Reese Kaplan -- A Catching Quandary

When he’s healthy, Travis d’Arnaud is looking like the real deal offensively to be a foundational brick for the Mets for the foreseeable future.  However, the team has talked off and on about him possibly taking another position on the diamond to minimize the potential for the many dings he’d take in his customary place behind the dish.   Furthermore, while his pitch framing skills certainly seem to be major league, his ability to throw out would-be base stealers is rather Piazza-like.   Once you cross a certain threshold in performance offensively, your defense doesn’t really matter all that much.  No one is suggesting d’Arnaud will ever be Mike Piazza, hence the thought about putting him elsewhere to improve defense at the catcher position and to prolong his days on the field.

The problem, of course, is that the alternatives they’ve trotted out over the past few years when d’Arnaud has not been available have frankly been odiferous in their on-field performance.  The now departed Anthony Recker couldn’t crack the Mendoza line.  Minor league slugging Johnny Monell and defensive whiz Juan Centeño never got the opportunity to show what they could do as the manager kept going back to the Recker well again and again. 

This past year brought a little bit of hope in the form of Kevin Plawecki whose minor league resume showed a guy with an excellent eye at the plate, modest power, and good batting average.  In 1126 minor league ABs he delivered a .290 average, 27 HRs and 180 RBIs while walking 100 times and striking out on just 137 occasions.  Those numbers break down to about .290/14/90 over the course of a single season.  It looked like they would finally have an answer to who could fill in admirably for d’Arnaud whenever he went onto the DL.

Unfortunately a funny thing happened on the way to rookie stardom.  Kevin Plawecki was plain awful in 2015.  He had 233 ABs and the things you liked about his minor league resume vanished.  He struck out 60 times and walked just 17.  His power vanished with just 3 HRs and 21 RBIs and the batting average was only modestly better than Recker’s at .219 for the year.   

The result of this lackluster freshman campaign is that he’s no longer the blue chip type of prospect that the team could think about trading, but unless he gets it into gear he’s also not a viable everyday player that would enable them to shift d’Arnaud to the outfield or a corner infield position if that is indeed in his best long term interest. 
No one is sure whether it was first year jitters, a poor adjustment to the better stuff from big league pitchers or that he simply hit the wall in his development.  It’s going to be a telling year for Plawecki because as he goes, so goes the fate of several other players including, perhaps, Lucas Duda.  


Anonymous said...

I think KP needs another year to see what he is in the majors. A C has the most to learn defensively for a prospect and when you add in the staff he has to learn/manage, it doesn't surprise me that he did not hit stride offensively, much like TDA in his first year. I am all for keeping him as backup and using one or both at 1B to spell Duda. It is an advantage to have two quality receivers and it is too early yet to judge what each of them are, so go with what you have and make long term decisions next year.
Anon Joe F

Mack Ade said...

In today's game, you NEVER keep your 'backup' catcher on the major league roster, sitting on the bench. Heck, the second string catcher shouldn't even be considered a member of the bench. He's just there to finish any game that your starter gets injured in.

Your 'backup' catcher (in today's game) should always be starting in AAA, keeping his game fresh and building on his stat line (especially if he is hitting in an atmosphere similar to Saturn).

The worst thing that can happen here is that some other team offers you a chip for his services.

Reese Kaplan said...

So if I understand you correctly, you feel the Mets are better served with a Recker/Centeno type who is there for emergencies and spot starts while keeping your next-in-line in Las Vegas.

Mack Ade said...

Reese -

Yes. You're a phone call and a plane ride away for your "#2 starter" to be in the lineup

Thomas Brennan said...

I think I side with Reese here if 2015 was just a Plawecki stuggle due to getting forced into the bigs, and he comes out of the gate much stronger in 2016. If either KP or TDA can get in a combined 40 games starting at 3rd or first, that is 200 starts. Say 135 for Travis, 65 for Plawecki, and no discernible dip in quality when KP plays.

That ought to add 2-4 more wins than overusing d'Afraid and starting a lousy back up the 25 games he sits.

Have one guy if possible on roster who could catch if both are used in a game and one is pulled, then the other gets hurt.

Bob Sugar said...

I think you give too much credit to TA offensively. I see him as overrated on offense. He is a average hitting catcher in my opinion and will always be one. The minors are a long time ago for TA

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