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.