Kevin Plawecki and the impending return of Travis d’Arnaud

Kevin PlaweckiJust 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.

11 comments for “Kevin Plawecki and the impending return of Travis d’Arnaud

  1. Jay
    July 26, 2015 at 10:04 am

    Given d’Arnaud’s affinity for the disabled list, don’t you think it would be wise for Sandy to hold onto one of the best catching prospects in the game who knows how to handle a talented young pitching staff?

    Plawecki can go back to Vegas and work on his swing until September, but I think it would be incredibly short-sighted of Sandy to trade him now.

    • July 26, 2015 at 10:14 am

      The only reason not to trade him now is if you think his value has taken a big hit.

      Staying healthy is a skill and so far TDA has not displayed that skill. But I think the addition of a big-time bat is more important than the concern about what if TDA needs a third DL stint this year. Because even if TDA gets hurt the day after he returns, it’s not like KP is going to deliver more in his absence than either Recker or Monell.

  2. Chris F
    July 26, 2015 at 10:25 am

    I can’t help but wonder if the story needs to include that d’Arnaud is a genuine long term injury risk who mary never play more than half a season. What is Plawecki’s value in that condition? TdA is becoming more and more a wonder to me…I wonder if a 1B mitt fits him?

    • July 26, 2015 at 11:08 am

      I think we need to distinguish between injuries that are chronic and ones that aren’t.

      Also, we need to distinguish between injuries that happen playing the position.

      Neither injury this year was chronic. One was playing the position

      • Chris F
        July 26, 2015 at 11:27 am

        I hear ya. None of his injuries are chronic…yet he’s a magnet for them, that can’t be denied. 108 games last year, perhaps 80ish this year. Struggles with injuries in the minors. While he doesn’t have a single chronic injury, he a chronically injured player. Year after year after year.

        A Mets backup C needs to be consider to get 1/3 to 1/2 of all the starts. That’s serious IMO.

        • July 26, 2015 at 12:04 pm

          Red Sox fans were probably saying the same thing in 1975

  3. Eraff
    July 26, 2015 at 5:23 pm

    Plawecki has a great chance to “out deliver” Recker and Monell going forward. I’m optimistic that he’s at least a rotational catcher going forward…I believe he will play to a 700 plus OPS and become a first line Catcher.

  4. Metsense
    July 26, 2015 at 6:06 pm

    There are not many choices for Met backup catcher with Recker and Monell having a lower OPS than Plawecki. If the Mets decide to send KP down to give him consistant at bats then that should not be a problem. He should then be called up on August 31st to be elgible for the playoff roster. If he had to be included in a trade in order to improve the team (not a rental player) then so be it. I like KP and think he will be a better than average major league catcher.

  5. jawnuffin
    July 26, 2015 at 6:39 pm

    plawecki wasn’t even suppose to be here. The injuries to d’Arnaud and ineffectiveness from others has accelerated plawecki’s ascension to the major leagues. In a better lineup, plawecki should become a better hitter.

  6. Mike B
    July 27, 2015 at 9:58 am

    I think he’s fine. Yes, he’s struggling, and he did not do so well at Vegas, not this year anyway, hitting .216 in short stint. But he’s never K’d much, and I think he’ll figure it out. He had a little spurt this year, but has regressed. LV sure isn’t much of an indicator. I see Monell is up to .361.

  7. Matt Netter
    July 27, 2015 at 1:08 pm

    I agree with the flock here. TDA can hit but he’s a china doll. KP calls a good game and plays solid d. I think his bat will come around.Monell is a 4a player and Recker is a sink hole with an occasional homer.

    Speaking of sink holes, my least favorite of these in recent memory was the catcher Brian Schneider. It seemed like he grouded into a rally killing DP every chance he got – grouder to second and slow footed down the line.

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