Year in Review: Josh Thole

By Matt Musico

Our Year in Review series continues as we take a look at what Josh Thole did for the Mets behind the plate in 2012. Coming off .268/.345/.344 campaign in 2011, New York was hoping to see their young catcher take another step forward this past season. With the kind of hitter Thole has shown himself to be since he first appeared for the Mets in 2009, the organization knows they won’t get Mike Piazza-like offensive production at the plate, but they would like him to become an on-base machine to set the table.

How He Handled the Bat

Thole got off to a great start in April, as he put together .317/.403/.429 line in 21 games during the first month of the season. He was consistently taking pitches to the opposite field and putting the balls into the gaps of the outfield. His 5 RBI and 9 walks in April were the highest totals he would put together for any other month this season. His season took a turn for the worse when he suffered a concussion on May 7th in Philadelphia, which landed him on the disabled list for three weeks, allowing him to come back just in time to catch Johan Santana‘s no-hitter on June 1st. Before his injury, he reached base in 23 of the 26 games he appeared in, but once he returned, he struggled to find a groove the rest of the season.

Aug. 31, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; New York Mets catcher Josh Thole (30) during a game against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Terry Collins mentioned to the media late in the year that the coaching staff was trying to get Thole to pull the ball more often in an effort to get more extra base hits out of him, but that experiment clearly failed. The young backstop a .196/.268/.259 line in the second half to finish the season with a .234 batting average, seemingly taking a step backward in his development. As the season progressed, he ended up in a platoon with Kelly Shoppach, as he had a hard time hitting southpaws (.211 BA) than right-handers (.241 BA).

How He Handled the Glove

Behind the plate, it did look as if Thole took some strides forward with the tools of ignorance, as he drastically improved his blocking of balls in the dirt and his accuracy of throwing out potential base runners. He did commit 6 errors in 2012, which was a career-high for him in a single season, but his Rdrs (number of runs a player is worth) improved from -4 to +4, while his range factor per 9 innings (8.34) and per game (7.40) both increased from the year prior. His passed ball total increased to 18, but that can be attributed to catching a knuckleball every five days thanks to R.A. Dickey. As for potential base stealers, his CS% increased to 23%, as he allowed fewer steals this year than last (65 in ’11 vs. 57 in ’12).

Projected Role in 2013

It looks like Thole will be with the team again in 2013, with his role similar to what it ended up being toward the end of this season. It’s likely that Sandy Alderson will be looking for a right handed hitting catcher to form a platoon. If the front office doesn’t decide to bring back Shoppach, they will be in the market for another veteran backstop to mentor Thole as the Mets are putting together a mostly young pitching staff.

Contract Status and Trade Rumors

Josh is under team control until he becomes a free agent in 2017, and is coming off a season where he made slightly more than the league minimum ($499K). He is pre-arbitration eligible, and will likely earn a small pay raise for the 2013 season. With the type of year he had, his trade value is quite low, as there aren’t many teams looking for a light hitting catcher that played as a platoon player for the second half of 2012. So, he will be sticking around with the Mets, as the coaching staff is crossing their fingers he will make some positive strides at the plate next season.