Keep an eye on Jays young catchers

J.P. Arencibia. (Photo courtesy Toronto Blue Jays/QMI Agency files)

J.P. Arencibia. (Photo courtesy Toronto Blue Jays/QMI Agency files)

BOB ELLIOTT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:51 AM ET

Mel Didier has seen a lot since John McHale of the Detroit Tigers signed him in 1948 and assigned him to class-D Stroudsburg, Penn.

And what has Didier seen so far in his first season as the Blue Jays senior adviser of player development?

“Let me tell you somthin’ pawdnah, we got some catchin’ comin’,” said Didier in his thick Louisiana drawl which could charm a grade school teacher out of a homework assignment.

“We’ve got three good ’uns comin’ in J.P. Arencibia, Travis d’Arnaud and A.J. Jimenez.”

Arencibia, a former first-round pick of former scouting director Jon Lalonde, is hitting .245 with eight homers and 26 RBIs in 45 games with a .767 OPS for the Las Vegas 51s. Arencibia holds the catcher-of-the-future tag, as have so many others: Robinzon Diaz, Matt Stark, Greg David, Greg Myers, Carlos Delgado. The only homegrown catcher who actually held the position was Pat Borders and he was a third baseman until double-A, his seventh year in the organization.

D’Arnaud, acquired in the Roy Halladay trade from the Phillies, is batting .304 with five homers and 24 RBIs in 30 games with an .867 OPS with Dunedin.

Jimenez, a ninth-round pick in 2008, signed by scout Jorge Rivera, is hitting .321 with two homers and 29 RBIs in 38 games. He has an .819 OPS for the Lansing Lugnuts.

“Jimenez has the ability to be a front-line catcher,” said Didier, from Lansing, “Our manager here, (former Jays catcher) Sal Fasano, has done a real good job with him.”

Didier pitched at class-D Thomasville, Ga., in 1949 and then turned to coaching football after an arm injury. Three years later, he joined McHale’s Tigers and followed him to Milwaukee, Atlanta and Montreal.

Didier’s Lansing picks to click include:

Centre fielder Kenny Wilson, whom the Jays are trying to make into a switch-hitter, is hitting .247 (.348 against left-handers and .205 against righties) with eight RBIs and is 17-for-27 stealing bases.

Sean Ochinko catches, plays third and first base and is hitting .261 with two homers and 24 RBIs in 47 games.

“He’ll be a utility guy in the big leagues, a wining-type backup player,” Didier said of Ochinko.

First baseman Balbino Fuenmayor owns a .236 average with three homers and 28 RBIs.

“If he hits, he’ll play,” Didier said. “If he doesn’t, he won’t.”

INSIDE THE PARK

Aaron Mathews and Eric Thames, two prospective Jays outfielders on the farm, each accomplished the rare feat on the same night last weekend.

Mathews hit a two-run, inside-the-park home run to right-centre at Cashman Field in Las Vegas in the eighth, for the deciding run in a 6-4 win over Tacoma.

Thames, of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, hit a three-run, inside-the-parker at Merchantsauto.com Stadium in Manchester N.H., in the eighth. Down 6-1 with an error and a walk on board, Thames’ hit a 3-2 pitch to centre and circled the bases to get the Cats back into the game.

Adam Loewen doubled with one out in the ninth and David Cooper hit a two-run homer to force extras. Thames scored the winner on a Shawn Bowman single.

GETTING IT TOGETHER

Right-hander Kyle Drabek had his best outing of the year, pitching eight scoreless for New Hampshire in a 3-0 win over Trenton. He allowed four hits and one walk, while striking out four.

Drabek is now 7-4 with a 3.06 earned run average, has walked 27 and struck out 55 in 67.2 innings. This was his 11th start, giving him 26 combined at the double-A level this year and last season.

ANOTHER CYCLE

Jarrett Hoffpauir hit for the cycle in a Vegas win over Tacoma. The 51s’ infielder led off the game with a triple to centre, singled to left in the third, hit a two-run homer to left in the fifth and doubled to right in the sixth. It was the second time Hoffpauir had hit for the cycle in a month. Adam Calderone, promoted from double-A and homered and doubled in his first Vegas game.


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