Archive: November 10th, 2010

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

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2010 Analysis: Henry Blanco

When Henry Blanco was signed in early December of 2009, it was the biggest signing of the offseason to that point. I made some fun of the signing, since it seemed silly to sign a backup catcher before a starting catcher – particularly since the Mets seemed intent on either keeping Topps Rookie Omir Santos as a backup and/or slowly transitioning Josh Thole into the starting spot. Though, picking up Blanco is the type of “veteran depth” pickup that a pennant-contending club makes, and at that point, Omar Minaya believed the Mets would be pennant contenders.

As it turned out, Blanco exceeded expectations with the bat – in the first half, anyway. He hit a surprising .370 in May, popping some dramatic late-inning extra-base hits during the season’s first few months. By the end of the year, however, “regression to the mean” got the best of Blanco, as he finished with a .215 average and putrid .571 OPS.

Defensively, he did a good job of throwing out runners, catching 11 of 22 (50%), and pitchers had a 3.27 ERA when pitching to him. Of course, that number was helped by the fact that Blanco caught 13 of Johan Santana’s starts – which amounted to almost one-third of the times he was written into the starting lineup.

All in all, Blanco did about as well as expected. He provided very little in the way of offense, threw out runners, called a decent game, and was awful at framing and blocking pitches.

2011 Projection

Henry Blanco will not return to the Mets as a player in 2011, mainly because he is old and has nothing to offer offensively, but also because fellow Venezuelan Johan Santana is unlikely to throw a pitch. However, he is by all accounts a “good guy” with baseball acumen, so maybe he’ll latch on as a coach in the organization. Personally, I hope he doesn’t attain a role as an instructor, because his catching mechanics are atrocious, but I could see him evolving into a pitching coach or manager at some point.

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2010 Analysis: Raul Valdes

Every time I saw Raul Valdes take the mound, I thought, “how is this guy in the Major Leagues?” His delivery resembles that of a high school shortstop who is thrown into a pitching role because the team has run out of pitchers, and his stuff is marginal at best.

For a while, Valdes seemed to get by – if you judge him by his 1.86 ERA in April. That number is deceiving, however, since during his 9 innings of work in the initial month, he allowed 9 hits (including a homer) and 3 walks, and blew two save opportunities. But something about Valdes (perhaps his smile?) enamored the Mets’ coaching staff, and he hung around for most of the year, finishing with a 4.91 ERA and 1.47 WHIP through 38 games and 58 IP. His one positive was an ability to get batters to swing and miss – he struck out 56 in those 58 innings. However, I will go on a limb and say that was more due to batters not seeing him before rather than advanced ability.

2011 Projection

The Mets have already dropped Valdes from their roster, and I don’t see him returning to the organization in 2011. Although the Mets have already lost Hisanori Takahashi, and likely will lose Pedro Feliciano this winter, I don’t see them adding him as a lefty specialist – mainly because he was ineffective against lefthanded hitters (who hit .330 with a .991 OPS against him). He is a nice enough guy and definitely a team player who will fill any role asked of him, but he’s simply not very good.

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