Mets Position Battles: Catcher

Kevin Plawecki is one of the hottest prospects in the Mets farm system, but with Travis d'Arnaud penciled in as the opening day starter and Anthony Recker as the primary back-up, will the young backstop need another year of seasoning before he makes the jump to the Big Leauges?

Kevin Plawecki was selected by the Mets as the No. 35 overall pick in the 2012 draft. He had a very impressive college baseball career as a member of the Purdue Boilermakers. In 2012, he was named the Big Ten Conference Baseball Player of the Year. With a good offensive game and solid defense, Plawecki is sure to be a valuable young asset to the Mets organization. Going into the upcoming season, he has a lifetime average of .295 with minimal strikeouts. While he may not strive for power, he consistently puts the bat on the ball. “Throughout his climb up the Mets’ ladder, Plawecki has shown a penchant for making consistent contact. He rarely strikes out and has hit for average at every stop, with a career .295 average entering the 2015 season. He has a contact-over-power approach, but he does have enough strength to clear some fences,” says Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com.

He started the 2014 season as a member of the Binghamton Mets with a bang. He batted .326 along with six homers and 43 RBIs in 224 plate appearances. He also had a very impressive .864 OPS. Partway through the season, Plawecki moved to Triple A Las Vegas where he cooled down, but still maintained respectable numbers. In 152 at bats, he hit .283 with five home runs and 21 RBIs. Arguable his most impressive statistic is the fact that he only struck out 48 times in over 370 at bats.

There’s a reason MLB.com called Plawecki the sixth best catching prospect. However, Mets current catcher, Travis d’Arnaud, stands in Plawecki’s path. After struggling for a large portion of last season, d’Arnaud started to get hot towards the end, showing glimmers of a hope for a team that has been desperate for a catcher since the conclusion of the Mike Piazza era.

d’Arnaud finished 2014 with a sluggish .242 average in addition to 13 homeruns and 41 RBIs. Like Plawecki, d’Arnaud is feisty at plate, not striking out often. In 385 at bats, he only struck out 64 times, much less than a majority of the Mets offensive roster. This offseason, d’Arnaud noted, “I feel so much more relaxed and physically stronger and confident in that I can swing harder.”

Now is the time for d’Arnaud to live up to the scouting reports and prove himself worthy of solidifying his role at the Mets permanent starting catcher for years to come. He may have the starting catching position now, but nothing’s set in the MLB.

Plawecki is set to challenge Recker for the backup catching position, but that may not necessarily be to his benefit. If Plawecki becomes d’Arnaud’s backup, he won’t get as many swings in or innings behind the plate as he would have in the minor leagues.

The main reason Plawecki should be brought up this season is if d’Arnaud struggles again or falls into his injury-prone past. While a member of the Mets organization, d’Arnaud has suffered from a broken left foot and a bone chip in his elbow that sidelined him for two months. If he is able to stay healthy, he very well may blossom into the player the Mets hoped for when he was acquired back in 2013 in the trade that sent NL Cy Young winnner, R.A. Dickey, to the Toronto Blue Jays.

And if that’s the case the Mets may want to consider trading Plawecki. He possesses an abundant amount of trade value that could fill holes in other areas of the Mets lineup. Now this should only be considered if d’Arnaud turns into a star. For the time being, though, d’Arnaud will hopefully start the season off like he ended last year while Plawecki gains more experience and prepares to be major league ready. Anthony Recker, don’t get too comfortable.


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