Scouting Mets' Prospect #35: Joe Hietpas

The New York Mets selected catcher Joseph Hietpas with their 16th round draft choice in the 2001 draft out of Northwestern University and has earned a reputation in the Mets' farm system as one of the best defensive catchers in professional baseball. It's his defensive prowess behind the dish that has ranked Hietpas #35 among the Top 50 Mets' prospects.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Joseph Hietpas
Position: Catcher
DOB: May 1, 1979
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 220
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

Joe Hietpas attended and graduated from Northwestern University and served as the fulltime catcher for the Wildcats in his junior and senior years. Getting consistent playing time in college, Hietpas displayed good offensive potential. He hit .381 his junior year with 50 RBI in 54 games. Over his two years as a starting catcher Hietpas clubbed 30 doubles and 9 home runs in 109 games while hitting .324 over that stretch. It was because of his defensive ability and decent offensive production that the Mets selected him in the 16th round of the 2001 draft.

Since being drafted by the Mets, Hietpas has been pretty much used as a backup catcher, playing behind the likes of Justin Huber and Michael Jacobs. Hietpas had a hard time cracking the starting catcher's position as both Huber and Jacobs provided more offense and he had served more as Huber's backup in his four minor league seasons with the Mets. "It was tough to play only once or twice a week in the early part of my career, but I got the chance to watch Justin Huber and Michael Jacobs play a lot and learn from them", Hietpas told NYfansonly.com.

While primarily serving as Huber's defensive backup the last few years, Hietpas has worked tirelessly on improving the strongest part of his game. Despite realizing that he needed to improve offensively to gain more playing time, Hietpas continually seeks to improve defensively. "I have had to work on my defense really hard. I pride myself on my work behind the plate and I have had to establish a rapport with the pitchers on a daily basis. I put in a lot of extra work as a receiver, working with the pitchers when there is down time. I try and catch them on the side a lot in the bullpen sessions", said Hietpas. Offensively, Hietpas had always put on hitting displays at batting practice but was not able to show the same offensive prowess in the games as a result of getting little playing time.

Hietpas finally got his shot to shine in 2004 after Michael Jacobs was lost with a season-ending injury and after the Mets traded the offensive-minded Justin Huber to the Royals as part of the Kris Benson trade back in July. For the first time in his Mets' career Hietpas was able to play enough to accumulate over 300 at-bats in one season, albeit in two stops between St. Lucie and Binghamton. Hietpas hit 25 doubles and almost 40% of his hits went for extra bases in 330 at-bats this past season, showing signs of things to come once he starts getting consistent at-bats and more playing time.

So what does Joe thinks he needs to do to make that next leap? "My goal is to be competitive in every at-bat, to make the pitchers work more, and to make my swing more consistent. I mean, sure it looks good in the box score if you go one for three, but if two of those at-bats were awful, it kind of negates the one hit you had. I have no idea what kind of stats it is going to take. I am looking to try and drive the ball more and that comes with consistent at-bats. I was just looking to be more successful with each at-bat the second half of last season and continue that into next season. That is all I am trying to do", Hietpas told NYfansonly.com.

Year

Team

AVG.

AB

Hits

HR

RBI

R

SB

BB

K

OBP

SLG

2004

Binghamton

.230

139

32

3

19

13

0

19

41

.335

.367

2004

St. Lucie

.251

191

48

2

27

23

1

18

51

.329

.372

2003

Binghamton

.100

10

1

0

0

1

0

0

2

.100

.200

2003

St. Lucie

.159

195

31

1

19

12

3

14

60

.220

.226

2002

Capital City

.248

105

26

1

16

9

0

14

23

.336

.352

2002

Brooklyn

.256

117

30

1

13

11

0

8

31

.313

.325

2001

Binghamton

.000

3

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

.000

.000

2001

Kingsport

.185

27

5

0

1

3

0

6

11

.353

.222


* Stats as of 10/1/04

Batting and Power. Hietpas is a much better hitter than his numbers indicate. He's a big, strong guy that does have a lot of power. He routinely puts on hitting displays in the cage at batting practice but has had a hard time transferring that into actual game production. A part of the reason has to be the lack of consistent playing time he's received in the past as it's incredibly difficult to find a rhythm without consistent at-bats. He's not very selective at the plate so he'll never be a .300 hitter. He projects to be a .250-.270 hitter with 20+ home run power if he can ever get the everyday catching duties.

Base Running and Speed. Hietpas is your typical catcher, slow of foot on the base paths. He's a smart base runner and won't kill a team in that capacity. But he's not much of a help either.

Defense. Defense is definitely Hietpas' strong suit as a catching prospect. He not only has one of the best arms behind the plate in the Mets' system, but in all of professional baseball. Hietpas has an incredibly quick release on throws to second base and pick off moves to first base. He blocks everything thrown in the dirt and makes the impossible plays look routine. He's an excellent receiver and does all the little things to improve communication between he and his pitchers. He is a tireless worker in this area, always catching pitchers on the side and in bullpen sessions to establish a good working rapport. Countless pitchers have said that he's one of the best catchers to throw to and that only helps a pitcher's confidence.

Projection. It all depends on his offensive output. He's already made his way to Shea based on his defensive abilities and game calling. And at minimum, he's assured of a long career in the Major Leagues as a backup catcher because of his defensive potential. How he handles his offensive game will dictate if he'll ever be an everyday catcher in the Majors. If he can transfer his offensive potential in batting practice and put up solid numbers with consistent at-bats in real game situations, he'll be an everyday catcher in the pros. Hietpas only needs to hit .250 to be a valuable player for the Mets.

ETA. 2006. Hietpas has never truly be given a shot to be an everyday catcher at any level. The Mets are in love with his defensive ability and are likely to give him a shot to improve his offensive production by getting him consistent at-bats in 2005. Hietpas will most likely be the everyday catcher for Binghamton next season and should find his way to Shea Stadium once again in 2006 as a backup catcher.

Catchers

2004 Team

Michael Jacobs

AAA - Norfolk Tides

Joe Hietpas

AA - Binghamton Mets

Zach Clements A - St. Lucie Mets
Brandon Wilson A - St. Lucie Mets
Yunir Garcia A - Capital City Bombers
Jimmy Anderson A - Capital City Bombers
Aaron Hathaway A - Brooklyn Cyclones
Danilo Reynoso A - Brooklyn Cyclones
Stacy Bennett A - Brooklyn Cyclones
Rafael Arroyo R - Kingsport Mets
Luis Santanta R - Kingsport Mets
Jesus Flores R - GCL Mets


Comments

The drafting of Aaron Hathaway and the emergence of Jesus Flores made Justin Huber more expendable in the Mets' eyes this past season. Huber was a nice catcher with decent upside offensively but they already had a guy like that in Michael Jacobs. With the likes of Joe Hietpas, Hathaway, and Flores, the Mets already have three catching prospects that project to be everyday catchers down the road. The Mets also have a few other good catching prospects that project be good reserve catchers, giving the Mets' farm system excellent depth at this position.

1) Michael Jacobs - Jacobs, who had a coming out party offensively in 2003, missed most of the 2004 season with a torn labrum that effected his hitting more than his throwing. Jacobs has good power and an excellent eye at the plate. Like Huber, he needs to work on his defense behind the plate and may continue splitting time between first base and catching duties to get his bat in the lineup.

2) Joe Hietpas - Hietpas is one of the best defensive catchers, not only in the Mets' farm system, but in all of professional baseball. He continually amazes coaches and scouts alike for his defensive prowess and turned even more heads in the Arizona Fall League this past season. He has more offensive potential than he's shown thus far and is ready to prove it at the plate. Hietpas just needs the consistent at-bats to showcase his skills.

3) Zachary Clements - Like Hietpas, Clements is loved by the organization for his ability to call a game and for his defensive skills. He too just needs the consistent at-bats to better himself offensively. He hit .313 for St. Lucie this past season and has shown decent pop in his bat. Clements has good speed for a catcher, showing excellent athleticism behind the plate and on the base paths.

4) Brandon Wilson - Wilson is strong defensively but he's progressed a little more slowly offensively. He has a strong arm and blocks balls well behind the plate. He's going to find a hard time finding enough at-bats with other catchers garnering more interest for their offensive potential.

5) Yunir Garcia - 2004 was Garcia's breakout season offensively. He had always shown great defensive ability in the past and the Mets were waiting for his bat to catch up. Garcia clubbed 10 home runs for the Bombers this past season while showing good selectivity at the plate. He has an excellent chance of becoming a reserve catcher in the Majors someday.

6) Jimmy Anderson - Anderson fits in the same mold as Clements and Hietpas, an excellent catcher defensively that has not put it all together offensively. He's going to have to put up the solid numbers to overtake the likes of Hietpas, Hathaway, Clements, and Flores in the fight for consistent at-bats.

7) Aaron Hathaway - Despite just 39 professional games under his belt, Hathaway has already make a name for himself as a shutdown catcher. He has one of the fastest releases among all the Mets' catching prospects and a very accurate arm. He has a good eye at the plate and good gap power. His presence has deepen an already crowded stock of catching prospects.

8) Danilo Reynoso - Like Brandon Wilson, Reynoso has a tough task ahead of him. He's going to have put up good numbers despite not getting very many at-bats if he's to take away opportunities from the catching prospects ahead of him on the depth chart.

9) Stacey Bennett - Bennett has more offensive potential than he's shown in his short career thus far. He does have the ability to play other positions and he just may need to move to another position and it appears unlikely he's going to play ahead of the likes of Hathaway, Garcia, and Flores.

10) Rafael Arroyo - Arroyo, like most of the Mets' catching prospects, is solid defensively. He's a little too small to put up with the rigors of everyday catching duties. At 5'8" and 175 lbs, his size may be his one downfall.

11) Luis Santana - He's the lower-level version of Wilson and Reynoso, meaning he's going to have a hard time finding consistent at-bats, enough to make his mark offensively.

12) Jesus Flores - He's the catching prospect in the Mets' system that has the highest upside. He can catch, throw, hit for power and average, and a whole lot more. He has plus tools in all areas except run well. It's still way early but he has the look of a Pudge Rodriguez, offensively and defensively. He has all the tools. He just needs to go out and prove it.

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