Time for another player battle. A while ago, we looked at Wladimir Balentien and Jeff Clement to see who was a better prospect. I came to the conclusion that Clement would ultimately become the better player. Now that Jeff Clement has proved himself down in AAA, it's time to look at if it will be better to have him up here catching, or to stick with Kenji Johjima.
Jeff Clement is one of the better catching prospects in baseball right now. He is starting to prove that he is good enough defensively to be an everyday catcher in the MLB, but might not be quite ready to take that leap. He is good defensively, but you'd want him to be great defensively, wouldn't you? I wouldn't expect Clement to win the Gold Glove every year, but I'd like him to be better than average. He has a decent arm, and can get down and block the plate pretty well, but I might be being too critical of the situation.
Kenji Johjima has proven during his two years in the bigs that he is a top end catcher. He has comunicated terrifically with the Mariners pitching staff, been a solid consistant hitter, and played solid defence. Joh is pretty much the complete package. He can't run that well, but how many catchers can?
Clement is hitting the cover off of the ball so far this year at AAA. He's hitting .367 in 60 ABs with four HR and 13 RBIs. Joh is hitting .205 with no HR and 5 RBIs in 58 ABs with the Mariners to start the season. Obviously Clement would be the better choice offensively, but the other element, communication is a factor. Joh has worked with the majority of the Mariners pitching staff for the better part of two years now. Clement hasn't. If the Mariners wanted him to catch everyday come tomorrow, then they would be out of luck. Clement has limited catching experience with anyone on the Mariners staff. I know that if you give it a few minutes then he'd be able to pick up on what the pitchers are doing, but why break up what Joh has going with the Mariners pitchers?
The other element that I've mentioned was defence. As I said, Clement is improving and will hopefully become a solid defensive catcher for the M's. Right now, Joh has the upper hand in the defensive category. Now time to debate.
The fact is this: Jeff Clement is ready to play in the Majors. Kenji Johjima is currently struggling. Calling up Clement makes sense, but what will happen once he's up here? Maybe he comes out and is lights out. Which would be a good thing, but would Joh be happy with a backup role? I doubt it. And what if Clement does terrible? What would that do for his confidence? Keeping him at AAA for the time being is probably the best choice for now. Come August/September he should get a call-up, but for now the Mariners should stick with Joh and hope for the best.