During Tuesday's slugfest with the Twins, Curt Casali provided the Rays their final run of the evening as he belted a line drive homer into 162 landing. It was a laser shot and Casali was unsure if it would clear the low wall out in left, so he booked it out of the box. Unfortunately, as he rounded first base he pulled a hamstring that will sideline him for the next few weeks of the season.
It was a crushing blow as Casali has given the Rays some much-welcomed pop behind the dish and hasn't been a total black hole in Kevin Cash's lineup card. For his replacement, the Rays promoted J.P. Arencibia, a "catcher" known for his power and not much else. The Rays picked him up towards the end of April after he was released by the Baltimore Orioles, and they have him stashed in Durham just in case a situation like this arises.
However, Kevin Cash said that he was going to be reluctant to use him immediately due to his lack of knowledge regarding the current Rays staff. That hat would prove costly during Wednesday's game as Rene Rivera was allowed to bat in a crucial situation. Also, adding to the questionable decision, Arencibia was in the game two innings later when Enny Romero was brought on to pitch.
Whether you know a pitcher or not, I think Chris Archer would have been fine pitching to Arencibia for the seventh inning. The results couldn't have been much worse.
Anyway, hindsight is 20/20. Let's get to know the 50th player to be on the Rays active roster this season.
Back in the 2007 draft, the Toronto Blue Jays selected Arencibia with the 21st overall selection in the first round out of the University of Tennessee. Arencibia quickly became one of the top prospects in the Blue Jays system and in all of baseball after being ranked 43rd best prospect by Baseball America following the 2009 season.
He'd make his major league debut on August 7th, 2010 and had a historic performance as he cranked two homers, going 4-5 on day against James Shields and the Rays. The very first pitch he seen in the major leagues, he sent into Toronto's bullpen. However, Arencibia would only record one hit in his next 29 at-bats following that game.
In 2011, Arencibia showed the power that made him an exciting prospect as belted 23 homers in his rookie season. He was striking out at an almost 30% clip, while walking only about 5% of the time, making his on-base numbers suffer. Over the years, his ability behind the plate has also deteriorated. Over his career, he's pretty much in the negatives in advanced statistics. He's also been average in throwing runners out as he has nabbed base-stealers around 35% of the time over his career.
The only thing that has kept him around is ability to drive the ball out of the park, which to be fair, has stayed pretty consistent throughout his career. He had 10 in only 63 games last year with the Rangers. Unfortunately, when you're only calling card is hitting the ball out of the park, you don't receive many chances, so Arencibia has struggled to find major league work the past two seasons.
This past offseason, the Orioles invited him to spring training but cut him towards the end to allow him to seek out another opportunity. The Rays picked him up a month later, but used him mostly as a first baseman or a designated hitter. It wasn't until Bobby Wilson's DFA (and subsequent claim by the Yankees), that he started to get work behind the plate. However, his offensive season down in Durham may be among his worst as a professional.
So far this season with Durham, he has walked at a 3.7% clip which is somehow not the lowest of his career. However, he did post the highest strikeout rate of his career he has been punched out in almost 31% of his plate appearances, meanwhile he has slashed .227/.259/.443 with 22 homers in 99 games. So, his power is still there and everything else is still non-existent.
Down the line, Arencibia's playing time may increase once he gets to know the Rays rotation and their quirks. Also, Kevin Cash actually called out Rene Rivera for his at-bat in the game mentioned above, so that may also provide Arencibia with more time behind the dish in the coming up games.