7/25/17

Tom Brennan - 2018 SEASON - CATCHER PROJECTIONS

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Tom Brennan - 2018 SEASON CATCHER PROJECTIONS

Now that Yogi Berra is playing for that big team in the sky, we will have to look elsewhere for our catching alternatives, especially since Mike Piazza also seems happy in retirement.  Both currently unavailable, but I will keep trying.
So, without the benefit of a full year’s data, since it is only later July, who do we have in-house that likes to wear masks for a living and is actually good at it?
TRAVIS D’ARNAUD: everyone says he is fragile, but maybe the 28 year old catcher (turns 29 just prior to spring training) just has had an unusual run of bad breaks, which catchers are prone to.  This year, he missed 3 weeks in May on another strange injury, but has been healthy the past 2 months, so maybe the bad luck is finally behind him. 
He was hitting .203 just before that injury and .255 since his return, a decent BA for a C, OK?  In 129 at bats since his return, he has 5 doubles and 5 homers too.  One can hope he at least maintains if not exceeds his post injury hitting pace over the last 9 weeks of a hopefully healthy season.  And 39 career homers, too, in 1,162 at bats. By catchers’ standards, not bad. 
Also not bad after last season’s pitifully low RBI output is his .288/.394/.475 split in 2017 when hitting with runners in scoring position. 
Only gunning down 6 of 37 would-be base stealers is not something to put on your resume – that is far from ideal; stolen bases can steal games from your club.  Not good.  Lastly, his passed ball horrors of 2014 have been much more normal since then.
So, let’s look at who is next.
RENE RIVERA:  Rivera turns 34 within a week, an age where many catchers start to fade offensively.  Rivera is only a career .217 hitter, with power close to d’Arnaud’s. 
Rivera started out this year looking like he might have figured out this hitting stuff, but going 8 for 49 in June and July dispels that theory.  He is very similar to former Met Anthony Recker as a hitter, as his low career average and 350 Ks in 1,245 big league at bats attest.
Some would automatically pencil him into the Mets catcher equation for 2018, but will the weak bat be far too much of a hindrance for the aging veteran in a two catcher system?  Could well be the case.  He is a superior defensive catcher to TDA, but his last 2 years, throwing out just 29 of 90 stealers, is not great and represents slippage from his Tampa days.
KEVIN PLAWECKI:  K Plaw will turn 27 about the same time next spring that d’Arnaud turns 29, so he is a bit younger.  He has really disappointed as a major league hitter, hitting only a low-power .206 over nearly 400 major league at bats.  He is hitting very well in Vegas this year (.330/.378/.528 in about 190 plate appearances) so there is still hope he could be a lower-powered version of Travis d’Arnaud. 
One area that has surprised me with Plawecki is that his K rate (so good in the minors) has been high in the bigs.  That leads me to think there is room for offensive improvement in the big leagues, as perhaps his much higher K rate is a sign that he has pressed too much.
Defensively, he has thrown out just 23 of 91 big leaguers, remarkably similar to his rate in Vegas over the past 3 years (22 for 90).  Substandard, but in this day and age of lower steal attempts, it is not desirable but also not a disqualifier if his bat can make up for it.  But the idea of having two sub-par defensive catchers in terms of base stealing on the same team sharing catching duties in 2018 is scary.
Assuming d’Arnaud and Rivera stay healthy, keeping Plawecki in the minors for now, I would get him up to Queens September 1 and play him a lot in September to see if he could generate some big league offensive success.
MAJOR LEAGUE SYNOPSIS:   All 3 of the above are mediocre. So how do things look in the minors.
AAA:  Xorge Carillo: .280/.335/.446 this year in about 200 plate appearances.  Will turn 29 next April.  But those offensive numbers are low for a possible major leaguer, and his 6 for 43 in steal stoppages is poor.  Let’s move on.
AA: Tomas Nido: last year’s St Lucie batting champ who IS 23 has been mediocre with the STICK in AA, .250/.286/.381 in 70 games.  He is excellent defensively, gunning down 14 of 34 this year and 50 of 119 last year.  Yet his bat mediocrity makes him a long shot for Queens, at least until 2019. 
2019, however, could be a different story.  
REALITY CHECK: At Nido’s current age, Plawecki hit .309/.365/.460 in a season split between AA and AAA in 2014, so Nido is far behind that pace.  In his favor, he, like Plawecki, fans very little (34 times in 70 games this season). 
My take: his glove will get him to the bigs for a cup of coffee in 2018 and as back up catcher in 2019.
HIGH A: Pat Mazeika: what is exciting about Pat is he is a lefty hitter.  The 23 year old is hitting a very solid .290/.387/.419 this season for St Lucie. 
However, after hitting an amazing .370 through mid-May, he has hit just .239 in his last 184 at bats, with only 5 doubles and 2 homers, which has been a disappointing dichotomy.   He is not as good as Nido with basestealers, having gunned down 36 of 118 this season (30.5%), but certainly not terrible there.  My take: the bat will revive and he has a shot to be a lefty-rightyhititng catching tandem with Nido by 2020.
Anthony Dimino:  he has played as a jack-of-all-trades, including catcher.  Also a lefty hitter, the 5’11” 175 Dimino started 2017 like a ball of fire, then does what everyone in the mets system does – he got hurt, missing 7 weeks in May and June.  He has not hit well since his return, and lacks power, but he still sports a very nice .321/.399/.343 line for 2017 in 39 games.    He’s stolen 19 of 28 attempts in about 400 minor league at bats, so he adds speed.  Defensively, not good: 22 career passed balls in 49 games as a catcher (!) and 19 for 87 in steals.  But my guess is he is learning the spot as he goes. 
My take: far too soon to tell; sad he missed those 7 weeks in 2017, when he was red hot, or we'd have more of a read.
FULL A:  Ali Sanchez: He is intriguing; very low power (an extra base hit every 50 plate appearances this year) and just .231 this year.  Yet, his K rate is low, and he has hit .270 since May rolled around. 
He is the defensive head of the catcher class, having thrown out 112 of 231 in his career and 20 of 42 this year.  He has the size to add power.  My take: he will at least be a major league back up catcher some day, due to his superior defense.  But that may not be for 3 more years – considering he is only 20, he has time.
Brandon Brosher: best power bat of Mets’ minor league catchers.  But worst strikeout rate – 60 in about 150 plate appearances this year, a simply disqualifying stat.
NY PENN: Simply put, nobody.  I think they ask fans to catch at their games.
Appalachian League: 19 year old Juan Uriarte is really hitting: .311/.374/.466 in 25 games with low Ks. 
He started his career with 2 years in the DSL, so he has had ample time to see how he does throwing guys out – answer?  Not bad – 42% of 161 attempts. 
My take: very intriguing, 3 to 4 years away.  Too early to tell.
So there you have it.  The Mets could decide all those dudes collectively are inadequate going into 2018 and decide to engineer a trade for a stronger catcher, if one can in fact be found and had.  Any suggestions, dear reader?
For now, this article wore me out – so I am going to “catch” a few winks…ZZZZZZ.

11 comments:

Thomas Brennan said...

Jake the Great.

And Nimmo just played a rehab game, presumably ready to be activated in a few days if/when we trade an OF.

Zozo said...

They should try and target the Cleveland Indians stud catcher Francisco Mejia or even the Cardinals have a catcher Carson Kelly blocked by Molina.

I think a package of Bruce, Cabrera and Reed could net you Mejia + from the Indians. He was almost traded last year to the Brewers for Lucroy but Lucroy invoked his no trade Clause to them.
Kelly may be a bit more of a challenge because I believe they will be sellers and not buyers this week, but maybe in the offseason. One thing in our favor is that this past year they lost draft picks because of the scandal they were involved in with the Astros. So maybe they would want some lower minor league studs for him to recoup what they missed out from the draft?

Mack Ade said...

Tom -

This is the BEST pipeline position analysis ever done for the Mets and I can say this since I've been doing this once a year for over 10 years.

Great job.

Mack Ade said...

Zozo -

We would never be able to get our hands on a player like Mejia. He is just too talented playing a position where there is very little top talent.

Catchers are an endangered species in baseball. Maybe we should dig our heals in and give d'A another year to prove his value.

Zozo said...

I would just go and get 2 defense first catchers that help our pitchers and defense. Whatever we get offensively from them is a bonus.

Eddie Corona said...

Agree with Mack ... Tom this was a fantastic job

Adam Smith said...

Really nice piece, Tom. Thank you. I'd lay money that TdA goes into '18 as the starting C for this team. Just too many other jokes to fill and a dearth of quality around the league.

Eddie Corona said...

the old adage was the quickest path to the majors was through the Catching position... I don't understand why there is not more talented players choosing to play Catcher...

Reese Kaplan said...

@Zozo -- Great minds think alike. On Sunday I posted an article to run tomorrow advocating the very same thing -- overwhelm Cleveland with a package for Mejia. Hopefully this one stays off PEDs.

Thomas Brennan said...

Just "catching up" here, in a break from work - thanks all.

Just to be clear, I did not include all catchers in the system - just the ones that have showed promise so far. Most just don't hit enough.

I think it could be d'Arnaud and Rivera again, with Plawecki the injury fill in, once again in 2018. Unless Rivera never starts hitting again the rest of this year, and he is excised.

Then it will be TDA and Plaw, and the pitchers better learn to hold guys on really tightly.

Thomas Brennan said...

Reese, if we do overwhelm them to get Francisco Mejia, make sure his favorite snack is not O Jenrry candy bars.

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