Quick, name how many catchers the Mets have drafted and developed that played in 300 or more games for them in the last 49 years?
If you guessed ten, you were wrong. If you guessed five, you were still wrong. Believe it or not, the correct answer would be three; Duffy Dyer, Ron Hodges and Todd Hundley.
Duffy Dyer 326 – Drafted by the New York Mets in the 1st round (9th pick) of the 1966 amateur draft.
Ron Hodges 446 – Drafted by the New York Mets in the 2nd round of the 1972 amateur draft.
Todd Hundley 745 – Drafted by the New York Mets in the 2nd round of the 1987 amateur draft.
That’s a pretty shoddy record and one that I hope will improve with the new regime now firmly in place. Practically all of the Mets most productive catchers over the last five decades have come via trades including stars like Gary Carter and Mike Piazza, as well as solid everyday catchers like Jerry Grote, John Stearns and Paul LoDuca.
The sad part for now is that even today, there are still no solid catching prospects to speak of in the Mets minor league system. In fact, Josh Thole who has been learning the trade on the fly over the last three seasons, is as good as it gets for the Amazins.
Last June, I was very surprised that the new front office didn’t address this lack of catching depth with one of their top five picks on Draft Day. I was disappointed that the Mets completely ignored an important organizational need, and it wasn’t until the 16th round that they finally selected a catcher, Xorge Carrillo, who is now batting .218 this season for the Brooklyn Cyclones.
That brings me back to Josh Thole.
As much as I admire Thole as a player, he just doesn’t strike me as a longterm solution for the Mets at the catcher position. There’s just too many flaws to his game and I’m not referring solely to his lack of power at the plate, though that is a big concern for me as well. Currently, Thole sports a .348 slugging percentage which places him in the same neighborhood as Ruben Tejada now and Luis Castillo in 2010.
Sometimes teams will trade some offense in order to get solid defense at positions like shortstop and catcher, but that is certainly not the case with Thole. His skills as a backstop are about as bad as you can get and he ranks at or near the bottom in catchers zone rating (rank 29), range factor (rank 23), passed balls (leads MLB), and caught stealing rate (ranked last). His likability factor tends to have most fans completely ignore or overlook how poor a catcher he actually is.
As more and more teams latch onto his 21% caught stealing rate, they will exploit this to the detriment of the team as more singles and walks are converted into runners in scoring position, and in many cases runs. His 15 passed balls are more than double the next worst mark of seven in the National League.
Additionally, Thole’s game calling has come into question several times already this season by pitchers Mike Pelfrey, Jon Niese and R.A. Dickey, and even manager Terry Collins has questioned some of Thole’s pitch selections. To be fair, most of this took place in the first half and Thole has improved of late, but still rates between average to below average in this aspect of his game.
I see Thole as nothing more than a stop-gap catcher until something better ultimately comes along. But with the state of the farm and no help on the horizon, Thole and the Mets might be joined at the hip for 3-4 more years unless the team decides to trade for help or upgrade through free agency.
So to answer the question I posed in the title of this post, no, I don’t believe Josh Thole is the answer at catcher. But for now, he’s all the Mets have so just grin and bear it.