At some point in the next couple of weeks, the Rays will go back to their normal allotment of two catchers. And based on Joe Maddon’s recent comments, those two catchers will be John Jaso and Kelly Shoppach. Defensively the Rays may sacrifice a little, but that pales in comparison to what they gain from the bats.

But there is a problem with a Jaso-Shoppach platoon. On days that a lefty opposes the Rays, JoeMa will be without one of his best bats, as Jaso won’t be available, even in late-inning pinch-hit situations. Typically, the back-up catcher is unavailable to pinch-hit in case the starting catcher is injured.

But there is a way to remedy this situation: Teach Jaso to play right field. If Jaso could handle a couple of innings in right field, Maddon could go to Jaso as a pinch-hitter, have him replace Gabe Kapler in right field, and in turn Jaso would still be available to catch should the need arise.

In theory, a move to the outfield should be easy for a catcher, but it is not automatic. While his arm should be strong enough, the throwing motion is different. And there are examples of failed attempts (e.g. Todd Hundley). Still, if it means having Jaso’s bat available late in games to pinch-hit for somebody like Kapler against a tough righty, it is worth trying.

Jaso has turned into an offensive weapon. But how great is a weapon if the manager can’t even take it out of the holster once every three games?

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11 Comments

  1. Alex says:

    I was thinking about this the other day as a way to keep him up, but why not first base? Our two back ups at first are Zobrist and Aybar who are both serviceable, but having Jaso at first would allow the two of them to stay where they are (2B/RF, DH) and still give Pena time off. It is also a position that many catchers learn to play (Posey) when a team wants their bat. The only thing I wouldn't want a move like this to do is to derail his development behind the plate.

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    • Cork Gaines says:

      First base is certainly a possibility, especially longterm. But if the other team brings in a righty, Maddon is not pinch-hitting for Pena. So 1B doesn't help under that scenario. And if Pena gets a day off, it won't be against a righty. But definitely think Jaso could make a move to 1B in the future.

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      • Alex says:

        I was thinking more along the lines of Pena never breaking this slump and us not resigning him.

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  2. Don says:

    I've got the BEST position for Jaso....First Base!
    We've got Zo in RF most days now because of Brign & Rodz ok for infield.
    Jaso could catch late in the game if necessary and Pena could come in as a defensive replacement..
    We have Aybar & Blalock for DH..
    Now your talking about 7 real hitters in the lineup!

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  3. Beth says:

    Didn't they invent the DH just for this kind of guy?

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    • Cork Gaines says:

      He can certainly DH, but the DH rule is tricky and limiting. Let's say Maddon needs a pinch-hitter in the 8th inning and Kapler is due up. Jaso can't PH for Kapler and then become the DH. A player can only become the DH if he pinch-hits for the DH. So that limits when he can be used.

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  4. Bobby Fenton says:

    Call me nuts, but if the guy is such a god hitter that we can't spare his abt, then maybe, who gives a shit who the pitcher is? How about the best guy plays?

    Most teams don't platoon catchers. They have a number one and a number two. They will both play, as the schedule is grueling on catchers, but it's not a platoon or anything. The two gets about a quarter of the starts or whatever percentage. It's not like Jaso's splits are completely one-sided. He's good.

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    • Cork Gaines says:

      That's Maddonology 101. JoeMa would sit Lou Gehrig against a tough lefty. I truly believe that Joe Maddon would prefer a roster with 18 hitters so that he could platoon at every position.

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  5. Alex says:

    I have no problem platooning Shoppach and Jaso at C. If Shoppach couldn't hit lefties then I would want Jaso starting every day but Shop's numbers are so skewed towards him hitting lefties that you have to have his bat in there against them.

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  6. Alex says:

    Another thing you have to remember about starting catchers is that unless their name is Mauer, Yadier Molina, Wieters, McCann then the majority of the time they are only going to play about 100 games as it is not counting DH opportunities if they are good hitters.

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