Josh Thole has been with the Major League Mets for nearly two weeks now, but has averaged less than a plate appearance per day in that time. He has made the most of the scant chances he has had, going 5-for-10 with a double and a walk. And in his two starts behind the plate, Thole failed to single-handedly destroy the Mets’ pitching with his purported inability to call games: He has a 3.00 catcher’s ERA over the tiny sample.
It would be reasonable to question why Thole is with the Mets at all since he’s a 23-year-old catcher that, by almost all accounts, needs more experience behind the plate. But who knows? Maybe the knowledge he can gain studying under old hands like Rod Barajas and Henry Blanco is more advanced than what he’d pick up playing everyday in Triple-A.
I can’t say, nor can I reasonably contend that Thole should be up in the Majors for a team with playoff aspirations and several banged-up regulars who aren’t catchers.
What I can argue, though, is that if Thole’s going to be with the big club, he should probably play more. Predictably, Barajas’ ridiculous run of early-season heroics ran up just as soon as everyone remembered how he swings at everything. His OPS has plummeted to an eminently Barajasian .730 thanks to his .502 rate since June 1. Henry Blanco has been great — and especially outstanding defensively — but it would be a lot to ask his 38-year-old body to hold up under more frequent play.
No one is accusing Thole of being the next Mike Piazza, but he can hit a bit. After a brutal start to the season in Triple-A, he posted a .410 OBP in May and June before his call-up. Though he lacks home-run power, it’s not unreasonable to suggest Thole is a better hitter than Barajas right now. He’s certainly more likely to get on-base. And he hits left-handed, which could add to the righty-heavy lineup a bit of that balance that Jerry Manuel loves so dearly.
The only things that should prevent Thole from playing more often are difficult ones to measure: Leadership, game-calling, defense behind the plate.
I don’t doubt that they’re important; Mets pitchers have been praising Barajas and Blanco all season for their approaches to opposing hitters. I just wonder how much they’re worth compared to an extra 50 points of OBP. In other words, does Barajas’ superior ability to handle pitchers overwhelm Thole’s superior ability to get on base?
Again, I can’t say. The Mets apparently think so.
My guess is that, barring another injury somewhere, Thole will be the odd man out once Carlos Beltran returns. But it wouldn’t kill the Mets to give him a few more chances to prove himself worthy of a Major League spot before that happens. If it turns out he can handle the job behind the plate, he’s another free offensive upgrade for the stretch run.
I wonder if there’s a relatively minor deal to be made with the Red Sox, who have their top 2 catchers on the DL. Not sure what we’d seek in return, maybe a bullpen arm for Blanco? Or a better return for Barajas? I’d be comfortable with Thole and either Blanco or Barajas as the two catchers on the major league roster.
Ten ABs and you want to get rid of Barajas/Blanco? Typical fan. You probably were in favor of Santos/Thole in the offseason. Defense is important and it’s not like Thole is a good ML hitter.
Ten ABs and you KNOW that Thole is not a good ML hitter? Typical fan. You probably were in favor of giving Barajas an extension after his walk off homer.
Look Barajas has been more than anyone could have imagined, slump not withstanding, and I’d argue if he is willing to stick around next year he is a great platoon and mentor for a guy like Thole. But lets all be honest, as good as Barajas has been, he is not a long term solution. At all.
I agree that defense is important. That’s why I said, in the post above, that I didn’t doubt its importance.
And I didn’t say Thole was a good Major League hitter. That’s why I said, in the post above, “No one is accusing him of being the next Mike Piazza” and “he lacks Major League power.”
What I said was that Thole is probably a better hitter than Barajas, who has regressed toward his career means. And I said that I’m not sure which is worth more, Barajas’ presumably better game-calling and defense or Thole’s presumably better offense. Not sure where you read that I wanted to get rid of the Barajas/Blanco tandem.
As for Santos, I’m not sure I’ve ever mentioned him in this space without jest or outright derision. He is not the same as Thole. Thole has actually hit at multiple levels. Santos never has.
Santos did hit, at Fenway Park! .260, 280 AB’s , 7HR, 40RBI’s and 14 Doubles. Plus, he was certainly a better catcher then that bum Schneider! Phillies gotta be lovin that clown now.
very good article Ted…you’re a strong writer and i enjoy reading your work about the mets
thole has shown he can work the count and get on base…lack of power withstanding, if he can learn from blanco/barajas he has potential
a barajas/thole platoon next yr is very possible
I like Thole. Having him as part of a regular rotation is fine. From all the reports this year, his D is acceptable. Actually, his game calling I think has been praised, but his arm may not be above average (though neither is barajas’)
and his slugging in the minors was always a good number. He just doesn’t hit a lot of HRs. But he is not a slappy level weak singles guy!
somehow, I think a .350 OBP guy with a lot of doubles but maybe 5 HRs is worth more than a .290 OBP with 15 HRs, but 20 less doubles.
I also don’t have much faith, based on his age, physique, and histroy, that hot Rod will make it through the summer in 1 piece!
It’ll be a moot point since Thole will be packaged in a deal for Lee anyways..