2010 Analysis: Josh Thole

For me, Josh Thole was one of the biggest and most pleasant surprises of 2010.

Based on what I saw of him in late 2009, I didn’t think Thole would ever evolve into a mediocre Major League catcher, and further, did not believe he’d ever provide enough offense to make up for his lack of defense.

As it turned out, I ate crow on both accounts.

Thole developed enough skills behind the plate to be mediocre – i.e., not significantly hurt the team’s chances of winning. He received the ball without embarrassing himself, was mobile enough to block a few pitches, and showed enough improvement with his footwork to throw out some runners (he caught 11 of 24, or 44%). I wouldn’t go so far as to say he controlled the game from behind the plate, but he must have done a decent job of handling pitchers and calling games, since pitchers had an ERA of 3.58 with him behind the dish.

Additionally, Thole provided far more offense than I ever expected, hitting .277 and posting a .357 OBP. His .723 OPS was uninspiring, but if he can continue to get on base and make contact, he has an outside shot of being a poor man’s Jason Kendall.

2011 Projection

Since Sandy Alderson values the ability to get on base, and the Mets are in rebuilding mode, I’d imagine that Thole gets the opportunity to catch a full season in 2011 and show what he can do. If he can match the defensive improvement he made from ’09 to ’10, and continue to get on base around 36% of the time, the Mets might have something. My only concern is that his catching mechanics are limiting, in that they’re acceptable, but require significant athletic ability to improve upon. But who knows, he might have that ability, and/or he may improve enough offensively that it won’t matter.

Click here to read the 2009 Analysis of Josh Thole


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. CatchDog November 11, 2010 at 9:26 am
    Thole has indeed been a pleasant surprise. He also seems to have a remarkable learning curve, considering that just a few years ago, he was a no-hit first baseman struggling in the Sally League. And who doesn’t love his old school approach at the plate? I look forward to watching Josh improve next season.

    On another note, has anyone noticed how much faster games tend to be with Thole catching? He gets the ball back to the pitcher and sets up quickly. To me, this works to a pitcher’s advantage, allowing them to set the pace and get into a groove or rhythm. Johan, Pelf and RAD all seem to favor working fast.

    What are your thoughts, Joe.

    • Joe Janish November 11, 2010 at 12:07 pm
      Agreed on the learning curve and old-school approach at the plate. You know, I never noticed that the pace was quicker with Thole back there … that would definitely be a positive. Pitchers who work quickly are in a good position to control the tempo of the game, and in turn the game itself. Plus, quick workers keep the fielders alert and more focused.

      Good, er, “catch”, Catchdog!

  2. John November 30, 2010 at 11:23 pm
    I sat right behind the plate in Harrisburg when Thole was catching with Binghamton. For a kid who had only caught for a year or two, he was remarkably good behind the plate. He blocked several balls in the dirt and threw out the only runner attempting to steal. But what impressed me the most was the way he jumped out and made nice plays on balls hit in front of the plate, one a bunt and the other a dribbler. Neither were “great” plays but i have seen a lot of other minor league catchers botch those plays over the years.
    I guess what I am saying is he was very very competent.
    And watching him then and last year it was apparent that the kid can learn.
    • Joe Janish November 30, 2010 at 11:39 pm
      Agreed, he is a quick study and appears to be much more able to learn and adapt than most people. My only concern is the crappy fundamentals taught by Sandy Alomar, Jr., who relied mostly on his tremendous athletic skill and didn’t have the most efficient and effective mechanics as a player. Ideally, Thole would’ve learned from someone teaching non-traditional but biomechanically efficient catching technique, such as Mike Mayne (or me!).