Flash Back: It’s 2012… Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas represent the core of Met catchers. The Mets have poorly ranked catchers in the minors and only Camden Maron (Thole Jr.) stood much of a chance of making an impact.
Flash Forward: It’s 2013… The Mets have John Buck leading the MLB team in more ways than one, Travis d’Arnaud as the anointed second coming of Mike Piazza, Kevin Plawecki OBLITERATING the South Atlantic League, Blake Forsythe and Francisco Pena finally producing relevant numbers and… well they still have Cam Maron.
What happened? The Mets went from no stars at the position to a bevy of talent that could provide trade fodder for the franchise in the near future. Let’s look at the cast:
John Buck (MLB) – Buck was drafted by the Astros in the 7th round of the 1998 draft. In the minors he showed good power and the expected tendency to swing and miss at pitches. (Ready for a point of comparison?) At 20 years of age he played in the South Atlantic League with a triple slash of: .275/.345/.483 and he managed 24 doubles and 22 homers in 122 games. In the majors, Buck’s big year was 2010 where he managed to hit .281 for Toronto and earn a substantial free agent contract with the Marlins. His 2013 numbers have been All-Star caliber but nobody expects them to last all season.
Travis d’Arnaud (AAA) – d’Arnaud was drafted by the Phillies, 37th overall, in the 2007 draft. Guess what? At 20 he played in the South Atlantic League. He managed a .255/.319/.419 with 38 doubles and 13 homers in 126 games. D’Arnaud is currently hurt but should return and could be promoted if the Mets find a good trade partner for Mr. Buck.
Blake Forsythe (AA) – The Mets were hoping for power when they drafted Forsythe in the 3rd round of the 2010 draft. A college player, he played in the South Atlantic League at 21. There he hit: .235/.334/.395 and managed, 24 doubles and 9 homers in 106 games. Forsythe was uninspiring in 2012 but in 2013 he’s come on strong. In AA he’s hitting: .321/.383/.604 with 7 doubles and 2 homers through only 15 games!
Francisco Pena (AA) – The Mets signed Pena around the time the Yankees signed Jesus Montero. Looked pretty strongly that the Yankees made the better scouting choice there. Pena was only 18 when he played in the South Atlantic, where he hit: .264/.308/.380 with 22 doubles and 6 homers in 105 games. The Mets maintained hope in his prospect status for a while but by 2011 the hope for stardom was pretty much gone. In 2013 he’s begun hitting in AA: .292/.340/.396 with 5 doubles. It’s only 14 games but he’s certainly not played this well for the Mets before.
Camden Maron (A+) –Maron was a 34th round pick for the Mets but this “Home-Grown” kid from Hicksville, NY has been pretty good for us. In 2012, Maron played in the South Atlantic League. He was 21 and he managed: .300/.403/.408 with 18 doubles and 5 homers. He’s not super powerful but his contact first approach and lefty bat reminded more than a few people of Thole. Maron is currently in Port St. Lucie and while he’s not tearing things apart he’s not completely floundering either.
Kevin Plawecki (FSA) – The Mets drafted Plawecki 35th overall in the 2012 draft. Plawecki is in the South Atlantic League, he’s 22 and he’s utterly destroying the baseball: .406/.464/.698 with 16 doubles and 4 homers in only 25 games. Let me do some math… That’s around 75 doubles in a 120 games season. Now… Savannah is a long way from Citi Field but it’s important to consider that it’s also one of the hardest ballparks to hit for power and a league known for being favorable to pitchers. Plawecki is only waiting for the Mets to start the promotion ball rolling to get into Port St. Lucie, but he needs d’Arnaud in the majors, Forsythe to AAA and Maron in AA before the Mets will want to try that.
Tomas Nido (SSA) – Nido was an 8th round pick for the Mets in 2012. He wasn’t amazing in Kingsport but he wasn’t bad. He’ll move on up to Brooklyn and perhaps Savannah once Plawecki is out of the way.
Adrian Abreu (RK) – Abreu is one of 4 big promise names coming out of the DSL this season. Last year he managed: .295/.417/.406 with 5 doubles and 6 homers. He’s already 21 so he’ll need to move fast.
Manuel Hilario ( RK) – Hilario is a year younger and a strange aberration at catcher. He managed: .286/.378/.451 with 13 doubles, 6 triples and 4 homers in 62 games and he also stole 23 bases. Hilario is probably more of a utility player as he can play: C, 1B, 2B, 3B, LF and RF… but still…