TORONTO - An organization builds up the middle.
And that starts behind the plate.
Travis D’Arnaud, 22, leads New Hampshire with a .337 average with 11 doubles, three homers and 12 RBIs in 26 games. The former No. 1 pick of the Philadelphia Phillies in 2007, D’Arnaud has a .972 OPS.
A.J. Jimenez, 21, a ninth-round Jays selection in 2008, leads Dunedin with a .364 average hitting 10 doubles, a triple and two homers. He’s knocked in 16 runs and has an .911 OPS in 32 games.
Carlos Perez, 20, a free-agent sign from Venezuela, is hitting .286 with seven doubles, three triples and 14 RBIs in 33 games at Lansing. He has a .712 OPS.
D’Arnaud is ranked fourth amongst Jays prospects by the highly-respected Baseball America, in its annual rankings. J.P. Arencibia is seventh and Perez eighth. Jimenez just missed the top 10.
“Name me a team with more catching depth in its organization,” asked an evaluator this week. “Toronto has three legit guys in the minors.”
Only the New York Yankees have done a better job at gathering catchers: Jesus Montero and Gary Sanchez are the Yanks’ top two prospects and Austin Romine is ranked sixth.
Montero probably won’t stay behind the plate and Sanchez might move as well. So, for the best trio of pure catchers in the minors ... the Jays win by a leg guard.
Perez was originally an outfielder before being converted by Jays Latin American director of scouting Marco Paddy as a 17-year-old with the Jays rookie-class Dominican Summer League team.
“This is my first full season of pro ball,” Perez said from Lansing. He played 56 games for the Jays Dominican team in 2008, 43 the next year in the Gulf Coast League and a year ago was 66 games at Auburn. Jays minor league director Doug Davis points out Perez was named the New York-Penn league’s top-rated prospect.
“I didn’t mind (switching positions),” Perez said, “because I want to be like Ivan Rodriguez ... the best catcher in the majors.”
Perez has an opportunity to pick up pointers first-hand playing for former major-league catcher Mike Redmond, who retired after playing in 2010 for the Cleveland Indians, and is in his first year managing Lansing.
“He’s a committed guy,” said Redmond, who won played 13 seasons in the majors, seven with the Florida Marlins and five with the Minnesota Twins before finishing with Cleveland a year ago.
“He’s a good catch-and-throw guy, he’s hit for average and power will come as he gets older,” Redmond said. “He runs the bases in an aggressive manner and does a nice job behind the plate.”
Redmond has two boys at home in Spokane, Wash. and suddenly when the Jays hired him he had another 25 young men to look after.
“I have a lot more responsibility, it keeps me on my toes,” Redmond says. “They’re good kids, they respect the game and we’re winning some games.”