Section 518

Where we endeavor to stay positive about the 2011 Mets…

Barajas Goes Home (And, Is Jason Kendall A Good Comp For Josh Thole)

Posted by JD on August 23, 2010

As you’ve undoubtedly heard by now, Ontario, CA native Rod Barajas is headed home, claimed on waivers by the Los Angeles Dodgers. I wish him nothing but the best (his walk-off home run against the Giants on May 7 is one of my favorite moments of this season), but it was past time for him to move on: his OBP was below his already-meager career average and though his slugging percentage was slightly better than his career number, it has steadily declined since May. And given that his one definitive strength is hitting home runs, it was a little troubling that he hasn’t homered since May 31st. No, it was time for him to move on.

Was it disappointing that the Mets received only cash considerations for his services? Not really, as his departure clears the way for Josh Thole to assume the role of starting catcher. That makes it worth it, in my book. It’s actually one of the more exciting things left to look forward to in this lost season, in my opinion. I enjoy watching Thole hit: he looks like he has a goal in every at-bat and he’s produced a .289/.361/.351 line so far this season. He’s earned the additional playing time and I hope he makes the most of it.

I’ve been thinking about Thole and what he may become quite a bit lately. One of the comparisons that I’ve heard fairly often is Jason Kendall (a good example is found here), and it was kind of bugging me. Kendall has been around so long (he’s in his 15th season) and he’s been so bad for the past six seasons, that I forgot how good he was for the Pirates. His OPS+ in Pittsburgh: 101, 114, 131, 136, 124, 78, 86, 112, and 107, the last five of those coming after his horrific ankle injury.

Well, that’s intriguing. But I’m not a scout, and I’m not qualified to judge Thole’s potential strictly from watching him play. I like what I see, I appreciate his approach at the plate, and I can tell that he’s gotten better at handling pitchers (enjoying particular success with R.A. Dickey), but I have no idea whether that translates into “Jason Kendall, Jr.” or not.

I’m also not comfortable drawing conclusions from 167 plate appearances (Thole’s current career total). However, their minor league careers are strikingly similar:

Kendall: four seasons, 1,520 plate appearances, .301/.377/.398 slash line
Thole: six seasons, 1,733 plate appearances, .289/.376/.381 slash line

Twins, separated at birth? No, Kendall was a slightly faster mover: although they both reached the majors at 22, Kendall played 130 games in his first season, Thole just 17. But it is enough evidence to lend credence to the Kendall comparison. All the more reason why releasing Rod Barajas was the right move.

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