The catcher position is one that the Mets have been trying to address for a few seasons now. Josh Thole has started the most games behind the plate since the days of Mike Piazza and then Paul LoDuca, but Thole is far from the traditional offensive catcher.
Unless you are Charles Johnson behind the plate, the organization and fans are going to want some sort of offensive production. Johnson was never known for his offense, but he did have some very productive offensive seasons. There were years where he knocked over 20 home runs out of the park. If Thole could do that, we wouldn’t be having this discussion today. However, three home runs and a .260 average just isn’t going to cut it.
Due to Thole’s light hitting, catcher is a position that Sandy Alderson is trying to fix going forward. The team brought in Kelly Shoppach, but he hasn’t been much of an upgrade from what the Mets already have in place. Alderson can try to address the catching situation in free-agency, or trade. But when all else fails, there is a crop of catchers down on the farm for the Mets who may be looking to take advantage of the current catching situation.
Most of the top catching prospects are still in the lower rungs of the minor league system, so we can’t expect any of these guys to make an impact until at least 2014-more realistically not until 2015. Here are three guys that could be in the catching mix in the next couple of years.
3. Tomas Nido
2012 Stats: .242/2/15 in 38 games with Kingsport
Nido was drafted out of high school in the 8th round of the 2012 MLB draft. He has tremendous raw power. The problem with Nido is that due to mechanical flaws with his swing, he hasn’t been able to unlock that potential power. When everything clicks, he can hit the ball a country mile, but right now it has primarily been reserved for batting practice. He has a high leg kick and drops his hands to try and generate more power. The swing looks great during BP, and may have led to success in high school, but at the pro level the pitchers will eat him up.
Nido will have to work on quieting his swing – focus on getting his hands quickly through the zone and drive through the ball. He will learn that is the best way to take advantage of his power. He is still young (going to be 19 next spring), so he still has time to make adjustments. If he can get his swing together, he could be a Mike Napoli type of offensive catcher in the near future.
2. Camden Maron
2012 Stats: .300/5/47 in 93 games with Savannah
Everyone loves a local prospect. Maron was drafted out of high school in 2009 from of Hicksville, NY. He was once considered the top catching prospect in the organization, but was surpassed in 2012. He profiles similar to Josh Thole, which isn’t making many Mets fans jump for joy.
Maron is a slap hitting catcher with minimal power. He makes consistent contact and uses the entire field. However, the team already has a Josh Thole-like player in Josh Thole, so don’t expect Maron to be much more than a serviceable backup if and when he makes it to the show.
1. Kevin Plawecki
2012 Stats: .250/7/27 in 61 games with Brooklyn
Plawecki was taken with the 35th pick in the 2012 MLB draft. He’s an offensive minded catcher, and makes consistent contact. He’s not known for his power, but he can drive the ball to the gaps and put one over the fence every once in awhile. He has 20+ homerun potential.
Plawecki is a solid defender, and calls a good game. He has a very accurate arm and can definitely develop into a solid everyday catcher at the big league level. Expect him to start 2013 in Savannah, and potentially make the jump to Binghamton. After spending a few years in college, there should be less of a need to polish his game in the lower levels of the organization. If he continues to progress, expect Plawecki to join the Mets sometime in late 2014 or 2015.
Plawecki seems like the most likely candidate to be behind the dish in the near future for the Mets. With Maron’s profile, he may also put on the blue and orange one day, but it would most likely be in a backup role. The wildcard in the prospect mix is clearly Nido. If he can develop and start tapping into his power, the Mets will have a very dangerous hitter at their disposal. Keep your eyes on Nido, he has the potential to give the Mets their first home run threat from behind the plate since Mike Piazza.
All of these prospects are at minimum two full seasons away from breaking in with the big league team. Unless Alderson is satisfied with waiting to see if one of these guys pan out and decides to stick with Thole in the mean time, they will have to address the catching situation in either free agency or trade.