Last week I was a little surprised when the Mets reassigned Robinson Cancel to Minor League camp.
Given how difficult it is for Ramon Castro to stay healthy for an entire season, I thought Cancel would be one of the last guys to go this spring. Cancel did a decent job filling in last year and actually had a couple of big hits for us including down the stretch on September 25th when his RBI in the bottom of the 8th inning tied the game 6-6 against the Cubs, which we won 7-6 in the ninth on a walk-off single by Carlos Beltran.
I asked Bart Hubbuch of the NY Post about the Mets sending down Cancel during his live chat. He replied that the Mets are very concerned about their depth behind Castro, and wanted to look at some of the other catchers in camp.
He added that they already know what they have in Cancel, so they sent him down to get a closer look at Josh Thole, Omir Santos and particularly Rene Rivera who they really like.
I think Thole is still a couple of seasons away, but Santos and Rivera are both intriguing and worth a closer look.
Santos spent seven years toiling in the Yankees organization after being drafted in 21st round of the 2001 Draft. In 2008 he signed as a free agent with the Baltimore Orioles and made his Major League debut, appearing in 11 games for the O’s. He is a career .258 hitter in the minors, with an OPS of .649. He homered in the 12-1 win over the Braves on Sunday, but has very little power and would struggle to hit .240 in the majors.
Rene Rivera was also drafted in 2001 like Santos, however he was top pick and selected 49th overall in the second round by the Mariners.
Rivera never quite lived up to his expectations. He made his debut in 2004, but never stuck and bounced up and down for a few years before becoming a free agent and signing with the Mets. He has more power than Santos, but not by much, and he has hit just .227 in 150 major league at-bats. However, he is just 25 and the Mets still see some upside in him.
I see them both as stop-gap measures at backup catcher, but still have higher regard for Robinson Cancel at this point. Cancel is a better hitter, has more power, and even has above average speed. In 2002, he logged 400 AB and hit .281 with 12 HR, 64 RBI and 10 stolen bases. In 2006, he hit 10 homers and drove in 58 while batting .297 in 348 at-bats for the Independent League. He also stole 28 bases. The Mets liked what they saw and signed him.
He hit .264 in ’07 for AAA, and was hitting .346 when the Mets called him up last season. He hit his first major league homerun that August and filled in admirably for an injured Ramon Castro.
If the Mets had traded Castro in the off season, I would have been very content with Cancel as the backup.