On Friday night, San Francisco Giants top prospect Kyle Crick returned from the disabled list to deliver four spectacular innings for the Class A San Jose Giants. Asked after the game what his key to success was, Crick gave out some heavy praise, saying, “My catcher, Jeff Arnold, he’s probably the best in the Minors right now — receiving, blocking pitches, everything. It was good to be throwing to him again.”
That’s a huge complement for the 25-year-old Arnold, as Crick has been around three catchers ranked among MLB.com’s top ten catching prospects, including former Giant Tommy Joseph, who he spent spring training with, as well as the Colorado Rockies‘ Will Swanner and the Boston Red Sox‘s Blake Swihart, both of whom he has played against in the minors.
Arnold is not highly ranked as a prospect, but with the season he has had this year, he could be working his way up the ranks. The catcher from Louisville, who was a 26th rounder in 2010, is getting his first shot as a full-time starter this year. He received a stroke of good luck when Andrew Susac, the Giants’ top catching prospect, moved up to Double-A instead of repeating A-Ball as expected, and Arnold became the No. 1 catcher in the Giants’ lower minors. Before this season, Arnold’s career high in games played was 80; through the first half this year, he has already played in 51.
Though he does not have much of a reputation as a hitter, Arnold is highly regarded behind the plate. He has a career fielding percentage of .991 and has thrown out 40 percent of the runners that have attempted to steal on him. This season, he has thrown out 22 of 36 runners. And Crick’s quote indicates that he works well with his pitchers.
As a hitter, he has been somewhat of a revelation this season. After two rather unimpressive years with Low-A Augusta, Arnold has a career-high nine homers this year and a .259 average. He had a particularly successful April and May, hitting .279 over his first 136 at-bats. Though he was obviously impressive behind the plate, Arnold’s offensive numbers were likely most instrumental in getting him into the 2013 California-Carolina League All Star Game.
Arnold’s 2013 season thus far has most definitely been impressive and will probably have him moving up the top of prospect lists. In terms of his major league potential, Arnold’s chances are likely improving with his lack of competition at the catching position. He should have a clear path to the starter’s spot at AA Richmond next year, and if he can succeed there it would be a huge boost to his stock.
Susac has the best chance at succeeding Buster Posey when he eventually moves to first base, but if he continues to put up decent numbers at the plate and keeps up his reputation as a backstop, he has a good shot at being a big-league backup at some point. His reputation will undoubtedly be helped by the fact that he will have moved up through the system with several surefire major league starters, including Crick, Clayton Blackburn and Edwin Escobar.
After starting out as an organizational player, Arnold has done a great job of working himself into consideration as a prospect, and should be an interesting player to watch moving forward.