Player Profile: Jason Jaramillo

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(courtesy ottawalynx.com)

Player profiles return today, and as I mentioned yesterday, I’m hoping to crank out more of these going forward. Next up is Welinson Baez, but if anyone has requests thereafter, I’m all ears. So far, we’ve done Zach Segovia, Mike Zagurski, Adrian Cardenas, Michael Bourn, Edgar Garcia, Brett Harker, Dan Brauer, Andrew Carpenter, Fabio Castro, and Mike Costanzo. Today, we profile the top catching prospect in the Phillies organization, and one of the hottest hitters in the young season, 2004 second round draft pick Jason Jaramillo.

The Phillies really like Jason Jaramillo, enough so that they drafted him twice, in the 39th round of the 2001 draft out of high school, and in the 2nd round of the 2004 draft out of Oklahoma State. The team viewed him as a well above average defensive catcher with the ability to hit for some pop and be a stable #1 catcher at the highest level. The Phillies raved about his ability to call a game, his aptitude and ability to learn, and the fact that he was a switch hitter with offensive upside, and in his debut, many of these characteristics were on display. First, let’s take a look at his college career.

2002: 104 AB, .327/.381/.510 – 8 2B – 1 3B – 3 HR – 17 RBI – 11 BB – 13 K
2003: 213 AB, .385/.432/.606 – 18 2B – 1 3B – 9 HR – 42 RBI – 22 BB – 25 K
2004: 240 AB, .350/.435/.500 – 12 2B – 0 3B – 8 HR – 57 RBI – 34 BB – 23 K

Let’s take a look at a few key factors not seen in the raw numbers. First, his BB%, which is plate appearances divided by number of walks. In 2002, he averaged 1 BB every 11 PA’s, in 2003 he again drew 1 BB every 11 PA’s, but in 2004, he averaged 1 BB every 8.2 PA. The increase in patience showed in his isolated OB%, which went from .54 and .47 in 2002 and 2003 to .85 in 2004, a significant increase. He posted solid isolated power numbers, peaking in 2003 but finishing with a solid .150 in his final college season.

Upon being drafted, the Phillies skipped Jason over the GCL and sent him straight to Batavia. He struggled mightily in 112 AB, posting a 3 slash composite of .223/.299/.295 with only 6 XBH to go with 11 walks and 27 strikeouts. He may have been worn down, he may have been pressing, but the Phillies didn’t diminish their expectations, and he was assigned to Lakewood to open 2005, his age 22 season. He rebounded and showed an ability to hit for average and display a bit more pop. His complete line at Lakewood…

448 AB, .304/.368/.438 – 28 2B – 4 3B – 8 HR – 63 RBI – 44 BB – 72 K

Let’s take a deeper look. He came to the plate a total of 496 times, and drew 1 walk every 11.3 PA’s. That number isn’t great, but it isn’t way out of line in terms of what he did in college, and for his first full season of pro ball, it’s passable. He showed excellent doubles power, and finished with an isolated power of .134, a respectable number for a catcher. The paradox came in the defensive area of his game. He amassed 17 passed balls and 20 errors, yet he received great praise for his defensive ability. At the conclusion of the 2005 season, Sally League managers rated him the best defensive catcher in the league, and Will Kimmey noted in his BA writeup that Jaramillo lacked power and “He projects as a bottom of the order hitter on a contender, though his defense should make up for what he lacks offensively” as he was ranked the Phillies 9th best prospect and best defensive catcher.

The Phillies got ambitious and decided to skip him over Clearwater and send him directly to Reading. He wasn’t the first prospect to take this jump, and it showed the organization’s confidence in him. His 2006, unfortunately, proved to be a disappointment in many areas for 97% of the season, until his strong bounceback in the Arizona Fall League. His overall numbers..

AA: 322 AB, .248/.320/.388 – 25 2B – 1 3B – 6 HR – 39 RBI – 32 BB – 55 K
AFL: 66 AB, .379/.436/.591 – 8 2B – 0 3B – 2 HR – 17 RBI – 9 BB – 11 K

Playing at AA at age 23, after skipping a level, it’s not too tough to write off the down season offensively. Throughout the season, we didn’t hear any knocks on his defense or game calling, and the Phillies were still saying positive things about him. In 364 PA’s at AA, he was back in the 1 BB per 11.4 PA range, which hurts his offensive performance and value. The isolated slugging was .140, which is passable, but the low batting average wasn’t doing him any favors. The doubles power was still there, but not many home runs to speak of. When he got to Arizona, however, he must have been grinning from ear to ear. Let’s just get it out of the way now, the Arizona Fall League is a hitter’s paradise. That said, some really promising signs. First, an ISO of .212, that works. Then, the fact that he drew 1 walk per 8.3 PA’s, that’s a big improvement, and goes back to his last year of college, when he was drawing a lot walks. Again, the fact that the league is greatly slanted toward hitting inflates all of these numbers, but a good batting eye is a good batting eye, regardless of how far the ball flies when you hit it. Also, to remember, most teams send good arms to the AFL, so he wasn’t raking against batting practice throwers. However, after this positive sign in the AFL, the bad news came. Chris Kline at BA, when chatting about Phillies prospects, commented that Jaramillo’s strong defense wasn’t so strong anymore, and that managers were questioning not only his blocking of balls/arm strength, but his ability to call a game. These criticisms were the first Phillies fans had heard about the defensive side of his game, after assuming he was going to be all glove, no bat. Now, he might be no glove no bat? Uh oh.

That brings us to spring training. Jason got a brief taste of the bigs, getting 11 AB’s, and he certainly didn’t make a bad impression, hitting .455/.455/.818 with 1 double, 1 HR and 5 RBI, also scoring 4 runs. He was re-assigned to minor league camp, with the intention of starting in Ottawa and leaving his lackluster 2006 behind in Reading. But I don’t think anyone could have predicted the start he’d get off to north of the border…

44 AB, .364/.442/.432 – 1 2B – 1 3B – 0 HR – 7 BB – 8 K

Small sample size, yes. But the 7 walks in 51 PA’s is very promising. He’s getting to handle some guys regularly that he might catch at some point in Philly in Joe Bisenius, James Happ, Zach Segovia, and now departed Fabio Castro. While we don’t want to get too excited over 44 AB’s, the early signs are promising. It’s much easier to maintain a solid season after you get off on the right foot than it is to start out hitting .175 and try to get yourself going. Last year, he toiled in April and May, hitting .233 and .200, then bouncing up to .264 in June before tanking and hitting the wall to a .190 clip in July. However, he appeared to possibly turn a corner in August, posting a .304/.366/.457 line in his final 92 AB. He appears to have carried that performance over into 2007, and the Phillies must be delighted.

That brings us to the future. Right now, the Phillies have two able catchers on the roster in Rod Barajas and Carlos Ruiz, with Ruiz getting the bulk of the time. Barajas was only signed to a 1 year deal, and could be trade fodder at the deadline. Jaramillo will likely stay in Ottawa for the forseeable future, with Chris Coste still waiting for a shot to come up to Philly. Playing every day and working with the Ottawa staff is probably of more value to him now than him sitting on the bench in Philly and playing once a week. However, at 24, Jaramillo has to be considered “on track” after a slow year last year. Coste doesn’t present a roadblock, if you will, to him getting playing time next season, and the prospect of a Ruiz/Jaramillo tandem sounds much better than overpaying a catcher outside the organization to steal AB’s from either guy next season.

Of course, JJ needs to continue to hit, and he needs to remain focused on his defense and understanding of how to call a game. I’m sure the Phillies will bring him up in September, maybe get his feet wet a bit, and then give him a shot to earn the backup spot next spring. His list of comparable players at Baseball Prospectus isn’t pretty, but there is one interesting name, and it’s the guy at the top of his list, Josh Bard circa 2002. Bard played his college ball at Texas Tech, and posted similar offensive numbers in his first two seasons in the minors. He struggled in his first two tours of duty in the bigs with Cleveland, and was then traded to Boston in the Coca Crisp deal, and a week into the 2006 season, was traded to San Diego in the Doug Mirabelli deal. After getting regular playing time, Bard ripped the cover off the ball to a tune of .338/.409/.537 in 231 AB, this coming in his age 28 season. The rest of his comparable list isn’t pretty, but the sight of Bard is promising.

For now, let’s sit back and monitor JJ’s approach at the plate, focusing on his walk rate, which will probably be the key indicator as to his future success in the big leagues. Jaramillo is the only catching prospect in the Phillies org anywhere near MLB ready, with Lou Marson and Jesus Sanchez likely 4 and 5 years away, respectively. However, if Jason’s breakout is for real, the guys behind him will have plenty of time to prepare.

5 thoughts on “Player Profile: Jason Jaramillo

  1. Just checked his current splits. He’s .395 RH and .300 LH. If
    that’s representative, he and Ruiz could make a nice tandem
    next year.

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