With Spring Training bringing the usual discussion of which pitchers will start and which will be in the bullpen, the importance of their battery mate seems to be a conversation few are having.
Travis d’Arnaud was poised to be the future backstop of the Mets, but through injuries and lackluster performance we were also introduced to Kevin Plawecki. Despite brief flashes of what could be, both catchers have yet to prove that they should be the answer behind the plate.
Enter Tomas Nido, a 23-year-old catcher who made his Major League debut at the end of the 2017 season. Though we only got to see 10 at-bats from Nido, it was an interesting glimpse into a promising prospect.
Let’s look at the positives. Defensively, he’s solid. And solid, in this case, means one of the best defensive Minor League catchers. He has an above average pop time, an above average arm and has increasingly thrown out a higher percentage of runners as he’s matured. If someone is running, he gives the Mets the best chance to throw them out.
His 2017 season in Binghamton saw a decrease in passed balls, which shows maturity and increased handling of pitches.
Nido consistently expresses the pride he takes in developing relationships with his pitchers. With his increase in throwing runners out and decrease in passed balls, it’s easy to see he takes those relationships seriously. His job is to help the pitcher get back into the dugout as quick as possible, throwing out runners and avoiding passed balls complete that task.
Nido also has the reputation as a good receiver, framer and game caller with Mets minor league knuckleballer Mickey Jannis calling Nido perhaps the best defensive catcher in all of minor league baseball. Jannis said no one frames a pitch better than Nido and the catcher’s knowledge of the game and ability to call pitches reduces the stress that comes with pitching professionally.
With such shining positives come dim negatives. The most clear flaw in the package that is Tomas Nido is undoubtedly his offensive production. The 2016 season for Nido in St. Lucie saw the young catcher hit .320/.357/.459, while the 2017 season saw him hit only .232/.287/.354 in Binghamton.
Scouting reports, video and statistics show Nido’s biggest flaw to be weak contact. His approach last year is best described as overly aggressive, often putting himself in an early hole and subsequently chasing poor pitches late in at-bats. Not only did this lead to a decrease in slugging but also an increase in strikeouts.
Weak contact doesn’t suit the slow running Nido well, he found himself hitting into 27 double plays last season. A number that is incredibly concerning for a ball club that in 2017 only hit .257 with runners on base and struggled driving in runs.
Everything you need to know about Nido, however, is seen in the confidence the team has in him. Despite the decline in offensive numbers, they gave him the late 2017 call-up.
Realistically speaking, even with a good showing this spring, the 2018 season will start with the d’Arnaud and Plawecki tandem. They have the experience and both finished the 2017 season off strong.
The Mets pitchers are used to throwing to these guys. Starting a new catcher behind the plate to start the season could lead to some miscommunication based errors due to relationships not being fully developed.
That means this spring is very important for Nido, he has optimum time to develop relationships with all the pitchers and learn their tendencies. You can’t manufacture the bond between pitcher and catcher, that bond has to be forged over time and repetition.
Tomas Nido will start the season in the minors, but a summer call-up is a strong possibility given the injuries and inconsistent numbers that plague d’Arnaud and Plawecki. The team has confidence in him, pitchers rave about how he handles games and he’s shown signs of being a solid hitter on top of being an already plus defender.
D’Arnaud will be a free agent after the 2019 season and arbitration eligible for the final time after this season meaning there will be an opening soon for a catcher in the majors.
He’s going to get his chance to be the future backstop of the New York Mets if he chooses to seize it.