Scouting Mets Prospect #30: Josh Thole

St. Lucie catcher Josh Thole underwent an impressive transformation in just one season, and elevated his value in a big way in 2008. Previously known for fledgling offensive skills and marginal skills behind the plate, Thole is putting his tools together and becoming one of the most intriguing stories across the farm.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Josh Thole
DOB: October 28, 1986
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 190
Bats: Left
Throws: Right
Status: 13th Round Pick (2005) – Mater Dei HS (IL)

Heading into the 2008 season, Josh Thole was far enough back in the pack that his name was unlikely recognizable to the average observer. Buried beneath a number of catchers and more skilled hitters, Thole floundered in Savannah as he hit just .267 with zero home runs and 36 RBI in 117 games splitting time at first base and behind the plate.

When he broke camp with St. Lucie this past season, Thole was third on the club's depth chart behind teammates Sean McCraw and Jason Jacobs. He hit just .228 in 57 at-bats with most of his starts coming as the designated hitter with only a few intermittent starts behind the plate.

But things changed after roughly five weeks as lack of production from the catcher's position opened the door for Thole to assume more playing time. He took the opportunity and never looked back as he hit .313 over the remaining four months.

"I went into Spring Training looking to compete with everyone else, got to St. Lucie as the backup but worked my way into the starting lineup and tried to make the most of the opportunity I was given," said Thole.

Thole's offensive skills are born from his plate discipline. A good hitter's eye was always a strength, but striking out just 38 times in 347 at-bats while recording 45 walks in the Florida State League [61 BB, 57 K in 389 AB in ‘07] is rare territory, especially for catchers whose offensive skills are comparatively underdeveloped.

"I think the difference at the plate was simply understanding what I wanted to do and sticking with that approach. I think that was about the extent of what changed with my hitting. I did a better job of understand what I wanted to do day-to-day instead of just going up there blind as I felt I had been in the past," Thole explained.

"I also did a much better job recognizing pitches right out of the pitcher's hand and improving my vision. Also, hitting with two strikes is no longer an issue. I don't feel like there is any need to press when I'm in a two-strike count, I can just shorten up and swing as if it two strikes is the same as when it's very early in the count," he added.

Yet even with all the strides he made with the bat, it was his growth behind the plate that really made his stock rise. Through his time in the short-season leagues and with Savannah, Thole's defense was awkward and rarely consistent but he believes this past season was different thanks to added strength and a culmination of the work he began back in 2006.

"Two years ago, in Kingsport, I started to revamp everything that I did defensively. I've had to pretty much start from scratch. I put a lot of time into my catching, focusing on everything so that I was more sound all around."

"I think I really needed to hold up everything out there and that came with staying physically strong. I was able to move a lot better, did a better job of blocking balls and so on. There is no question that I made the biggest strides defensively. I think that's a huge asset to my game that I'm no longer a defensive liability," he detailed.

Entering his fifth season, Thole will be 22 years old on Opening Day and now has the personal confidence and the attention of the organization to make greater strides in 2009.

Year

Team

AVG.

AB

Hits

HR

RBI

R

SB

BB

K

OBP

SLG

2008

St. Lucie

.300

347

104

5

56

49

2

45

38

.382

.427

2007

Savannah

.267

389

104

0

36

46

4

61

57

.372

.311

2006

Kingsport

.237

97

23

1

11

13

1

7

25

.303

.309

2005

GCL

.269

104

28

1

12

14

1

20

11

.406

.337



Batting and Power: As noted, Thole's best attribute is his sharp eye. He will rarely widen his strike zone by chasing pitches and does a very good job of executing on his pitch while regularly recording a high walk ratio. That proficiency, plus an improved contact stroke, helped him hit over .300 for the first time in his career. Thole uses the whole field and can drive the ball with power to the gaps because of his up-the-middle approach, which also helped him record a career-high in extra base hits. He experienced a surprising burst in home run power because of a more fluid swing and his ability to stay back on pitches, but still projects below average to average home run power as he does not have the kind of pull or loft on his swing to be a consistent home run threat.

Base Running and Speed: Thole moves better than most catchers, but his speed is not much of a tool. He swiped two bags in three opportunities in St. Lucie but do not expect him to run much more frequently than that. He has good instincts, but he will not do more than the situation warrants when running the bases.

Defense: Once a bit of a question mark behind the plate, Thole's defense stabilized this past season in large part because of improved mobility and receiving of pitches. He moves well side-to-side and does a good job of keep balls in front of his body, but his mobility is of the utmost importance to compensate for his average arm strength and lengthy release. Though he boasts good accuracy, his arm will entice many runners to take chances they may otherwise not commit with a stronger arm behind the plate. He communicates well with his staff, but needs to further command selection and sequencing away from his pitchers.

Projection: One can essentially erase Thole's history on the farm prior to his season in St. Lucie. He completely reinvented himself as a 21-year-old in the Florida State League and gave early indications that he has enough offense, with his left-handed swing being a favorable trait, and defense to project at least as a serviceable backup on the big league stage. Thole must retain his plate discipline and continue his growth as a hitter while demonstrating a greater ability to shoulder the load of his rotation and earn the trust of his pitchers to maximize their production.

ETA: 2010. The organization could not have asked for more from Thole this past season as he undoubtedly played his way into the starting job with Binghamton next season. If he stays on his current track, his performance should persuade the Mets to bring him up in a reserve role sometime during the 2010 season as they look to infuse a younger, possible long-term option on the roster.


Amazin Clubhouse Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\n\r\nVital Statistics:
\r\nName: Josh Thole
\r\nDOB: October 28, 1986
\r\nHeight: 6'1\"
\r\nWeight: 190
\r\nBats: Left
\r\nThrows: Right
\r\nStatus: 13th Round Pick (2005) – Mater Dei HS (IL)
\r\n
\r\nHeading into the 2008 season, Josh Thole was far enough back in the pack that his name was unlikely recognizable to the average observer. Buried beneath a number of catchers and more skilled hitters, Thole floundered in Savannah as he hit just .267 with zero home runs and 36 RBI in 117 games splitting time at first base and behind the plate.
\r\n
\r\nWhen he broke camp with St. Lucie this past season, Thole was third on the club's depth chart behind teammates Sean McCraw and Jason Jacobs. He hit just .228 in 57 at-bats with most of his starts coming as the designated hitter with only a few intermittent starts behind the plate.
\r\n
\r\nBut things changed after roughly five weeks as lack of production from the catcher's position opened the door for Thole to assume more playing time. He took the opportunity and never looked back as he hit .313 over the remaining four months.
\r\n
\r\n\"I went into Spring Training looking to compete with everyone else, got to St. Lucie as the backup but worked my way into the starting lineup and tried to make the most of the opportunity I was given,\" said Thole.
\r\n
\r\nThole's offensive skills are born from his plate discipline. A good hitter's eye was always a strength, but striking out just 38 times in 347 at-bats while recording 45 walks in the Florida State League [61 BB, 57 K in 389 AB in ‘07] is rare territory, especially for catchers whose offensive skills are comparatively underdeveloped.
\r\n
\r\n\"I think the difference at the plate was simply understanding what I wanted to do and sticking with that approach. I think that was about the extent of what changed with my hitting. I did a better job of understand what I wanted to do day-to-day instead of just going up there blind as I felt I had been in the past,\" Thole explained.
\r\n
\r\n\"I also did a much better job recognizing pitches right out of the pitcher's hand and improving my vision. Also, hitting with two strikes is no longer an issue. I don't feel like there is any need to press when I'm in a two-strike count, I can just shorten up and swing as if it two strikes is the same as when it's very early in the count,\" he added.
\r\n
\r\nYet even with all the strides he made with the bat, it was his growth behind the plate that really made his stock rise. Through his time in the short-season leagues and with Savannah, Thole's defense was awkward and rarely consistent but he believes this past season was different thanks to added strength and a culmination of the work he began back in 2006.
\r\n
\r\n\"Two years ago, in Kingsport, I started to revamp everything that I did defensively. I've had to pretty much start from scratch. I put a lot of time into my catching, focusing on everything so that I was more sound all around.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"I think I really needed to hold up everything out there and that came with staying physically strong. I was able to move a lot better, did a better job of blocking balls and so on. There is no question that I made the biggest strides defensively. I think that's a huge asset to my game that I'm no longer a defensive liability,\" he detailed.
\r\n
\r\nEntering his fifth season, Thole will be 22 years old on Opening Day and now has the personal confidence and the attention of the organization to make greater strides in 2009.
\r\n
\r\n\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n
\r\n

Year

\r\n

\r\n Team

\r\n

\r\n AVG.

\r\n

\r\n AB

\r\n

\r\n Hits

\r\n

\r\n HR

\r\n

\r\n RBI

\r\n

R

\r\n

\r\n SB

\r\n

\r\n BB

\r\n

K

\r\n

\r\n OBP

\r\n

\r\n SLG

\r\n

\r\n 2008

\r\n

\r\n St. Lucie

\r\n

\r\n .300

\r\n

\r\n 347

\r\n

\r\n 104

\r\n

\r\n 5

\r\n

\r\n 56

\r\n

\r\n 49

\r\n

\r\n 2

\r\n

\r\n 45

\r\n

\r\n 38

\r\n

\r\n .382

\r\n

\r\n .427

\r\n

\r\n 2007

\r\n

\r\n Savannah

\r\n

\r\n .267

\r\n

\r\n 389

\r\n

\r\n 104

\r\n

\r\n 0

\r\n

\r\n 36

\r\n

\r\n 46

\r\n

\r\n 4

\r\n

\r\n 61

\r\n

\r\n 57

\r\n

\r\n .372

\r\n

\r\n .311

\r\n

\r\n 2006

\r\n

\r\n Kingsport

\r\n

\r\n .237

\r\n

\r\n 97

\r\n

\r\n 23

\r\n

\r\n 1

\r\n

\r\n 11

\r\n

\r\n 13

\r\n

\r\n 1

\r\n

\r\n\r\n\r\n 7

\r\n

\r\n 25

\r\n

\r\n .303

\r\n

\r\n .309

\r\n

\r\n 2005

\r\n

\r\n GCL

\r\n

\r\n .269

\r\n

\r\n 104

\r\n

\r\n 28

\r\n

\r\n 1

\r\n

\r\n 12

\r\n

\r\n 14

\r\n

\r\n 1

\r\n

\r\n 20

\r\n

\r\n 11

\r\n

\r\n .406

\r\n

\r\n .337


\r\n
\r\nBatting and Power: As noted, Thole's best attribute is his sharp eye. He will rarely widen his strike zone by chasing pitches and does a very good job of executing on his pitch while regularly recording a high walk ratio. That proficiency, plus an improved contact stroke, helped him hit over .300 for the first time in his career. Thole uses the whole field and can drive the ball with power to the gaps because of his up-the-middle approach, which also helped him record a career-high in extra base hits. He experienced a surprising burst in home run power because of a more fluid swing and his ability to stay back on pitches, but still projects below average to average home run power as he does not have the kind of pull or loft on his swing to be a consistent home run threat.
\r\n
\r\nBase Running and Speed: Thole moves better than most catchers, but his speed is not much of a tool. He swiped two bags in three opportunities in St. Lucie but do not expect him to run much more frequently than that. He has good instincts, but he will not do more than the situation warrants when running the bases.
\r\n
\r\nDefense: Once a bit of a question mark behind the plate, Thole's defense stabilized this past season in large part because of improved mobility and receiving of pitches. He moves well side-to-side and does a good job of keep balls in front of his body, but his mobility is of the utmost importance to compensate for his average arm strength and lengthy release. Though he boasts good accuracy, his arm will entice many runners to take chances they may otherwise not commit with a stronger arm behind the plate. He communicates well with his staff, but needs to further command selection and sequencing away from his pitchers.
\r\n
\r\nProjection: One can essentially erase Thole's history on the farm prior to his season in St. Lucie. He completely reinvented himself as a 21-year-old in the Florida State League and gave early indications that he has enough offense, with his left-handed swing being a favorable trait, and defense to project at least as a serviceable backup on the big league stage. Thole must retain his plate discipline and continue his growth as a hitter while demonstrating a greater ability to shoulder the load of his rotation and earn the trust of his pitchers to maximize their production.
\r\n
\r\nETA: 2010. The organization could not have asked for more from Thole this past season as he undoubtedly played his way into the starting job with Binghamton next season. If he stays on his current track, his performance should persuade the Mets to bring him up in a reserve role sometime during the 2010 season as they look to infuse a younger, possible long-term option on the roster.
\r\n
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