He leads the VWL in AVG and OBP, is second in doubles, is fifth in slugging and is the second toughest player to strikeout in the league. As a whole, its an offense friendly league which is hitting .287/.364/.428, but Thole is just raking down there. Thole owns 13 2B, 1 3B, and 3 HR and 24 walks against 13 strikeouts. Just think about this: he has more extra-base hits than strikeouts.
Reviews of Thole's defense this summer were not good, but the results appear better this winter. He's been tested in Venezuela, where opponents' 38 stolen base attempts are the most against any catcher. Thole has thrown out 11 runners, a 29%. By contrast, the rocket-armed Henry Blanco, has nailed 62% (16 of 26) would-be basestealers. In terms of receiving, Thole has not been charged with a single passed ball. Also, Caracas' pitching staff has been charged with 23 wild pitches, the second-fewest in the league, but this is a staff with good control; it also leads the league in fewest walks.
Thole's fine winter comes after an impressive summer in which he made his Major League debut on September 3rd with a 2-5 performance. In 17 games in the season's final month, he hit .321/.356/.396 at the big league level with four walks and five strikeouts in 53 AB. Thole earned his September call-up by hitting .328/.395/.422 at AA Binghamton in 103 games.
The MarketTake a look at the scary list of the free agent catchers.
|Ramon Castro||34||.267 - NYM; .219 CHI||NR||165||57|
|Gregg Zaun||37||.261 - BAL; .269 TB||B||262||90|
The Mets have been linked most closely to Rod Barajas, Yorvit Torrealba and Bengie Molina, all of whom are over 30, and underwhelming at best the plate.
Barajas hit .226/.258/.403 with 19 homers and 19 doubles for Toronto. The 19 HR were two off a career-high he set in 2005 with Texas. He's an OBP sink.
Molina hit .265/.285/.442 and set a new career high with twenty homers to go along with 25 doubles in San Francisco. Molina has been consistent, hitting between 15-20 HR each year for the last five. He walked 13 times in 2009. Yes, 13. Thole has drawn twice that number in one month in Venezuela. At his MLB rates, Thole would equal that number in less than two months. Molina is not an OBP sink. He's a black hole. Also, Molina is a type A free agent so the Mets would have to give up their second round draft pick for the privilege of paying Molina to kill rallies.
Torrealba hit .291/.351/.380 for Colorado in a backup role.
PassDo you see a significant offensive upgrade over a Thole/Santos tandem? I don't. The Mets must spend their money on positions, notably 1B and LF, where the market provides an appreciable upgrade over the players they ran out on the field in 2009. Catcher simply does not offer serious improvement opportunities in the same way.
*I originally referred to Thole as being 24 on Opening Day 2010. Thanks to an eagle-eyed reader for catching my brain fart.