1/21/13

Herb G. - Depth at Catcher and a Pen Idea

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Photo by Mack Ade
For an organization that was said to be barren behind the plate just a few short months ago, it seems the Mets are suddenly replete with catchers. It is apparent to most of us at this point that Travis d’Arnaud will open the season as the starting catcher in Las Vegas, with John Buck playing the role of the squatter in New York. Squatters, you know, are people who hope for a permanent place but are often evicted by the rightful owners of the space. Look for Buck to hold down the fort for at least six weeks, although if he gets off to a hot start and the Mets are winning, he could be there longer, as young Travis builds his confidence beating up on pitchers in the Neon Mecca, as he did in an injury shortened season last year.

Who will be Buck’s back-up during his short stint as top banana behind the plate at Citi? Good question! Until a day or two ago the most likely candidate for second banana was 29 year old Anthony Recker, and perhaps he still is. With all of 79 MLB plate appearances, mostly with Oakland, he boasts a .152 Avg. with decent defense and a good arm. In an 8 year minor league career, Recker compiled a satisfactory record offensively, with a slash line of .272/.351/.459/.810, hitting as many as 16 HRs as recently as 2011. Recker, however, is a right handed batter, as is Buck, and the Mets might like to have someone who can hit from the left side to compliment Buck.

Perhaps that is why Sandy Alderson signed switch hitting, 30 year old Landon Powell, who also spent considerable time in the A’s organization, and who got much more playing time than Recker in 2011, the one year they coincided on the A’s active roster. Powell is a former first round draft pick by the A’s, who has not yet demonstrated an ability to hit major league pitching. In his 406 MLB plate appearances, his offensive stats are only slightly less unimpressive (forgive the double negative) than Recker’s. His minor league performance is also similar to Recker’s, both offensively and defensively. Could Powell’s ability to bat from both sides be the deciding factor? Maybe it will. But unfortunately, Powell seems to be a better hitter from the right side, which might negate his ambidextrous abilities. It could come down to Spring Training performance.

The dark horse in the mix is Juan Centeno. A 23 year old invitee to Spring Training, he has no major league record to blight his resume. In his 6 years rising through the Mets minor league organization, reaching AA last year, he has shown growth. He bats lefty, has flashed a good glove and has thrown out almost 40% of attempted base stealers. With a stellar spring could he beat out Recker and Powell? Only time will tell.

I led off this article alluding to catching depth. At some point soon, d’Arnaud and Buck will be the catching tandem in the majors, at which time we will see a game of musical chairs, with Powell, Recker, Centeno and Gronauer vying for spots in Las Vegas and Binghamton. More importantly, right behind them will be two potentially strong catching prospects in Cam Maron and Kevin Plawecki. Maron had an outstanding season at Savannah last year, hitting .300 and showing excellent plate discipline resulting in an OBP greater then.400. His defense needs work, and he will have plenty of time to work on it as the likely starter in St. Lucie this year. Plawecki, the Mets’ highly touted pick in the supplemental first round last year, had a satisfactory pro debut in Brooklyn. His offense is his strong suit, and he is more than adequate defensively. He is currently ranked as the Mets’ #17 prospect in Jonathan Mayo’s mlb.com prospect rankings. Come 2015 or 2016, if he reaches near his ceiling, we could see Plawecki just behind d’Arnaud in the Mets’ depth chart at C on the major league roster.

All this talk about catching makes me think of the other side of the battery. Looking over some stats recently, I thought about our needs in the bull pen, and came up with this thought. How about offering Freddy Garcia a minor league contract? He had a down season with the Yankees last year, but he had stellar splits in 13 relief appearances. A small sample, but playing most games in a hitters park, he had a 2.42 ERA and a 0.940 WHIP, with 3.40 K/BB and a .198 BAA in his relief appearances. If I’m Sandy, I’m checking in on Freddy.

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