|Photo by Keith Allison licensed under Creative Commons|
During the 2011 season in a article that was never ended up getting finished I outlined Mike McCoy as Mr. Unappreciated. The scrappy utility man played 2B, SS, 3B, CF, RF, and even pitched for the Jays this season. He played above average defense at 3 of the 5 positions according to UZR/150 (Beware the SSS) and hit at an almost parallel to the beloved John Mcdonald (McCoy .267 wOBA, Johhny Mac .269 wOBA). Yet, still Mikey Mick as the guys at Getting Blanked dubbed him, was always the odd man out. Granted he had the options and was easy to move, but still wasn’t really appreciated for the versatility that he brought the Blue Jays. His journey from Minors to Majors and back again and again is nicely illustrated in the graphic below.
|A Graphic by Minor Leaguer of Bluebird Banter|
But enough of Mike McCoy and on to the man who is the New Mr. Unappreciated. This man is the man who nobody thinks of when the question comes up on who the Jays backup catcher will be in 2012. Not Jose Molina, not Ryan Doumit, not Jason Varitek, not even Travis d’Arnaud, but instead the man who should be the backing up J.P. the sophomore is the only member of the Blue Jays during the 2011 season who didn’t play in a singlegame. Yes, ladies and gentlemen when asked who should back up Arencibia, I respond, Why not Brian Jeroloman.
It may not seem like the obvious first choice as Jeroloman isn’t exactly a coveted catcher, nor is he a proven veteran (not that it matters), but the Jays believed in him enough to call him up to the majors in 2011 for a cup of coffee, if you can really call it that. Jeroloman surely won’t produce in a major offensive way as evidenced by his sub .300 wOBA is the extremely hitter friendly PCL. There was the sentiment by some that he could become a fine offensive contributor after putting up a .429 OBP and .392 wOBA for the Fisher Cats in 2010, but at that point he was a little old for the league (24 at the time) and hasn’t really shown he can cut it and what is often regarded as a easier level to pad the stats.
Still despite his offensive shortcomings it doesn’t seem like he gets enough appreciation for what the guy who was “just a placeholder” on the roster could mean going forward. Brian is 25 will only make the MLB minimum salary in 2012 and provides absolutely stellar defense behind the plate. In fact as he progressed through the Blue Jays farm system there was always the sentiment that he had the defense to be a backup, if that is the direction the Jays wanted to take, but was always questionable on the hitting aspect (Unless you ask Ricciardi who called Jeroloman the catcher of the future). After over 2000 plate appearances in the minors it has become increasingly clear that the hitting just isn’t there. Fortunately for Jeroloman the sparkling defense as described in scouting reports should get him to the big leagues.
I could go on and show off the dazzling scouting reports, but this quote from Jays Journal’s Top 50 Jays Prospects List pretty much sums it up, “He has above average receiving skills, a good ability to block balls in the dirt , and he really enjoys developing a positive rapport with his pitchers, who like throwing to him. He also has a good arm behind the plate, and might not hit for a high average but getting on base through taking pitches has always been his strength.”
With the Jays pretty obviously looking for a defensively minded catcher to handle their young pitching staff the question becomes why not Jeroloman. Sure he isn’t really going to hit much at all for the Jays, but with d’Arnaud maybe pushing for a spot at some point in 2012 and the other options really only being guys like Ramon Castro, Dionner Navarro, and Jason Varitek among others, why not give Jeroloman a chance. The Jays said they viewed him as a potential backup catcher for the future when they called him up after the Kelly Johnson trade in August and I’d bet that same opinion would still hold true. Sure, there was the ongoing joke about whether or not Jeroloman would be placed in a game as the 2011 season came to a close and the final verdict gave Jeroloman a thumbs down in that category. But he did get an interesting nickname as “Moonlight Graham” named after the 1905 New York Giants outfielder by the same name. Moonlight Graham only ever played in one game in his career and so far has done Jeroloman one better, but hopefully Brian will be able to overcome his nickname in 2012.
In 2012 even if it means putting up with a likely well below average offensive production, the defense Jeroloman provides behind the plate, his game calling abilities, and the fact that he will make the league minimum in 2012 are all the pros towards making Jeroloman the backup. The only situation that I would want to see Brian not taking that spot in 2012 would be on the very off chance that the Blue Jays re-sign Jose Molina. That very likely won’t happen unless the new CBA firmly changes draft pick compensation for the 2011-2012 offseason. So next time someone asks you who the backup will be, Why not Brian Jeroloman?