September 4, 2009
Josh Th♥le

I’ve never tried to hide it; I have a man-crush on Josh Thole. There really hasn’t been a prospect that I’ve wanted to succeed this bad since Heath Bell. Like most people, I like rooting for the underdog which is exactly what limited, underappreciated prospects are. Last July, I wrote a post over at Amazin’ Avenue discussing my excitement for Josh Thole. As I discussed in the post, Josh Thole was not getting mentioned by any fans in prospect discussions. Sure, Thole had his limitations, mainly defense and power; but the numbers just didn’t suggest the terrible defense fans were worried about and the league average catcher hits so poorly that Thole made up for his lack of power. I concluded that, without a power increase, Thole could a useful league average catcher. However, as Thole play in the AFL, spring training and Bingo garnered him more recognition; I almost feel like expectations are too high for Thole. I still think Thole can be a league average catcher one day but I don’t know if fans understand how valuable a “minimum wage,” team-controlled, league average player is. Here are some comments from Adam Rubin’s article, Josh Thole becomes top catching prospect for Mets.

  • I’m bowled over with anticipation. We got the next Darrin Fletcher or Scott Bradley waiting in the minors! “The scout projected Thole eventually as the lefty-hitting part of a platoon at catcher, or as a backup in the majors.” Hold me back! When’s his debut–I wanna buy tickets today!
  • Just call this kid Lastings because he will be just as good.
  • I guess we have another Brian Schneider a singles hitting catcher whoppie doo!

Tough crowd. To try to determine what reasonable expectations for Thole are, let’s review his minor league season. Thole spent the entire season as a 22-year-old in Double-A Binghamton. He finished the year with a triple slash line of .328/.395/.422/.816 with a 9.9 BB%, 8.9 K%, .094 ISO, and a .358 BABIP. Obviously, the BABIP is a bit high but not ridiculously so. Additionally, Thole’s defense has been said to have improved enough to be considered league average. In order to get a better understanding of how Thole season went, let’s use’s major league equivalent numbers. Thole’s MLE, while accounting for luck and park factors, comes up with a less impressive .254/.307/.315/.622, oddly similar to Thole’s ’08 MLE, which gave him a .603 OPS. Minor League Splits’ MLE gives seems to be a bit hard on Thole in the BABIP giving him a BABIP of .280. This seems a bit low considering that Thole’s BABIP has never had a BABIP below .306. Baseball Prospectus’ MLE for Thole has him at .285/.327/.389 with a BABIP of .305 and an EqA of .253. The EqA for the average major league catchers this year has been .250. Thus, according to the more optimistic MLE, as well as the assertion that Thole’s defense has improved, Thole can be a league-average catcher as soon as next year year. All right, maybe the latter assertion is a bit too sanguine.

Still, I think even if Thole did somehow stay in the majors all year and he hit .285/.327/.389 with average defense, there would be fans disappointed. However, Thole’s EqA of .253 would put him just about at Kurt Suzuki level this year (.254,) who has thus far been worth exactly 2.0 WAR and $9.1 million. For comparison, Omir Santos has been worth 1 WAR and, with his awful August, Schneider has been worth exactly 0 WAR. Now, I should note that using’s WAR values is faulty due to catcher defense not being fully accounted for; however, I think that the point that even if Thole’s just hit is (optimistic) translated line, he would be at least a league average catcher. However, if the latter still doesn’t get you excited, BPro has another tool that takes a minor leaguer’s batting line, age, and league and calculates the expected peak. Josh Thole’s peak triple slash is listed as .293/.362/.422/.784 or an EqA of .276. While the peak line is still short of stardom, it’s an above average line to complement their stars, which is exactly what the Mets have struggled with these past couple of years.

7 Responses to “Josh Th♥le”

  1. Comment posted by sheadenizen on September 4, 2009 at 8:53 am (#1075837)

    Fans expectations are usually unrealistic and show little patience. Everyone wants their prospect to come into the league and rake.

    Joe, I’d love to see Thole succeed. I’m not expecting Mike Piazza. I would be happy with a league average competent cheap guy. His enthusiasm is infectious. His post game interview yesterday put me firmly in his camp.

    I have no idea what the mets plans are for him…..being a mets fan, I’d be shocked if the Mets DID have a plan….whether they see him platooning next year or they will send him to AAA for some more seasoning. But for one game this late in the season, I was actually a fan again. Go Josh!

  2. Comment posted by Danny on September 4, 2009 at 9:12 am (#1075847)

    Really great article, Joe. I appreciate your attempt at managing expectations. Getting a nice look at Thole yesterday, right now he’s a slap hitter extraordinaire who looks like he will hit for decent average immediately. It will be interesting to see how the plate discipline carries over. It seems like he has huge coverage of the strike zone and beyond, and will continue to be a tough guy to strike out. I haven’t seen him nearly enough to make judgements on his defense, I’m chalking up the passed ball yesterday to nerves. I do wonder if the Mets will set Thole more upright and get his hands closer to the bottom of the bat, and try to get a little more power out of him. He’s not a small kid and he’s got some nice bat speed. Something to look for.

    And THANK THANK THANK you for the part about how valuable a league average catcher is. If Thole’s defense proves to be good enough, maybe he’s ready to help us next year right away. A cheap platoon of Thole/Santos may not be as horrible as it seems, if they can combine for a 1.5-2.0 WAR. (Although I am very skeptical on Omir repeating this year’s performance.) But both of those guys double as decent athletes who aren’t Ramon Castro-like turtles out there.

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  4. Comment posted by Lunkwill Fook on September 4, 2009 at 11:44 am (#1076059)

    I’d still like to see Thole get at least a half season catching at AAA and working with some of the more advanced pitchers. But it wouldn’t kill me if he started the season with the team but ONLY if he was the #1 catcher.

  5. Comment posted by Dave Magadan on September 4, 2009 at 12:56 pm (#1076217)

    Really liked the article. I would like it if the Mets went with younger not so much superstar type players. Great point about getting a solid player like Alex Cora who most media drool over and pay him a few mill. And do the same with a guy like this and not have to pay him so much. Not everyone is like Ike or F! coming up but it would be great to have someone who can be a player who can contribute.

  6. Comment posted by Danny on September 4, 2009 at 1:01 pm (#1076229)

    Exactly Maggz. Omar’s failure as a GM has been his inability to fill in cheap, league average types in the spots not manned by superstars.

  7. Comment posted by WT Economist on September 4, 2009 at 8:00 pm (#1077000)

    I remember the mileage the Mets got out of non-stars like Backman and Mookie back in the day. If Thole, Evans and Murphy can’t play every day, can they platoon?

    Even A. Hernandez is looking better, now that we have him back. Remember what a valuable player good field, no-hit Jose Oquendo turned out to be for the Cardinals after leaving the Mets? I had given up, but it could still happen.

  8. Comment posted by littlefallsmets on September 5, 2009 at 1:51 am (#1077205)

    I don’t need the second-coming of Mike Piazza, here, I just need a catcher who isn’t utterly embarrassing at the plate.

    The disgusting shame that is Brian Schneider getting paid to play baseball has deeply lowered my standards at this position.

    Just not as bad as Brian Schneider, for God’s sake.