Mets Organizational Depth Chart: Catcher
Welcome to the first installment of our offseason Mets Organizational Depth Charts. Each week, we’ll take a look at the top players at each position in the Mets organization. We hope to provide our readers with some insight into what the Mets currently have at the major-league level, as well as some players they can expect to hear about from the minor-leagues in the coming years.
We’ll start things off with the backstops.
From the time the Mets acquired d’Arnaud from Toronto in the R.A. Dickey trade, he was immediately considered the catcher of the future in Queens. Considered by some to be the best catching prospect in baseball, d’Arnaud opened the year in Las Vegas with the expectation that he’d be called up before the All-Star break. However, just 12 games into the season, d’Arnaud broke a bone in his foot– adding yet another injury to a growing list. Travis would miss more than three months before his eventual return. In mid-August, he finally got the call to the majors. d’Arnaud would struggle with the big club, hitting just .202/.286/ .263 with a single homer in 112 plate appearances.
Surely, you would have loved to see Travis come right up and mash — but I wouldn’t consider this alarming. It’s rare to see a catcher come up and hit immediately due to the incredible amount of work that goes into being a big-league backstop. Learning new pitchers and studying batter and baserunner tendencies can leave little time to work on your offensive game. d’Arnaud will hit, and his great walk rates in the minors as well as his 10.7% walk rate in the majors tells you he has an idea at the dish. The future is still bright for d’Arnaud, who could be a .270/.350/.400 hitter with 20+ homeruns while providing solid defense behind the plate.
On the Farm
Plawecki started the 2013 season in Savannah where it didn’t take long to realize he was a class above the Sally league. In 65 games for the Sand Gnats, he hit .314/.390/.494 with 6 homers and 24 doubles, earning him a promotion to St. Lucie. Plawecki would pick up right where he left off with Savannah, hitting .294/.391/.392 with two homers and 14 doubles for the High-A Mets. At the plate, Plawecki is a solid hitter with a very good eye (8.1 BB% in ’13) to go along with plus contact skills (10.2 K%). He uses the entire field and shows some pop when pitchers challenge him inside. Behind the plate, he’s an average receiver with a fringy arm. He does, however, have the reputation as a catcher pitchers love to throw to, and someone who works hard to improve. With a dearth of high-end catching in baseball, Plawecki could be a solid-average starting catcher who will get on base and hit 10+ homers with a lot of doubles. However, unless the Mets trade d’Arnaud or decide his bat is too valuable to keep behind the plate, Plawecki won’t be putting up those numbers in a Mets uniform.
2. Juan Centeno
Centeno started the season in Double-A Binghamton, but when d’Arnaud fell to injury, he was called up to Las Vegas after just six games. He didn’t disappoint, hitting .305/.346/.371 in 67 games for the 51s. He would get a late season call-up to the Mets, and would hit .300 in a handful of at-bats (3 for 10). If there’s one thing we know about Centeno — it’s that he can hit for average. Since 2010 he’s hit at least .285 in every season– hitting .300 in all but one (2012). He’s got solid contact skills, striking out at a low rate, but posts only pedestrian walk rates — possibly preferring to make contact in-lieu of taking borderline pitches. Centeno possesses almost no power, hitting just two homers in over 1,100 minor league plate appearances. He’ll hold his own behind the plate, showing solid-average skills both receiving and fielding his position. Centeno recently made headlines by throwing out Reds speedster Billy Hamilton, but in all reality his arm is average at best. In the end, he could end up being a solid back-up catcher who could produce like a starter in small bursts.
3. Cam Maron
After posting slash lines of .290/.400/.400 or above in every season since being drafted, Maron stumbled against the stiffer competition in St. Lucie this season. In 84 games, Cam hit just .235/.327/.295, failing to hit a ball out of the ballpark. While that line is certainly alarming, I think it will prove to be more of an outlier than the norm for Maron. As he progresses through the minors, Cam figures to return closer to his usual .300 level using his contact-oriented approach. He’s got a short swing and stays inside the ball, allowing him to use the entire field. Maron’s approach seems to limit his power, instead focusing on making contact. He also shows an advanced eye at the plate, leading to great walk totals. Defensively, Maron is a solid receiver and blocks balls in the dirt well. He’s got a solid-average arm, but poor footwork has hampered his ability to throw runners out at a respectable rate — although he is improving. Maron is considered a hard worker who refuses to give up at-bats and always working on his craft, earning him Josh Thole comps. If everything clicks for Maron, he could be a backup catcher in the majors.
4. Tomas Nido
Nido struggled mightily in his second season as a pro, hitting just .185/.218/.261 in just 33 games for the Brooklyn Cyclones in the New York-Penn league. More surprisingly, Nido hit just one home run despite what some scouts call plus raw power. However all is not lost for Tomas, as he spent the entire year playing as a teenager (19) in a league that often gets filled with college-aged players after June’s MLB Draft. That, coupled with having to deal with the workload and physical rigors of being a catcher can take time to adjust to. Offensively the power is the tool to dream on, but whether that power will ever make it into games remains to be seen. Nido has a swing that involves far too many moving parts, including an exaggerated load where his hands drop nearly to his belt, and a leg-kick that often leaves him too off balance to make solid contact. There are also questions about his defense, where his arm is considered solid to above average, but his mechanics are a mess. Scouts don’t seem to believe he’ll stay behind the plate, lacking the athleticism to become an average backstop. The power is tantalizing, so perhaps some major tweaks to his swing mechanics will allow his bat to play anywhere on the diamond. Otherwise, Nido is nothing more than a dream with a high probability of a flame-out.
Cordero isn’t going to make these lists because of his prowess with the bat. In 2013 he hit just .227/.294/.270 in 64 games across two levels– including beginning the season in Savannah for the third straight season. Putting up numbers like that as a 23-year old won’t open any eyes. Scouts projected him to have some pop, but his lack of solid contact in games hasn’t allowed it to show. He does, however, draw a favorable amount of walks while putting the ball in play at a high rate. Where Cordero earns his paycheck is defensively. He’s slick behind the plate, earning plus grades both receiving and blocking pitches in the dirt. His arm is only solid-average, but he makes up for it with excellent footwork and accuracy– leading to a 45% caught stealing rate for his career, and a 46% mark in 2013 (29 CS out of 63 attempts). However, I’m not sure that alone is enough to make Cordero even a backup in the majors. The bat has to improve for him to be more than an org player.
Honorable Mention: Ali Sanchez.
The Mets signed Sanchez as an international free agent this July out of Venezuela. Baseball America had Sanchez ranked 25th out of all international free agents prior to his signing. Scouts like his ability with the bat because he makes solid contacts to all fields despite lacking real power. Defensively, he has excellent footwork and good hands behind the dish. He’s also been described as an intelligent, high energy player.
(Photo Credit: Gordon Donovan)
About the Author: Kirk Cahill
Kirk is a native New Yorker and lifelong Mets fan. He's recently taken to blogging and enjoys following prospects and frequenting minor league games. You can follow him on Twitter @KirkC_.
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