We’re just 28 days from Spring Training and it’s the time we take a look at players who will have a big role for the Mets in 2018. I have already looked at Jacob deGrom and Paul Sewald so far in this rather short series.
Kevin Plawecki will be splitting time with Travis d’Arnaud behind the dish in what will likely be a 50-50 split of playing time. Defensively, Plawecki was the ninth best defensive catcher in 2015 according to Baseball Prospectus. In 2016, he graded out as the 16th best defensive catcher in baseball. 2017 wasn’t a great year for him, but he really didn’t have a large enough sample size to make an accurate judgment on his defense. Between 2015 and 2016, Plawecki saved 17 runs with his pitch framing though, so I think he’ll do just fine with the glove in 2018.
Plawecki’s offense was always hindered him. He always hit in Las Vegas but would always come up to the Majors and struggle. His biggest issue was his ground balls and inability to elevate. Those issues are masked in the minors but they are rather large in the majors. Kevin Plawecki hit .206/.282/.278 in the Majors from the day he was called up to the day after Rene Rivera was traded for cash.
Plawecki was dominating Vegas in 2017 but something was different. I was tracking his spray chart on MLB Farms and noticed he was putting the ball in the air more. This was different because even despite his Vegas track record, Plawecki always used to hit balls on the ground. His groundball rate at Vegas in 2014 was 54%. That number was 50% in 2015 and 47.9% in 2016 but in 2017, it dropped to 35.7%.
After he was recalled in late August, Kevin Plawecki hit .303/.411/.474 with a .391 wOBA. Statcast does not believe it was a fluke because it had Plawecki at a .371 expected weighted on-base average. Plawecki continued his attempts to keep the ball off the ground and he started to make solid contact with balls in the air. Plawecki had a lot of success when he pulled the ball in the air.
Plawecki’s ground ball after being called up following Rivera’s departure was 46%, which was four points lower than his ground ball rate in his previous MLB stints. While four points do not seem huge, the Italian-Canadian God of Hitting, Joey Votto, said, “Everyone goes into the season and they want to make all these crazy changes and they want to improve so drastically. But to get two or three percent better at something is really, really great.” So while Plawecki is not at the level of elevation as someone like Jay Bruce is, he’s chipping away at it. If he keeps at it in 2018, he should be just fine.
It seems Kevin Plawecki bought into the fly ball revolution. I’m a believer in him being an above average catcher in 2018. I think Kravis Plawr’naud will prove to be the least of our worries in 2018.