MMLN – Analyzing the Catchers

There is growing depth around the infield throughout the farm system, but one spot remains thin and that is behind the plate. The Mets have one catcher for the future in Josh Thole, but the system still can use more impact catching prospects to not only add to the depth chart, but foster more competition.

Highest Ceiling

Josh Thole: Thole fits into two categories on this list, but at the present time Thole possesses the highest ceiling of any backstop in the organization. Thole's 2009 performance in Binghamton and impressive big league debut has the organization thinking Thole will help in New York sooner than later. Thole's simple hitting approach and positive production will translate at the big league level. Now it's a matter of his defense and the window of opportunity that will determine whether Thole will ever hold down the starting job.

This publication and scouts have gone on record as saying they thought Thole better fit the mold of a backup. However, there is little deterrent ahead of Thole to deny him the opportunity. Thole's improving defense and high batting average may persuade the Mets to try him as the starter in 2011. Guys like Omir Santos, Henry Blanco and Rod Barajas will not be around forever and there is no one else on the farm to get in Thole's way. Though he will likely go to Buffalo to start 2010, Thole has a future in New York and there is still a good shot he receives the opportunity to start in the future.

Closest to the Majors (Aside from Thole)

Francisco Pena: The drop off between Thole and the next closest prospect to the big leagues speaks to a lacking depth in the organization. Pena enters his fourth season on the farm but early signals speak to a possible return to St. Lucie for Pena, at least in the early part of the season. Pena's tools are improving, slowly but surely, however a hole in his swing and inconsistencies with his defense means there is still a fairly steep learning curve for him to climb. At 20 years old, Pena still has time and opportunity to have his game take off, but his scouts' projected ceiling of Pena has regressed to somewhere between a 4-A catcher or possible backup.

Needs to Make a Move

Dock Doyle: Doyle is number one atop the list. Doyle, drafted in the fifth round of the 2008, has spent only one day above short-season ball and has otherwise not shown much to be excited about. Limited power, a long swing and more days spent has a designated hitter than behind the plate do not speak well to his future. If Doyle is going to get his career on track and make believers out of scouts, he needs to significantly turn around his production in 2010.

Kai Gronaeur: At this point, we know what Gronaeur is. Gronaeur is a positive influence behind the plate and with his pitching staff. He fosters strong relationships with pitchers, calls a strong game and demonstrates strong defense. He shows some pop, but is generally limited with the bat. That is enough to keep Gronauer around as an organizational piece who can continue to move up and work with pitchers. Much like Mike Nickeas, Gronaeur should hang on as a quality organizational catcher.

Michael Moras: Moras, like Gronaeur, holds his strength behind the plate and that could allow him to stick around. Moras has only seen limited time above Kingsport and will be among a slew of catchers jockeying for time in Savannah this season. Therefore, he will need to take positive steps with the bat in order to create separation and show he is more than a one dimensional player with the glove.

Taylor Freeman: Freeman brings a bit of a different element to the younger levels as a left-handed swinging catcher. Freeman's defense steadily improved in year one and Kingsport manager Mike DeFelice (who knows a thing about catching) likes his defense and his swing. Freeman, 22, should be off to Savannah but-like Moras-needs to have a productive year with the bat to garner more recognition and separate himself.

Jordan Abruzzo: It's difficult to track down much news on Abruzzo, but what is known is that he has long battled injuries since he entered the system. Most recently, an elbow injury and the following rehab limited Abruzzo to just 28 games-mostly at DH-in Savannah and St. Lucie in 2009. That came on the heels of a .290 average/14 home runs/59 RBI in 2008. Abruzzo, 25, has left the "prospect" ranks but could still carve a niche for himself if he can get moving.

Sleeper

Nelfi Zapata: The Mets scooped up Zapata in the 19th round of the 2009 draft, sending him to the Gulf Coast League where he had a positive first year. What Zapata brings to the system is raw power behind the plate, something that is deficient at higher levels. He still needs coaching up behind the plate, but an offensive-driven catcher could go a long way in this system.

Jury Is Still Out

Camden Maron: Maron is a lesser known name from the 2009 draft. Selected in the 34th round, the 19-year-old catcher, like Zapata, showed off good raw power and a strong arm behind the plate during his Gulf Coast League debut. Also like Zapata, Maron will compete for a spot at a higher level in 2009. Scouts like Maron's raw potential, but more will be learned in his second season.


Amazin Clubhouse Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nHighest Ceiling
\r\n
\r\nJosh Thole: Thole fits into two categories on this list, but at the present time Thole possesses the highest ceiling of any backstop in the organization. Thole's 2009 performance in Binghamton and impressive big league debut has the organization thinking Thole will help in New York sooner than later. Thole's simple hitting approach and positive production will translate at the big league level. Now it's a matter of his defense and the window of opportunity that will determine whether Thole will ever hold down the starting job.
\r\n
\r\nThis publication and scouts have gone on record as saying they thought Thole better fit the mold of a backup. However, there is little deterrent ahead of Thole to deny him the opportunity. Thole's improving defense and high batting average may persuade the Mets to try him as the starter in 2011. Guys like Omir Santos, Henry Blanco and Rod Barajas will not be around forever and there is no one else on the farm to get in Thole's way. Though he will likely go to Buffalo to start 2010, Thole has a future in New York and there is still a good shot he receives the opportunity to start in the future.
\r\n
\r\nClosest to the Majors (Aside from Thole)
\r\n
\r\nFrancisco Pena: The drop off between Thole and the next closest prospect to the big leagues speaks to a lacking depth in the organization. Pena enters his fourth season on the farm but early signals speak to a possible return to St. Lucie for Pena, at least in the early part of the season. Pena's tools are improving, slowly but surely, however a hole in his swing and inconsistencies with his defense means there is still a fairly steep learning curve for him to climb. At 20 years old, Pena still has time and opportunity to have his game take off, but his scouts' projected ceiling of Pena has regressed to somewhere between a 4-A catcher or possible backup.
\r\n
\r\nNeeds to Make a Move
\r\n
\r\nDock Doyle: Doyle is number one atop the list. Doyle, drafted in the fifth round of the 2008, has spent only one day above short-season ball and has otherwise not shown much to be excited about. Limited power, a long swing and more days spent has a designated hitter than behind the plate do not speak well to his future. If Doyle is going to get his career on track and make believers out of scouts, he needs to significantly turn around his production in 2010.
\r\n
\r\nKai Gronaeur: At this point, we know what Gronaeur is. Gronaeur is a positive influence behind the plate and with his pitching staff. He fosters strong relationships with pitchers, calls a strong game and demonstrates strong defense. He shows some pop, but is generally limited with the bat. That is enough to keep Gronauer around as an organizational piece who can continue to move up and work with pitchers. Much like Mike Nickeas, Gronaeur should hang on as a quality organizational catcher.
\r\n
\r\nMichael Moras: Moras, like Gronaeur, holds his strength behind the plate and that could allow him to stick around. Moras has only seen limited time above Kingsport and will be among a slew of catchers jockeying for time in Savannah this season. Therefore, he will need to take positive steps with the bat in order to create separation and show he is more than a one dimensional player with the glove.
\r\n
\r\nTaylor Freeman: Freeman brings a bit of a different element to the younger levels as a left-handed swinging catcher. Freeman's defense steadily improved in year one and Kingsport manager Mike DeFelice (who knows a thing about catching) likes his defense and his swing. Freeman, 22, should be off to Savannah but-like Moras-needs to have a productive year with the bat to garner more recognition and separate himself.
\r\n
\r\nJordan Abruzzo: It's difficult to track down much news on Abruzzo, but what is known is that he has long battled injuries since he entered the system. Most recently, an elbow injury and the following rehab limited Abruzzo to just 28 games-mostly at DH-in Savannah and St. Lucie in 2009. That came on the heels of a .290 average/14 home runs/59 RBI in 2008. Abruzzo, 25, has left the \"prospect\" ranks but could still carve a niche for himself if he can get moving.
\r\n
\r\nSleeper
\r\n
\r\nNelfi Zapata: The Mets scooped up Zapata in the 19th round of the 2009 draft, sending him to the Gulf Coast League where he had a positive first year. What Zapata brings to the system is raw power behind the plate, something that is deficient at higher levels. He still needs coaching up behind the plate, but an offensive-driven catcher could go a long way in this system.
\r\n
\r\nJury Is Still Out
\r\n
\r\nCamden Maron: Maron is a lesser known name from the 2009 draft. Selected in the 34th round, the 19-year-old catcher, like Zapata, showed off good raw power and a strong arm behind the plate during his Gulf Coast League debut. Also like Zapata, Maron will compete for a spot at a higher level in 2009. Scouts like Maron's raw potential, but more will be learned in his second season.
\r\n
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