky high; but for the same reason you shouldn’t predict success based on a small sample or minor league success, you shouldn’t/can’t predict success, or adjustment/ready time, for one player based on how long it did or didn’t take another. That Murphy struggled in his second year, playing out of position full time with the cavalry dying behind him doesn’t mean Thole will. Just as we can’t predict success, we can’t predict failure is what I am trying to say. I don’t think Thole would come in right away and start winning batting titles, but I feel his approach is such that it would take an awful BABIP to drive his average below .260 even. His lack of power, and cup of coffee last year, suggests he is a ‘slap-and-judy’ (isn’t that what Keith always says?) hitter like Castillo; he sees the ball and puts his bat on it, hardly striking out. If batting average is your measure of success, then Thole should find success in any league, in my opinion.
  10. astromets February 19, 2010 at 6:55 am
    er punch and judy
  11. joejanish February 19, 2010 at 1:55 pm
    AstroMets – If Josh Thole were going to be a DH or 1B in Kansas City, I would have higher hopes re: his offensive production. But you can’t separate his hitting from the mental, physical, and emotional grind of being a rookie starting catcher in NYC for this particular staff of pitchers — not when Thole is still learning the position “on the job”. If we’re playing Strat-O-Matic, though, where the human element is eliminated, then, yeah, I’ll pencil in Thole for at least .290.