I’m really starting to have second thoughts about the Mets going after free agent catcher Bengie Molina. I know how strongly I have advocated for Molina in the last two months, but am becoming more and more taken with Josh Thole as he toils away in Winter Ball with the hopes of impressing Mets brass and potentially earning a spot on the big league roster next season.
Thole continues to wield a hot bat in Venezuela and is leading the league with a .391 batting average. In 133 at-bats he has 17 extra-base hits including three home runs, and 24 RBI. He has almost twice as many walks (24) as he does strikeouts (13), and that gives him a sizzling .488 on-base percentage. His 1.059 OPS leads the league as well.
If not for the fact that he might be a defensive liability, the lefthanded hitting Thole is probably a better offensive option than all of the other free agent catchers that are currently being considered by the Mets.
While Thole may not possess the power of Bengie Molina right now, you can make a good argument that he is a better pure hitter and can get on base at a much better rate than Molina. Plus, Thole wouldn’t clog the basepaths like the lead-footed Molina would as the Mets catcher of the future above average speed for a catcher.
As a southpaw, Thole would be perfectly suited for a platoon with the righthanded Omir Santos.
Minor league scouts and coaches have been impressed with how quickly Thole has adapted behind the plate. He has come a long way defensively when you consider that he has only been playing the position for barely two years.
The good news on the defensive front is that Thole is extremely dedicated to improving at his new position, and he believes that he will ultimately be a solid defensive catcher.
His defensive improvement in Venezuela has already drawn much attention. In fact, I spoke to one of our contacts who covers the Venezualan League in the winter, and yesterday he told me that Thole looks as comfortable behind the plate as any of the other catchers in the league, and that if he is a defensive liability it’s news to him.
That bit of good news is not at all surprising regarding Thole who is a fierce competitor on the field.
I have a suspicious feeling that Molina will probably be looking for a 2-3 year deal this winter. With Omir Santos already settled in as the backup catcher, it may be unwise to block Josh Thole who could be ready to contribute by the All Star break if not sooner.
He certainly will not solve the team’s shortage of homerun power, but he has a swing that is well suited for Citi Field and he should produce a fair share of doubles along with 5-6 home runs. I believe he could have a season very similar to the one Paul Lo Duca produced for the Mets in 2006.
When I consider the other very pricey catching options out there, I can’t help asking myself this one important question:
Are any of those expensive catching options that much better than Josh Thole?
The answer I keep telling myself is no.