Just about everything went right Saturday night. The new-look Mets lineup saw replacements Michael Conforto and Kirk Nieuwenhuis get four-hit games, import Kelly Johnson get two – including a homer – and struggling slugger Lucas Duda crack two long balls. The only thing we could have hoped for and didn’t get was a breakout for Kevin Plawecki. Instead, the backstop was the only hitter in the lineup not to get a hit, although he did reach base twice with a walk and a hit by pitch.
Plawecki has a .587 OPS for the year and in the month of July, he has a .591 mark with a .300 BABIP. For the season he has a 21.6 K% while delivering just 2 HR in 204 PA. If you just saw him set up in the batter’s box, you’d think he was a hitter. He looks good at the plate. But no matter how you slice it, the results simply haven’t been there for the guy considered one of the top catching prospects in the game.
It’s tough being a young catcher in the majors, where your top priority, by far, is to handle the pitching staff. To the best of my knowledge, there have been no complaints about Plawecki defensively. But it seems at least reasonable to ask if that’s because everyone is too busy about complaining about something else. All we hear about is the injuries, or veterans in the lineup not delivering, or what Terry Collins is doing in the dugout or why can’t Sandy Alderson do something.
But now that Alderson has done something and the lineup doesn’t appear to be one giant sinkhole – will Plawecki continue to get a free pass on both sides of the game?
To make things even worse for the rookie catcher, Travis d’Arnaud made his first rehab start on Saturday, going 1-for-3 in Binghamton after losing a couple of potential games in Florida due to rain. He’ll need at least a couple of more rehab games but it seems obvious that d’Arnaud will be here sooner rather than later. And this time, Plawecki will be the one who gets sent down.
And let’s be honest, New York and the majors isn’t the first level where Plawecki didn’t hit. In parts of two seasons at Triple-A, Plawecki has a .270/.325/.402 line. Our translation shows that as the equivalent of a .263 OBP and a .265 SLG in the majors. So, as poorly as Plawecki has hit in the majors, it’s been better than what he’s done in Las Vegas.
Because of the demands of the job defensively, it’s normal for a catcher’s offensive growth to follow a different path than other hitters. It’s common for catchers to face stops and starts offensively in the minors. Prospect maven John Sickels has coined the term, “Young Catcher Stagnation Syndrome” for top catching prospects who hit a wall in the minors.
Perhaps Plawecki is suffering through this and just has the misfortune of having half of his stagnation year play out in the majors.
The stagnation label is not necessarily a career killer. Sickels wrote about it in regards to John Buck following his 2003 season in the minors. And Buck went on to enjoy an 11-year career in the majors, including an All-Star season in 2010.
Right now the fans are counting down the days to d’Arnaud’s return, when we’ll be able to replace another lineup dud. The hope for the Mets coming into 2015 was that while the lineup didn’t have any stars, it didn’t have any sinkholes, either. The Mets scored 15 runs off a rookie pitcher Saturday because three season-long sinkholes were replaced by guys who went 10-14 with 8 runs scored and 6 RBIs, a reminder that it’s good not to make outs.
And Plawecki still has a chance to help the 2015 Mets. While his debut has been less than stellar, it’s still possible that he gets dealt if Alderson is able to trade for an impact bat. Perhaps Plawecki would perform best wearing Rockies purple.