A.J. Jimenez showed off his big-league arm talent by throwing out his International Legaue-leading 15th base runner of the season in the fifth inning of Monday night’s game.
“Ooo, what a throw that was,” gushed Bisons manager Gary Allenson afterward. “I got 1.86 on that throw, that's pretty good.”
A time of 1.8 to 1.9 seconds on a catcher’s throw from home to second base is high-quality, major-league caliber. Jimenez, a 25-year-old Puerto Rico native has the defensive skills to be an asset soon for the Toronto Blue Jays.
“He's really good back there,” said Allenson. “He's throwing the ball real well, and he blocks outstanding. . . . Eventually he's not going to be in this league any more. There aren’t a lot of catchers who throw like that. There are some but not a lot.”
Jimenez had the only run batted in of the game for the Herd in a 4-1 loss to the Louisville Bats at Coca-Cola Field.
Jimenez might already be in the majors if he had not been snake-bitten by injuries in his career. He missed most of the 2012 season due to Tommy John surgery on his left elbow, and the recovery impacted him in 2013. After hitting .260 in 58 games for the Bisons in 2014, he missed most of last season with a left wrist injury.
Recovery from that injury slowed him in spring training. But since May 8 Jimenez is hitting .333.
If Jimenez can prove he can stay healthy for a full season in 2016, this could be his last in Triple-A.
With an eye toward avoiding the injury bug, Jimenez cut his weight down by adopting a healthier diet. He cut out fast food, and he’s playing at 195 pounds. He was about 230 when he was with the Herd in 2014.
“It's just having better nutrition and trying to stay healthy,” he said. “In the past I was trying to add weight to hit the ball harder. But that's not the way to hit the ball harder. I lost like 30 pounds. I'm hitting the ball really hard now compared to a couple years ago.”
“I'd say this is the best I feel so far in my career,” Jimenez said. “I understand now this level. It's just getting a good pitch to hit, knowing what the pitcher is going to throw and knowing the situation.”
Jays catcher Russell Martin is 33 and he’s in his 11th season as a big-league starter. He’s a .255 career hitter, but he’s hitting .216 so far this year. The Jays’ backup is Josh Thole, 29. He’s a career .243 hitter who’s batting .117.
Jimenez needs to keep hitting and keep throwing runners out.
“He wasn't really game-ready when he came up here in April, and he struggled through the offensive part,” Allenson said. “But he's really good right now. He's swinging the bat and driving in runs.”