The Scoop: Kevin Plawecki and the state of Mets catching

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…

13 comments for “The Scoop: Kevin Plawecki and the state of Mets catching

  1. Jim OMalley
    May 4, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    Great article. Lets assume Ike Davis does not straighten out. Could the Mets conceivably use Buck at 1st Base when/if they promote D’Arnaud? Cant wait to see some movement with these guys.

  2. May 5, 2013 at 9:33 am

    Yeah, it’s quite the turnaround for the organization re catching prospect performances. Plawecki is doing what we hoped he would do and I’d given up on Forsythe, so it’s nice to see him showing life. I’m still pretty excited about what Nido could become, too.

  3. Metsense
    May 5, 2013 at 11:33 am

    Who would have thought the Mets would have an All Star catcher not named d”Arnaud. Ironic.
    What a difference a year makes.
    I went to the Sand Gnats game last night and this is what I thought of Kevin Plawecki:
    Kevin Plawecki went 3-5 and upped his average to .416. He has a .470/ .733/ 1.203 slash line. In his first AB he went with the pitch and hit a soft liner down the right field line for a double. Boyd was thrown out at the plate trying to score. The Crawdad pitcher, Connor Sadzeck is a hard thrower and consistently hit 93 mph on the gun. He also had a 1.37 ERA entering the game. Plawecki going opposite field was a good sign. He was 1-3 against Sadzeck. His second hit was a smash up the box that the pitcher deflected. In his last AB he hit a no doubt grand slam on a 3-2 count well over the left field fence. He was very dominant in this game and above the competition. His defense was good but the impeccable control of Rainy Lara didn’t challenge him either. He did have a steal of 3rd against him where he just flipped the ball down to third and almost caught the runner. Better footwork and harder throw would have gotten the runner.
    David, I think we have the real deal here and he needs to get moved up soon.

    • May 6, 2013 at 8:12 am

      The issue with moving him up is that you would be sacrificing Cam Maron who still has a good bat and might have a future on the Mets being the lefty backup to Travis d’Arnaud (where as Plawecki is trade fodder if d’Arnaud works out).

      • Metsense
        May 6, 2013 at 8:37 am

        Why wouldn’t d’Arnaud be the trade fodder 3 or 4 years from now? With FA beginning at 6 years, a prudent team will attempt to extend a player 2 years into FA. If the player refuses the extension then a prudent team should look to deal the player in the 5th year. Players only have a life of 5-8 years or less on one team. Look at the Mets and only Wright remains from that squad (and he is an exception as a lifer and a possible HOF) of 2007.
        I take it that you think Maron will reach the majors before Plawecki. I think Plawecki might be an express train and the Mets should clear the tracks.Maron may get slightly derailed but if he is meant to be a ML he will get there.
        PS I am only given a fan’s opinion and do not believe I am as knowledgeable as you. Just presenting theory and observation.

        • May 6, 2013 at 9:04 am

          I don’t think d’Arnaud will leave the Mets IF he hits as well as advertised. Plawecki is insurance on d’Arnaud but ultimately more likely to be moved.

          Plawecki is old enough to get a promotion but I still don’t see it happening before d’Arnaud is back and perhaps not until d’Arnaud reaches the majors.

      • May 6, 2013 at 10:04 am

        To me this is backwards thinking. If Plawecki has more future value – either with the Mets or as trade bait – then if he’s ready for a level he should be playing there.

        • May 6, 2013 at 10:27 am

          Right now this is the way I see people:

          Travis d’Arnaud = Future Met Catcher
          Blake Forsythe = Mid-Grade Trade Bait
          Francisco Pena = Low-Grade Trade Bait
          Cam Maron = Platoon-mate for either d’Arnaud or Plawecki
          Kevin Plawecki = d’Arnaud insurance policy + High-Grade Trade Bait
          Tomas Nido etc… = Unknown…

          If things happen the way they should, d’Arnaud comes up this year, Maron comes up next year and we trade Plawecki at the deadline to upgrade a pressing need in 2014.

  4. The Truth
    May 20, 2013 at 5:04 pm

    Nelfi Zapata is the best in the whole organization and he wasn’t even mentioned. He hasn’t been given his opportunity. When he does, just wait. That’s a name to remember.

    • May 20, 2013 at 6:41 pm

      This is Zapata’s fifth year in the organization and he’s advanced to Lo-A. He has a lifetime .232/.312/.326 line in the minors. Stranger things have happened but odds are really against him making the majors at this point.

    • May 21, 2013 at 8:02 am

      Zapata… probably not.

  5. Jerry Grote
    May 21, 2013 at 9:08 am

    Plawecki already has cooled considerably, and their willingness to use him at DH indicates to me he can’t actually, uh, you know, play catcher. Never seen him, but I am highly skeptical that he will ever play a game behind the dish in the major leagues. Metsense apparently has seen him play … so I’ll temper that thought for now.

    TDA is injured. Again.

    That leaves you Blake Forsythe for potential major league catchers. Who mostly bats 6th or 7th, has never put completed an OPS above 740 in the minor leagues. I can only assume he’s really good defensively.

    I say all of this because only to counter the idea of “trade bait” among catchers. What we have in excess are 2B (Flores/Murph), and young pitchers.

    Certainly we are in a better position now, than we were last year, by far and I credit the original article. I just don’t think a trade is happening from this group, unless its to move a older C with a $6MM salary to make room for a suddenly relevant TDA.

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