Most analysts/fans seem to think that the 2022 starting Mets catcher will be incumbent James McCann, who just completed the first year of his four-year contract. McCann will be playing in his age 32 season this year. His 2021 year was not inspiring, and he is at an age where players tend to decline, particularly catchers.
Last year his slash line was .232/.294/.349. That’s not very good at all, but those are figures that could be lived with if he put up good defense at the premium catching position. However, he did not accomplish that last year. On attempted steals, he had a 27% success rate, which is decent. His overall DRS, however, was in negative territory at -5 which obviously is bad. There is another catcher on the Mets roster who should be considered for the starting role.
That of course is Tomas Nido, the backup receiver for the Mets for the past few seasons. In 2021 Nido was subpar as a hitter, putting up a .222/.261/.327 line, even worse than McCann. However, there were some extenuating circumstances. Nido was plagued by injuries to both his thumb and wrist, obviously those body components are critical to a batting swing. When he was relatively healthy, in May, he slashed .292/.340/.583 in 50 PA; the rest of the year, not so much. Nido had retooled his swing prior to 2020, however that year was already a shortened season and Nido missed time due to the Covid virus. He only had 50 PA, but he hit .282/.340/.583 in that small sample.
Defense, however, is where Nido really shined last year. Nido logged 365 innings behind the plate in 2021, due to his being the backup with lost time to injuries. In that time he posted a very impressive CS rate of 57%, nine bases were stolen against him but 12 prospective base stealers were thrown out. Apparently, he really improved his pitch framing as well. Statcast actually had him as the top pitch framer among catchers in 2021. His overall defensive ability was at +10 as measured by DRS. These are the kind of numbers that are at Gold Glove caliber if projected across a full season.
Some might say is it reasonable to expect that a career backup like Nido could morph into a good starting catcher at his age? Well, we do have a good example that occurred just last season. Jacob Stallings had basically been a career backup catcher for the Pirates, that is until last year when he won the starting job. He was not only the starting backstop, but he also hauled home some hardware, specifically the 2021 catching Gold Glove for the National league. He did it, I might add, in his age-31 season.
Lurking in the Mets’ farm system is highly-rated catching prospect Francisco Alvarez. He may not make the big club this year but he is expected to be a strong contender for the starting catching position on the Mets sooner rather than later.
Normally, you might expect the battle for the 2022 starting catching spot to be fought out during ST, but of course this year we can expect a much-shorter spring training period than usual, and in the worst case no ST and no season. But if there is to be a season, new skipper Buck Showalter would be wise to have an open mind about who will be donning the catching gear for the Mets for the opening pitch.