3/30/15

D Whit - Cesar's Last Stand?

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The resolution of the Cesar Puello situation is coming soon. The 23 year old prospect has seen his star rise and fall a few times during his Met career. The final act of which may be just a few days away. I can’t imagine there’s not at least one team who wouldn’t jump at the chance to grab a potential 5 tool guy like Puello with the hopes he’d blossom up their tutelage. 

The loss of Puello would not hurt the Mets today, but in future seasons it could-probably around 2017. By that time Cuddyer will be gone and Granderson probably no longer a full-time player. In a perfect world Conforto and Nimmo should be ready by then to flank Lagares but when is the MLB world ever perfect. Kirk and den Dekker will be probably still be around too. By that time Puello may be starring in the outfield of Tampa Bay or worse yet the Phillies or Braves. At the very least he will be the lefty side of an OF platoon, and possibly a full time starter. 

That’s looking ahead but let’s return to the present for a minute. The problem with Puello is that you can’t keep him around as a 4th or 5th outfielder because he needs regular playing time. He’s not ready for full time MLB action yet, but could be by mid-season, of course at the point he most likely will be in a another team’s organization. I suppose the loss of Puello became a fait accompli with the signing of Mayberry, if not earlier. Still it’s never a good thing to lose one of the most talented players in the organization. 

To see his potential just rewind back to 2013 and the season he was having at Binghamton before the PED suspension. That suspension definitely changed the entire trajectory of Puello’s Met future. Instead of being clearly on the radar as potential future Met star, he sat out the final 50 games of that season and entered 2014 as a murky question mark instead of a solid exclamation point. The team didn’t know if his success was chemically induced while Puello was rusty after the long layoff, despite playing winter ball, and Puello was probably questioning his success a bit too. Puello’s PED suspension caused the team to look to other options for the future, resulting in the drafting of Conforto, and later the signings of Cuddyer and Mayberry. 

The 50 game PED suspension changed the future of Puello and in many ways the Mets outfield as wll. We’ll find out soon if this the end of his story with the Mets or if there will be a future chapter. I wouldn’t bet on it though. Unfortunately, in addition to the aforementioned teams, picking up Puello seems like the kind of thing the Pinstriped rivals in the Bronx would do.
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The Morning Report 3.30.2015 | Extension Talks for Duda, The Fight Continues for #5 SP Role, Opening Day Starting 2B

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Matt Ehalt | North Jersey- After setting career highs in homers and RBI, Duda is being counted on to be a key cog in the lineup. He said his talks regarding an extension have been "preliminary" and "hopefully" it works out. "New York gave me the shot to play in the big leagues. It’s definitely a first-class organization," Duda said after Sunday’s 3-2 win over St. Louis. "Unbelievable players, unbelievable staff. I’m blessed to be in the position I am. I’m very thankful."

(Chris Soto: Hey....why not? As long as the extension is no longer than say 3 additional years...I'm all for it. Nothing in Duda's numbers last season suggest regression and with power being at such a premium in this era of baseball, when you have it, you need to hold onto it as best as you can.)


David Lennon | Newsday- Gee returned to a starting role when Zack Wheeler was lost to Tommy John surgery, with the assumption that he would take over the fifth spot once the regular season began. But after Sunday's seven-inning start, Gee said the Mets still have not told him of their plans. Manager Terry Collins suggested that Rafael Montero, who will start Monday against the Marlins, still is in contention for the spot. "We're going to wait a while," Collins said.

(Chris Soto: As it should be. Gee has pitched well since the Zack Wheeler injury, however, for every good start he has had....Montero has matched it. Quite honestly, I would not be surprised if the club is secretly showcasing Gee for a potential trade for an established left handed reliever. It's been rumored that the club is still interested in LHRP Rex Brothers and after the Rockies released Jhoulys Chacin, there seems to be a rotation spot to fill over there.)


Anthony DiComo | MLB.com- With each passing day, it appears less and less likely that Murphy will heal in time for Opening Day, meaning the Mets must choose amongst Reynolds, Danny Muno or Ruben Tejada at second base. A week shy of Opening Day, Reynolds' track record gives him the apparent edge. "It definitely sets in a little bit, but nothing changes how I go about my business," he said. "I feel like I've been working really hard this camp. I came in working hard. It doesn't change just because I suddenly get thrown into the mix."

(Chris Soto: Quite frankly, as much as I would like to see Reynolds make the team.....Ruben Tejada has had an excellent Spring Training both offensively and defensively from a versatility standpoint. I haven't seen him hit this well since his breakout 2012 season. So far he's hitting .260 with a .721 OPS thanks to 7 doubles and 11 RBIs in 17 games. In comparison though, Muno is hitting .381 with a .971 OPS in 21 games and Reynolds is even better with a .381 AVG and a .995 OPS in 19 games.)
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3/29/15

Positional Ranking - LF

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#24 Mets


NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
Michael Cuddyer595.262.319.432.3299.2-0.6-10.11.1
John Mayberry35.226.292.377.297-0.30.0-0.10.0
Matt den Dekker35.237.295.364.293-0.40.0-0.10.0
Kirk Nieuwenhuis35.221.290.382.297-0.30.00.20.1
Total700.257.315.423.3248.2-0.5-10.11.2

The ever-present, stubbornly persistent Michael Cuddyer took his talents to Flushing Meadows this offseason, bringing with him a bat that seemingly refuses to age when healthy (his 2014 batted ball distance was just behind Yasiel Puig). However, the issue of health is the main question for “Cuddy”, as he’s missed a lot of time over the past three seasons, especially in 2014, when he was on the 60-day DL for a fractured shoulder. The move from Coors Field to Citi Field is also a question, though Citi has shown itself to be kinder to right-handed power than first assumed. If Cuddyer can stay healthy, he should produce well above-average offensive numbers, but his poor defense in left field will always drag his WAR numbers down. The trio of platoon/defensive specialists John MayberryMatt den Dekker, and Kirk Nieuwenhuis figure to split any remaining at-bats, assuming Cuddy stays healthy.

Mack - I don't worry as much about his bat as I do his legs and glove. There also is always a good chance that his body will break down again and wind up on the disabled list.

No one will ever admit this, but I don't think the Mets signed him thinking he would be their top pick signed in the off-season. I think Sandy Alderson expected a lot more off-season action than he wound up with.

Still, Cuddyer is no slouch and his spring power outburst (5 home runs) may prove out that he can hit with power outside of Colorado.

I didn't fall in love with this signing, and I'm not sure if I ever will, but if he falls into a lineup of Wrignt, Duda, d'Arnaud, and Flores... all of which could hit over 20 home runs...  then the power on this team will be more spread out rather than be concentrated with one or two batters.

However...

I wouldn't be surprised, due to future injuries, that Mayberry and Nieuwenhuis combined get the same amount of at-bats as Cuddyer does.
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KATOH - Ranking of Farm Systems

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Below, you’ll find the organizational farm system rankings according to KATOH.

TeamSum of WAR thru 28
Texas Rangers101.0
New York Yankees89.2
New York Mets88.2
Chicago Cubs83.9
Los Angeles Dodgers80.4
Houston Astros63.8
Boston Red Sox62.4
Pittsburgh Pirates55.9
Arizona Diamondbacks50.9
Tampa Bay Rays49.6
Kansas City Royals47.8
Seattle Mariners46.3
Atlanta Braves46.0
St. Louis Cardinals45.2
Cleveland Indians38.3
Detroit Tigers37.4
Toronto Blue Jays37.3
Minnesota Twins36.8
Chicago White Sox36.3
Oakland Athletics33.6
Baltimore Orioles33.4
Washington Nationals33.4
Colorado Rockies33.0
Philadelphia Phillies32.9
San Francisco Giants32.7
San Diego Padres30.1
Cincinnati Reds28.2
Milwaukee Brewers20.9
Los Aneles Angels of Anahiem17.2
Miami Marlins16.6

top 400

Mack - This is pretty damn impressive. When was the last time we saw the Mets ranked number one in anything?

I give Sandy Alderson most of the credit here because most of Omar Minaya's 'prospects' have graduated and also Alderson hasn't traded any of the good ones away. Bad for today, great for future years.
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Reese Kaplan -- Final Bench Pieces

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As Spring Training draws to a close there appears to be only two roster position battles among the bench players.  There are people doing everything they can to make an impression, though the tendency for the Mets is to go with the familiar player despite underwhelming results rather than taking a chance on someone new.  (We'll leave out the fact that it takes a direct order from the front office to get the manager to pencil a new name onto the lineup card.)  Let’s take a look at the contenders for each of these last two positions and see how they compare to one another.

Eric Campbell vs. Daniel Muno

“Soup” was a great story last year.  He was a long time minor league veteran who slowly and steadily climbed the ladder to the big leagues.  As a 27 year old rookie, the combination of his batting average and his positional versatility got him into Queens on the big club where he sat on the bench watching Bobby Abreu and others get chances to play while he collected splinters.  By the time his manager deigned to insert him into the lineup, he got out of whatever good hitting groove he’d been in and finished the season slumping badly, striking out in 26% of his ABs.  His minor league career was respectable.  He was a .284 hitter who knew how to work the counts (resulting in a career .380 OBP mark).  He never showed as much power as you might expect for a 6’3” 205 pound hitter, but still managed to produce a .416 SLG over his 2600 career minor league ABs.  During his various stops along the way he played all over the diamond, including significant stints at 1B, 3B and LF. 

This year’s Eric Campbell appears to be Danny Muno.  Leo Durocher once famously said of Eddie Stanky,  "He can't hit, can't run, can't field. He's no nice guy ... all the little SOB can do is win."  The same might be said about Muno.  When you look at his numbers, nothing is too eye popping, yet it seems whenever he plays he’d on base in the middle of things.  He’s hit as many as 14 HRs in 455 ABs (extrapolated out to about 19 on a full season).  He’s stolen as many as 19 bases (extrapolated out to about 38).  He’s a career .276 hitter.  He’s delivered a .395 OBP and a .419 SLG throughout his 1600 minor league ABs.  He’s a switch hitter who has played 2B, SS and a little bit at 3B.  At age 26 this year he’s not yet been in the majors.

Now Spring Training stats must be taken with something of a grain of salt as they are small sample sizes, yet when you compare the two players Muno has outpaced Campbell in this race.  Thus far for the spring Campbell is hitting .241 with 2 HRs, 9 RBIs, 8 walks, 9 strikeouts and a stolen base.  His OBP is .392 and his SLG is .561.Danny Muno is hitting .378 with 1 HR, 4 RBIs, 4 walks, 6 strikeouts and a stolen base.  His OBP is .452 and his SLG is .541. 

Given he is a faster baserunner, left handed, and can play both middle infield positions, it would seem like it couldn’t hurt anything to give Muno a chance and keep Campbell ready in Las Vegas.  If the experiment fails, you can flip-flop them.

Anthony Recker vs. Johnny Monell 

A similar situation faces the Mets when it comes to the backup catcher role.  Anthony Recker has seemed to have had a knack for slugging home runs at opportune moments but in between the long balls he’s below the Mendoza line for his major league career.  At age 30 he’s still never been able to muster more than the 174 ABs in a season that he got for the Mets last year.  For his career he’s had 375 ABs and delivered a solid 14 HRs and 50 RBIs but hit a paltry .197 while striking out 36% of the time.  He’s looked good behind the plate and has the notable honor of gunning down Cincinnati’s Billy Hamilton.

Johnny Monell is a career minor leaguer who has show great pop for a catcher, slugging as many as 20 HRs in a minor league season spanning 415 ABs.  That extrapolates out to about 29 HRs for a full season as a starter.  That’s pretty serious power.  The same holds true for his 71 RBIs which would turn into over 100.  This spring he’s done little to diminish his reputation as a solid hitter while posting a .316 AVG with 3 HRs and 8 RBIs over 37 spring ABs.  Extrapolated over the course of a full season that’s 48/129 – not likely to happen, but indicative that he’s got some serious run-producing ability.  Throw in the fact he’s a left handed hitter and it means you can choose which days to sit Travis d’Arnaud when tough righties like Stephen Strasburg or Max Scherzer pitch and insert Monell into the lineup. 

Recker has minor league options available, so, just like the situation with Campbell, you could stash the veteran in Vegas and give the chance to someone with the potential to be even better.  You still have the fallback of promoting Recker should Monell fail to adjust at the big league level. 

We Come to Bury Cesar, Not to Praise Him

Cesar Puello is obviously not in the Mets plans and his lack of opportunity this spring parallels what happened during his post-suspension year in 2014.    He’s not done himself any favors by hitting .241 with no homers and no RBIs across 29 ABs, so his days in Mets minor league laundry are apparently over.  The only hope is that he’s done SO poorly that he’ll pass through waivers unclaimed, but even then he’s likely not to get a starting role in AAA either, so it looks as if he’s going the way of Brandon Allen and Cory Vaughn.  
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Mack - Mike Nickeas

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photo  by Mack Ade 
Catcher Mike Nickeas retired. 

One of the nicest and most intelligent baseball players I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.

Nickeas attended college at Georgia Tech. He was selcted in the 5th round of the 2004 draft by Texas. In 2005, He batted .202 (49-242) with 7 doubles, 1 triple, 5 home runs and 24 RBI in 68 games with Frisco in 2005. He also, hit .286 (6-21) with 1 double, 1 home run and 1 RBI with the rookie-level Arizona Rangers.

Nickeas was named the best defensive catcher in the Rangers' organization by Baseball America in 2005. In 2006, Nickeas appeared in 17 games with Bakersfield (A) of the California League this year, batting .297 (19-64) with 6 runs scored, 4 doubles and 6 RBI. Mike missed three weeks of action in May with a pulled hamstring before he was promoted to Frisco (AA) of the Texas League on May 28th. Nickeas hit .248 (28-113) with 15 runs scored, 7 doubles, 2 home runs, 15 RBI with 21 walks and 22 strikeouts in 39 contests with Frisco.

The Mets acquired Nickeas from Texas in exchange for OF Victor Diaz. He was assigned to the B-Mets after the trade and managed to get in 12 at bats before the season ended.

Nickeas is a fundamentally sound defender with average catch-and-throw skills and an athletic background. Born in Canada and raised in California, his English-born father was a professional soccer player. Despite his international background, Nickeas caught for Team USA last summer and as a prep player on the junior national team. He has average tools across the board, though he's a below-average runner. He struggled at the plate this season, with his average and slugging numbers down considerably from 2003. He isn't afraid to draw a walk, but scouts say he's been passive at the plate this season.

In January 2007, www.GothamBaseball.com surprisingly (IMO) listed Nickeas as the 10th top Mets prospect. Also in January, Rotoworld had him as the 15th top Mets prospect.

Nickeas started the 2007 season ‘extended’, but was transferred to Binghamton in late April (.271/.281/.278 in 212 at bats).

In September 2007, Nickeas was assigned to play in the Arizona Winter League (which is always a sign that the organization wants to invest more time and money in you)

7-11-10: - Mike hit his third home run of the season for Binghamton on Sunday. He’s been a .231 lifetime hitter going into this season, so his current .310 BA is a welcomed surprise for the 27-year old. Comments: I have become a very big fan of Nickeas, both as a player and a possible catching coach. He is a very intelligent human being who has been a great influence on players like Josh Thole. He also, by the way, has a great swing and is a very nice person He has always treated me with respect, which isn’t the norm for a Mets writer. I’m not convinced he will ever get a chance to start in Queens, but, if the pitchers had a say, he would. Reminds me of a young Mike DeFelice. This is the catcher you want to work with your prospects is AAA and AA.


My First Interview With Mike -

9-30-10 Interview:

Mack: - This morning we're talking with a real live New York Met, catcher Mike Nickeas. Morning Mike, what have you been doing lately (he he..

Mike: - Hi Mack, just continuing to learn and appreciate the game.

Mack: - Okay, well, we'll ask you about that single up the middle off of Yovani Gallardo later on in the interview...

Let's go back to 2004 when you were a 5th round draft pick by the Texas Rangers, out of GT. What was that day like? .

Nickeas: - It was very exciting, I remember feeling like my name was never going to be called. I was sat in a hotel room with my parents and my wife (girlfriend at the time), and when my name was called we all stood up and screamed and hugged, it was very cool.

Mack: - You came to the Mets in a great deal for OF Victor Diaz in 2006. And, for the next three seasons you played primarily at the AAA and AA level. I've asked many of the pitchers who they would like to have them catch them and you and Mike DeFelice win that survey hands down. Do you credit a mentor for some of the catching skills you possess? .

Nickeas: - Being compared to Mike is a wonderful compliment, I'm fortunate enough to have played with and been coached by him. I've been so fortunate to have had wonderful "catching guys" my entire career. Scott Stricklin at GT was wonderful and gave me great foundation to build upon. Don Wakamatsu and Damon Berryhill with Texas helped me tremendously. However, nobody has helped me more mentally than Bob Natal, I feel like he got me over the minor league hump, and he has always believed in my ability. So I was very fortunate to have such wonderful coaches along the way.

Mack: - Mike, you've been mostly known as a defensive specialist, but the bat came awake this year for Binghamton (.283/.403/.396/.799, in 265-AB). Was there something different you did to prepare yourself for that season? .

Nickeas: - I think the adjustments came when I went to Binghamton and was able to spend some time with Luis Natera and Tim Teufel. Luis really took me under his wing and remolded my swing. Tuff gave me an opportunity to play everyday, which is something I really have had until this year. I think in a lot of ways the stars just aligned and I performed.

Mack: - I hope somebody makes Tuff the #2 man behind the new manager... most of the current team was coached by him... well, that leaves us with this year and your call to Queens... I watched the night you started your first game and was thrilled for you... tell us all what it was like for you? .

Nickeas: - It was a great moment for me, it really is hard to describe what that moment meant to me and what it will always mean to me.

Mack: - I can't imagine. Listen, you've done well and the Mets are a better organization with someone like you in it. Best of everything this summer and I'll see you in Lucy come March. .

Nickeas: - Thank you Mack, see you then.

10-1-10: - 2011 Forecast: - Nickeas made the jump to Queens late in this season and there is a good chance he could return next spring as the 3rd string catcher. Frankly, I'd rather have him play every day in Buffalo, in case an injury hits Josh Thole. Nickeas has quickly become the teaching catcher and I continue to predict he will some day be a Mets coach.


Every Mets pitcher loved being caught by Mike and he’s always smile when I told him that he will someday become a great catching coach in the majors. I hope my prediction comes true. I know you’re a reader out there Mike. Best of everything and thanks for the memories.
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3/28/15

Positional Ranking - RF

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#20 Mets


NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
Curtis Granderson525.227.316.410.3235.51.4-1.61.7
John Mayberry70.226.292.377.297-0.60.0-0.20.1
Kirk Nieuwenhuis56.221.290.382.297-0.50.00.30.1
Matt den Dekker49.237.295.364.293-0.60.1-0.10.0
Total700.227.310.401.3163.81.5-1.71.9

Curtis Granderson has accomplished plenty in a career that includes more than 35 WAR, plenty of highlight reel catches, and two 40 homer seasons. He also has charisma and class coming of his ears, so it’s pretty easy to root for him to do well. That made 2014 a little difficult given that he was a below average player. Perhaps more interestingly, Granderson’s arm stopped functioning.

While DRS and UZR have different opinions of Granderson’s range in right field, they both think his arm is completely for decoration. DRS says he cost the team eight runs with his arm and UZR calls it 7.4 runs, the worst among right fielders with at least 700 innings last year by a comfortable margin. Even when Granderson was a great defender, he didn’t do much of the work with his arm, but I suspect now that he doesn’t have the range he used to, there’s less room to hide.

Fortunately for John Mayberry, he doesn’t have to hide from his manager when right handed starters  are on the mound now that he’s backing up the left handed Granderson. Mayberry’s been 30% better than league average at the plate against southpaws in his career, but righties have eaten him alive to the tune of an 81 wRC+.

Matt den Dekker will probably end up floating between Triple A and the majors to spell the aging corner outfielders, but the other 27 year old on this list, Kirk Nieuwenhuis is the one to watch. His 130 PA in 2014 were BABIP fueled and likely unsustainable, but he walked a ton and hit for power in addition to his high strikeout numbers. Even if he’s half as good as he was in his stint last year, he should be a nice option off the bench.

Mack - I don't see Grandy with the injury potential that Cuddyer has in left field, thus I feel that the lion share of games will be played with him in right.

I absolutely love his spring numbers but I'll believe them (in the regular season) when I see them. As I have said on a previous post, it is extremely important for both him and Travis d'Arnaud to start off the season hitting above the .250 range.

I believe it will happen so I think that Mayberry and Nieuwenhius will get the major about of their at-bats platooning from the other corner position.

Lastly, none of the Mets outfielders scream out to you as mega-starts, but they all are capable of putting together an above average season. That may be all they need to do with this pitching staff.


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Tom Brennan - OFFENSIVE IMPROVEMENT

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Tom Brennan - OFFENSIVE IMPROVEMENT 

Just something to chew on - the Mets' spring offense the past 3 years worked out pretty much as follows: 

.246 average, ,320 OB%, .372 slug %, 4.4 runs per game, 2.6 extra base hits per game. Paltry. 

This spring, so far: 

.291 average, .361 OB%, .487 slug %, 5.9 runs per game, 4.0 extra base hits per game. Muscular.  See Juggernaut above, and you'll get the idea.

Things are clearly looking up offensively.  Those who are Negative Nellies might say that some of the offense is unsustainable, that much of the surge this spring is from guys who may not make the team, etc.

I personally think it is a harbinger of a large increase in scoring for this team in 2015, of perhaps 100-150 runs over last year's 629.  Which means a lot more wins in 2015.  

The Juggernaut lives, and is coming soon to Queens.  Exciting.
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Positional Rankings - Mets Catchers

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#12 Mets

NamePAAVGOBPSLGwOBABatBsRFldWAR
Travis d’Arnaud480.253.312.434.3266.30.0-6.62.6
Anthony Recker128.207.270.360.280-2.8-0.2-0.50.3
Kevin Plawecki32.245.298.364.294-0.40.00.00.1
Total640.244.303.415.3153.2-0.2-7.13.0

Say this about Travis d’Arnaud: He (mostly) stayed healthy in 2014, after missing time in each of the two previous years to left leg injuries. His first full season was generally a success, though it gets a lot more interesting if you look at his first- and second-half splits:
First half: .217/.292/.354 (81 wRC+)
Second half: .265/.313/.474 (124 wRC+)
You can’t simply look at that and presume that what he was in the second half is the player he’ll be going forward, but with Mets fans still reeling from the Zack Wheeler injury, let’s give them something to dream on here. Appropriately, the non-Fan projection systems aren’t going overboard on d’Arnaud, because the others all see him as a ~112 wRC+ guy, which is more than good enough. Anthony Recker is a mere placeholder, but it’s not him that d’Arnaud has to worry about. It’s Kevin Plawecki, who has done nothing but hit his way up the ladder, and reached Triple-A last year. N0. 40 on Kiley McDaniel’s Top 200 list, he should make his big league debut sometime late in 2015, and the Mets may have a decision to make on their long-term future behind the plate next winter.

Mack - Let's face it... the future of Mets catching will make a lot more sense if Arnaud works out as the kind of player he was projected to be as a prospect. 

I believe he has the bat to make it big time, but I'm not sure about the body. He also has more bad luck behind the plate than any catcher I have seen in years. 

Lastly, his almost obsession with framing continues to cause too many passed balls. He needs to keep his eye on the ball being thrown, especially when most of them from this staff are over 90 miles per hour.

I love the potential of Plawecki, but, in my book, this is d'Arnaud's job in 2015... and, if he plays his cards right, well past that date.
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