Going into the 2017 season, this question had appeared to have been answered already. At the time, I could have easily said that Kevin Plawecki‘s best chance of remaining in the majors would be strictly as a back-up catcher on this team.
Plawecki had only amassed 121 games in the big leagues between the 2015 and 2016 seasons and his results were less than satisfactory on the offensive end.
In 2015, the then 24-year old catcher hit .219/.280/.296 with three home runs and 21 RBIs to go along with a 59 wRC+. Prior to his arrival, many in the organization were under the belief that he could develop into being one of the toughest players in the league to strikeout.
However, many were left disappointed when he struck out at a 23.3% clip, which while not terrible, the rate was much higher than anticipated.
The trend continued in 2016 as he managed to hit a mere .197/.298/.265 with one home run and 11 RBIs to give him a 58 wRC+. He also maintained the higher than expected strikeout percentage at 21.9%.
His defense, though is what made him a clear option as a back-up in the future as he had seven defensive runs saved in 2015 and one in 2016.
Those numbers in total would put him perfectly in line with many back-ups in the league as most tend to be solid defenders that struggle offensively.
2017 started a different conversation, though, despite only playing in 37 games at the major-league level. He hit .260/.364/.400 with three homers and 13 RBIs to give him a 106 wRC+.
On top of that, his strikeout rate dipped all the way down to 14.4%, which was much lower than his previous career numbers.
Many attribute this difference to be a result of a change in approach and his swing. He has now tried to focus on launch angle, which many players such as Chris Taylor and J.D. Martinez have done successfully.
He also was a net zero in the field defensively, which while below his normal average, is not necessarily a bad thing considering Travis d’Arnaud has struggled on that front. Therefore, Plawecki’s average defense could be welcomed.
So what is the answer to the question posed above?
To me, the answer is yes. He has shown dramatic improvements over the last year and if the trend continues, he might be able to live up to the hype.
He could very well be a solid starting catcher in this league and could be a difference maker on this team. The Mets have struggled to find a solid starting catcher since the days of Paul Lo Duca and to find a long-term answer at the position.
Kevin Plawecki could be that guy and the Mets need to give him every chance to reach his potential.