2011 Player Review: Josh Thole, C

We began our review of the 2011 Mets by examining their free agents and players the team will consider tending contracts to. We started evaluating the rest of the roster, beginning with infielder Ruben Tejada and continue today with catcher Josh Thole. Tomorrow: Ike Davis.

JOSH THOLE – C

THE SKINNY: Thole turned heads in 2010 with his bat control and ability to work the count. The Mets had a young hitter who could draw a walk and take an outside pitch to left field. Who knew? Defensively, he was new at the position, but the pitchers liked how he handled a game and gave them a consistent low target.

PRE-SEASON EXPECTATIONS: If Thole could make a good impression over 227 at-bats, imagine what he could do over a full season. And, as he developed physically and filled out he might be able to hit for more power. Also, his continued work with the pitching staff should make him even more comfortable behind the plate.

HOW THE SEASON PLAYED OUT: Not according to plan. Thole had 386 at-bats in 114 games, but a fulltime catcher should get more work than that. Ronny Paulino played more as a back-up than expected and that was a reflection on Thole. His defense regressed as he led the National League with 16 passed balls and he threw out just 17 attempted base stealers (21 percent). Offensively, his batting average (.268) and on-base percentages (.345 from .357) dropped. He hit three homers in both years despite having 160 more at-bats. In a word: disappointing.

JOHN’S TAKE: Thole might have benefited by more time in the minor leagues, but that wasn’t the hand he was dealt. He took a step back after a good first impression, but that was to be expected as the league found him out. Since his learning environment has been the major leagues it doesn’t make much sense to change that now. He would benefit from having a veteran back-up, and I don’t know if Paulino is that guy. The Mets will stick with Thole for the simple facts they have confidence he’ll develop and they want to spend their limited resources elsewhere. A tip: Have somebody else catch R.A. Dickey.

JOE’S TAKE: Call it a hunch, but I don’t think Thole is long for this team. The only reason he is still hanging onto his job is because quite simply the Mets positional depth at catcher is in complete shambles, and it has been that way for most of the team’s 50 year history.

On most teams, Thole is a backup catcher – maybe. On the Mets he’s the best they got, which says more about the state of the Mets than it does about Thole who was a good soldier when he was asked to ditch his first base glove and put on what Tim McCarver refers to as the “tools of ignorance.”

Thole has already had a few pitchers jaw about his pitch calling and you don’t need binoculars to see how miscast he looks behind the plate. His instincts are lacking and his offensive game leaves much to be desired. On a team that will have too many dead outs in their lineup in 2012, Thole is the worst one because he can’t field his position at a satisfactory level. When an opposing batter makes it to first base, they start drooling when Thole is behind the plate – even those who run as slow as John Olerud. Thole is a huge problem for the rotation, and for a team that is going to find themselves struggling to score runs and protect leads next season.

7 thoughts on “2011 Player Review: Josh Thole, C

  1. A .345 obp for a bottom of the order catcher is pretty decent to me. He had a lot of passed balls early but cut down on those. The kid just finished his first full year. I read that the Mets were unhappy with paulino. Maybe having a backup who will take time to mentor him will help. Pudge comes to mind. I never though he would still be around but he has hurt the mets as a nat even at his advanced age. Hes a FA and wont cost much.

  2. I like Thole and I think his offense is fine but his defense regressed last year. It has nothing to do with catching Dickey as catching a knuckleballer is going to give you more past balls than other catchers. It is his instincts behind the plate. When Thole should have is glove turned over to catch the pitch he will short hand it and the ball will kick off the heel of his glove. When the ball is in the dirt he will not drop to two knees and curl his body up to block the pitch. These are all fundamentals catchers learn very early when they start catching but since Thole only started catching several years ago it is not natural to him yet and still learning these skills.

    Catchers tend to develop late anyway so giving up on him this soon would be a mistake. I do think he was promoted too early and the pitcher who was upset with his game calling was Mike Pelfrey who I don’t count because he gets distracted on the mound very easily when the game is not going well for him and blames its on everyone else. Depth for catchers in the major leagues is very thin overall and that is why it is so difficult to find good catching. It is why teams find certain players who can hit but maybe just cant find a position or don’t have enough power that might be able to make the transition and move them to catcher.

    LIke Ray mentioned above, a good veteran catcher who will take the time to work with Thole would be a nice addition. I liked Paulino but it seems as if he regressed a little as well.

    I had read somewhere if the Mets re-sign Reyes they may just go with Mike Nickeas as the backup because of his defensive skills. Even though is does not provide a lot of offense a catcher with good defensive skills will always have a place in the major leagues.

    John, I like these player posts.

  3. Regardless of what we do we need to get a good defensive catcher. Thole is young and it may take several years for him to be serviceable. He bombed this year which should not happen in the majors, but it did.

    Pelfrey needs a catcher who knows what they are doing because he doesn’t have a clue.

    Perhaps Thole can be a decent catcher one day, but he isn’t now. They need a good veteran. Many can be had.

  4. Thole gives a good effort and goes out to play. but as others have said, he didnt have the luxury of learning and growing into his position better.
    tossed into the fire. i have no doubt one day he will be one of the really good ones.
    we need so many positions .. its sad.

  5. I wonder if Thole development has been hurt by being player representative. Perhaps that job doesn’t involve too much work. But it is interesting that on the Yankees they have a veteran outfielder, Curtis Granderson, doing that job. Of course since the players vote for their rep, maybe nobody but Thole wants it.

    I would like to give him some time and see if he develops, although a veteran for back up is a good idea. But 20 years ago I thought Mackey Sasser would develop. That didn’t happen, although unlike Carter, Sasser could throw out Vince Coleman stealing.

  6. Dan Gurney – Sasser then wound up not being able to throw the ball back to the pitcher.
    At least Thole doesn’t have that problem.