Welcome back for part two in the MMO series where we bring you the depth charts for each position in the Mets minor league system. We started off last week with the First-basemen, and continue the series this week with the five best Catchers in the Mets organization.
It has been well documented that the Mets are thin in catching throughout the organization, but is there anyone already here that might be about to erupt onto the prospect scene? Or perhaps a player or two who are quietly putting together a solid start to their minor league careers? Or the one nobody is talking about? Keep reading to find out.
1. Cam Maron
The number one catching prospect in the Mets system is arguably the left-handed hitting back-stop, Cam Maron from Hicksville, NY. Maron was initially drafted by the Mets in the 34th round of the 2209 MLB first year player draft out of Hicksville High School. At first Maron was extremely raw behind the plate, but has worked very diligently on his footwork and receiving skills, as well as his throwing mechanics, and has made tremendous strides defensively.
His swing has always been a good contact stroke and he has exhibited very good plate discipline, although thus far the emphasis has been on developing his defensive game. Despite this, he had a very good year with the bat in 2012, placing second on the Savannah Sand Gnats in hitting with a .300 batting average in 343 at-bats. Thanks to a very good K/BB ratio of 73/53, he led his team in on-base percentage with a .403, while hitting five home runs and driving in 47.
Maron brings a lot of skills to the catching position. Since he was drafted out of high school, he has four professional seasons under his belt but is still only 21-years-old. He has a good eye at the plate, has hit .300 or better in each of his last three minor league seasons, and shows a definite feel for the nuances of the catching position. Expect him to meet the challenges of the advanced-A Florida State League in 2013 where his bat will be truly put to the test.
2. Kevin Plawecki
Some would say that the Mets 1st round sandwich pick from 2012, Kevin Plawecki is the Mets number one catching prospect, and I wouldn’t argue too strenuously one way or the other. It’s merely the difference between a 21-year-old catcher like Maron who was developed in the Mets system, and who has a sweet lefty line-drive swing, and a developing defensive game. Or a 21-year-old right-handed power hitter, who was developed at a major university, and can hit one out of any ballpark in any given at-bat, and has a developing defensive game.
Comparing Maron and Plawecki is like comparing apples and oranges. They both are solid back-stops. They both show a great deal of talent. They have both only played in low-A ball up to this point, and have a very long way to go. Where Maron is very selective at the plate and will take the walk, Plawecki is looking for something to drive, however unlike the proto-typical slugger Plawecki rarely strikes out.
In 216 at-bats this year with the Brooklyn Cyclones, Plawecki hit .250 with seven home runs and 27 RBI’s. His K/BB ratio was 24/25, which raised his on-base percentage for the season to .345. As you can see Plawecki is a very pleasant combination of disciplined hitter, and slugger. If he can make the necessary adjustments to better pitching as he moves up the ladder, he could become a very intriguing prospect further down the line.
3. Francisco Pena
In writing this I am making the assumption that Pena will sign to play with the Mets organization again in 2013. You see he originally signed with them as an International Free Agent way back in July of 2006, and has now played six years in the Mets system. Since he has not been added to the 40-man roster, he is now an unrestricted free-agent. Hopefully the Mets need at catcher, his loyalty to the organization, and their desire to keep him in the fold will mean a return for him next season, but who knows?
The 23-year-old back-stop swung the bat pretty well for St. Lucie in the first half of 2012, going .254 with four home runs and 22 RBI’s, and earned a promotion to Binghamton for the second half. He never really got the bat going on his first run through the Eastern League hitting only .198 with three homers and 17 RBI’s in 126 at-bats.
I talked to Francisco shortly after he was called up to Bingo, in New Britain, CT towards the end of July. He told me the thing he was working the hardest on was getting in tune with the pitchers and what they were throwing since he hadn’t caught most of them since the previous season. Always considered a very good defensive catcher, Pena platooned with Binghamton’s starting catcher last year, Juan Centeno.
For his six year pro career, Pena has thrown out 30% of potential base stealers. He calls a very good game, receives the ball exceptionally well, and has a lifetime fielding percentage of .986. But the smart money would have Pena return to AA for the beginning of 2013. He needs to get the bat going at that level before he will be ready for AAA and the Las Vegas 51’s out there in the desert. Besides Centeno clearly outplayed him in the second half last year, so if anyone has truly earned that promotion it would be Centeno, not Pena.
4. Blake Forsythe
The 23-year-old righty hitting catcher started his professional career when the Mets made him their 2010 3rd round pick (89th overall) in the MLB first year player draft out of the University of Tennessee. He was drafted just after the Mets took Matt Harvey, and just before they took Cory Vaughn and then Matt den Dekker.
It has been slow going for Forsythe as he still looks to get his bat going, but he has made significant defensive strides in his three years in the organization. He is a tireless worker and takes great pride in his defensive game and his ability to work well with the pitching staff. His hitting has made very small advancements each season to where he just completed his first full season in the Florida State League with St. Lucie.
It was an up-and-down year as he started the season with an outstanding April and May, hitting .283 with four home runs and 22 RBI’s on June 1st. But a mediocre June and July where he hit just .244 with one home run and 12 RBI’s, combined with a pretty poor showing in August where he hit just .197 with three home runs and eight RBI’s, lowered his numbers for the season to .244/.339/.397, with eight home runs and 42 RBI’s.
It is not beyond the realm of possibility for a player of Forsythe’s pedigree to experience a quantum leap in any given season. But for it to happen with Forsythe in 2013 it will have to correspond to when he makes the big jump to AA. With Cam Maron, Alberto Cordero and Xorge Carrillo pushing their way up from Savannah, Forsythe will almost certainly be forced to open the year at Binghamton.
Forsythe still needs to cut down on his strikeouts before he can find success in the Eastern League next year. In 2011 in 370 at-bats at Savannah, he struck out 123 times, or roughly once every three at-bats. This past year at Lucie he batted 295 times, and managed to cut his strikeouts a bit to 89, or roughly once every 3.4 at-bats. He needs to keep making progress in that direction moving forward. The upcoming season will be a very important one for the young catcher from Tennessee, let’s hope he can make the most of the opportunity.
5. Juan Centeno
Soon to be 23-years-old, the 5’7″ 175 lb. left-hand hitting Centeno was the first string catcher all season at AA Binghamton last year. He posted career highs last season in at-bats (281), runs scored (29), hits (80), doubles (12), 3B’s (2), and RBI’s (35). He was originally drafted by the Mets in the 32nd round of the 2007 first year player draft out of high school in Puerto Rico.
Centeno is a solid defensive catcher, and has a knack for making contact at the plate. His slash-line for the year was .285/.337/.342, and he threw out 41% of would-be base stealers, while posting a fielding percentage of .991. I look for Centeno to open next season in a catching tandem with a veteran player for Wally Backman at AAA Las Vegas. I would not expect any significant contributions to the big league club in 2013, but a strong season at AAA could propel him onto the 40-man roster for the start of 2014.
Organizational Grade Catcher: C-
Be sure to check back next week when we release the official Mets Minor League Depth Chart: Right-handed Pitchers. You won’t want to miss that! Speaking of which, if you missed the Metsmerized Radio show from this week, then do yourself a favor and check it out in the archive, as it was probably our best show so far! And keep in mind that next week Metsmerized Radio will come to you on it’s new day, Wednesday, which will happen to correspond with our very very special Halloween Show, and believe me you will rather be attacked by a horde of vampires rather than miss that!
Just to make it easy for you, here is this past Thursday night’s show: Metsmerized Radio Oct. 25th, 2012.