Although we’re only a dozen or so games into the New York Mets’ Grapefruit League schedule, there have been quite a few positives to take away so far.
Don’t get me wrong, there have been a handful of setbacks, injuries or otherwise too, but one area has most definitely not been a concern thus far in Port St. Lucie: The Mets’ catching platoon of Kevin Plawecki and Travis d’Arnaud have both gotten off to hot starts.
Whether it’s the absence of a true competition or the fact that they both know they’ll have considerable roles this year which has alleviated some pressure, neither of these guys have ever looked more comfortable during their respective tenures in Flushing.
So far this Spring, d’Arnaud has appeared in 10 games, compared to eight for Plawecki. The 29-year-old d’Arnaud, through 22 plate appearances, is 5-for-17 with four bases-on-balls, a double, a home run and two RBI. Throw in the fact that he’s only struck out three times gives us all good reason to hope that this may finally be the year that he breaks out.
As for Plawecki, this young man seems to have come into camp with a head full of steam and boatloads of confidence. Plaw is slashing .333/.444/.467, going 6-for-18 at the plate with two doubles, one home run, and six RBI.
Neither of these two players have blossomed into the guys they were projected to become, but the book isn’t out on either of them just yet. D’Arnaud’s MLB career has had its share of growing pains, to say the least.
Since taking over the starting catcher’s position full-time in 2014, he’s missed significant time to injury but, overall, has performed capably when he is healthy. His career slashes of .245/.306./406 don’t tell the complete story though, in my opinion.
Take 2015, for example. Before he got hurt in April, he was hitting .317 with two home runs and 10 RBI in 41 at-bats. When he returned in June, he put together a five-game hit streak before missing some more time (through all of July, practically).
After finishing out the year with .256/.363/.538 and .267/.326/.419 slashes in the months of August and September, respectively, and leading this team to an NL pennant, I think we saw the real Travis d’Arnaud.
While we are a few seasons removed from that, d’Arnaud has shown flashes of the player he can be. In the last month of last season, he hit .297/.343/ .656 with six homers and 19 RBI, his best month of the campaign.
If you’ve noticed, some of his most-successful times as a member of the New York Mets have come with Kevin Plawecki either backing him up or sharing time with him. Peculiar, isn’t it?
While Plawecki’s MLB service-time is nowhere near TdA’s, he’s also hit both peaks and valleys in his time up with the big club. His .222/.304/.310 career slash line over 465 at-bats is also misleading to me.
When the big guy gets hot, as we’ve all seen him do from time to time, man does he get hot. Let’s go with August of last year as an example. Plawecki went 8-for-22 with two doubles, a homer, and three RBI. His .364/.440/.591 slashes are the highest monthly marks in his short career.
He finished out the year hitting .283 with a .840 OPS (two HR, six RBI, two doubles, 10 walks) in September, signifying, to me at least, that Plaw is starting to transform into a real Major League player. That augurs pretty well for the New York Mets, and, apparently, for Travis d’Arnaud too.
Friday, Mets’ manager Mickey Callaway told Matt Ehalt of The Record that he plans on deciding who will start based more on the opposing team’s starting pitcher, as opposed to who the Mets’ starting pitcher is.
Travis d’Arnaud has had success versus righties (.244/.301/.403, 36 home runs, 120 RBI, 1,010 at-bats), but hasn’t exactly struggled against left-handers either (312 at-bats, 10 homers, 39 RBI, .250/.323/.417).
Kevin Plawecki, a right-handed hitter, actually hits righties better than he does lefties (.229/.313/.315 to .194/.272/.291, respectively), though he’s had a fairly small sample-size of appearances versus lefties (103 at-bats).
Whichever way Mickey decides to use them, if d’Arnaud and Plawecki can translate their early Spring Traning successes into regular-season triumphs, there’s a good chance the backstop position will be satisfactorily held together by these two.