|The Athletics didn’t blink when it came to cutting ties with veteran Rob Bowen and entrusting 27-year-old rookie Landon Powell with the task of backing up big league starter Kurt Suzuki. It’s just that the 6-foot-3, 250-pound Powell, after two surgeries to repair an ACL tear in his left knee, is not the most durable backstop in the world. That’s where Curtis Thigpen comes in. Oakland traded for the Blue Jays’ deposed catcher of the future during the penultimate week of spring training, sending a player to be named or cash to Toronto.
Incidentally, Powell (South Carolina), Thigpen (Texas) and Suzuki (Cal State Fullerton) all were college catchers drafted in 2004.
|The Young Player|
|The 25-year-old Thigpen’s OPS has been hurtling in the wrong direction as he’s climbed each rung of the minor league ladder, starting at .904 in low Class A and falling to .810 then to .783 and finally to .636 in two years at Triple-A. He’s a strong contact hitter with a sound batting eye and a modicum of doubles power, and his bat seems ideally suited for a role as backup catcher, a role he once had his eyes set upon in Toronto. But after a .229/.289/.297 showing in 118 big league at-bats—and an even more disheartening year at Syracuse last year (.222/.267/.310 in 361 at-bats)—Thigpen had been passed on the organizational depth chart by catching prospects J.P. Arencibia and Brian Jeroloman. Worse, he seemed all but destined for another year in the Triple-A (this time in Las Vegas, at least) after his removal from the 40-man roster in the offseason. (Veterans Michael Barrett and Raul Chavez now will serve as placeholders for the Jays.) A second-round pick in 2004, Thigpen served as Taylor Teagarden’s backup while at Texas, and to date his defensive tools have best been described as adequate. A good athlete, he nevertheless struggled mightily to throw out basestealers in 101 games behind the plate with the Chiefs, catching just 20 thieves in 122 attempts (16 percent) over the course of the past two seasons. He fared better in the major leagues, nabbing five out of 16 basestealers, where pitchers do a better job of holding runners. Or maybe it’s a small-sample or the Jays’ lefty-heavy pitching staff.
We’ll analyze the player headed to Toronto as soon as he’s announced.
|Despite his flaws, Thigpen is a fine receiver, and a good match for Oakland and its young pitching charges, both in the big leagues and in Sacramento. The A’s may also choose to explore his positional flexibility. Thigpen has dabbled at first, second and third base in college and in the minors, and he might ultimately provide maximum utility in that role.|