Coming into the season, nobody in the organization knew what to make of Kevin Plawecki. He was once regarded as a legitimate prospect, after being taken No. 35 overall in the 2012 draft.
When he finally reached the majors in 2015, it became clear that he was blocked by Travis d’Arnaud. D’Arnaud was in the midst of a career year that led him to finish with a .268/.340/.485 slash line and 12 homers. Plawecki, as a result, was only used as a replacement when he was hurt. He went on to hit only .219/.290/.296 in his 233 at-bats.
He received another chance in 2016, but squandered it as he struggled offensively again to the tune of a .197/.298/.265 slash line in a mere 132 MLB at-bats. Travis d’Arnaud struggled mightily as well and regressed significantly to .247/.307/.323 clip. His power took the biggest dip though as he managed to hit only four homers in 251 at-bats.
After posting two consecutive poor seasons, Plawecki became an after-thought to the Mets and was strictly viewed as insurance by the organization. Yet, d’Arnaud was in need of a breakout as well.
But d’Arnaud has shown little signs of improvement throughout the season, hitting an abysmal .229 with ten homers. The power might be back, but he is far from his career year in 2015 and his defense still ranks towards the bottom of the league.
Meanwhile, Kevin Plawecki, after being sent down to Las Vegas, went on to hit .328 with nine homers. He also struck out a minuscule 38 times in 247 at-bats.
This prompted the Mets to let Rene Rivera go to the Cubs via a waiver claim and promote Plawecki on Aug. 19. Since being back with the big team, he has been splitting time with d’Arnaud and has hit .283/.367/.472.
The most impressive aspect though might lie in his strikeout rate. He has struck out a lowly seven times in his 53 at-bats since returning to the Majors. In an era of baseball that features many players that strikeout upwards of 100 times, this is a refreshing sight.
Yes, it is a small sample size to make any extreme decisions about his place in the Mets future beyond this season. However, his swing appears to have been adjusted since his return and the plate discipline he has shown is a positive sign that this might not be a fluke for him.
His minor league career statistics also suggest that this is not an aberration. His career .297/.364/.451 slash line suggests that he might just be coming into his own at 26 years old.
As a result, it might be time to start considering Plawecki as an option to be the starting catcher next season, or at least give him every chance down the stretch to earn the job.
The trends suggest that d’Arnaud keeps regressing, while Plawecki looks like he might be going in a more positive direction. On top of that is that the latter, without a doubt, is a better defensive catcher in almost every category other than pitch framing.
The biggest reason to really consider this is the upcoming free agent class for catchers. None of the options really stand out as game changers. Yes, they could theoretically go out and hope Jonathon Lucroy takes a one-year pillow contract. But, after his abysmal year in which he has a .253/.327/.352 slash line, the Mets would be hard pressed to give him anything more than that.
Alex Avila could be another option, with a .270/.387/.460 line. However, he only has a .243 average for his career, which at the age of 30, indicates that he’s having an anomaly of a year.
The advantage for Plawecki is that he is extremely affordable, which with many other holes to fill, is a plus. He still has another year left of making the league minimum followed by three arbitration years that lends him under control through the 2021 season.
D’Arnaud, meanwhile, will be heading into his second year of arbitration and will be eligible for free agency after the 2019 season. Prospect Tomas Nido might become an option later on, but he is unlikely to be ready to take on regular catching duties until at least the middle of next year at the earliest.
If Plawecki is what they hoped he could be when they drafted him, the catcher, the solution behind the plate may be right in front of them. If not, he’s at least working his way into conversations for the future.
Originally Posted – September 5