Reese Kaplan -- Should the Mets Stay In-House at C?


One thing all Mets fans have come to know is that Las Vegas numbers must be taken with a grain (or an entire silo) of salt.  Very late to the same conclusion, the Mets recently promoted Chris Flexen directly from AA to avoid the hitting happy PCL altogether, and although the results have not been good in his first two starts, I applaud the change in thinking. (His third start was better than he showed given his manager's characteristic early hook, but he did get the W).

The flip side, of course, is the hitting prowess shown in AAA only rarely translates to the major league level.  For example, in 2016 Gavin Cecchini hit .325 over the course of nearly 500 ABs in Vegas, so you’d think he would be ripe for the majors.  Now the Mets were already crowded with Neil Walker, Jose Reyes, Asdrubal Cabrera, T.J. Rivera and Wilmer Flores all ahead of him on the middle infield pecking order, so it was incumbent upon Cecchini to do even better this year to force himself into the conversation.  Unfortunately upon shifting to 2B his hitting went south and although he’s slowly come back a little, he’s still at just .261 with even less power. 

He’s far from the only hitter to have shown well in Vegas and then gone backwards either at the major league or AAA level in subsequent play.  Matt Reynolds hit .333 in Las Vegas over 300 ABs, had a few cups of coffee with the Mets where he hit just .217 overall, reverted to the .260s in AAA before rebounding lately for a .330 mark in Las Vegas.  He’s probably a better hitter than he’s shown with the Mets but likely nowhere near the .330 range he’s twice shown in the minors. 

Andrew Brown, Eric Campbell and others were examples of players who could hit with aplomb in Las Vegas but couldn’t translate it to the majors.  It’s these types of experiences that have the Mets wondering whether or not Amed Rosario and Dom Smith are for real or merely a product of their environment? 

The player most intriguing in this regard is Kevin Plawecki.  He has had some extended trials in the majors due to Travis d’Arnaud’s many stints on the DL.  He’s frankly not done very well.  Over the course of 389 major league ABs he has hit just .206 with 4 HRs and 36 RBIs.  Most alarmingly, for a guy without much power, he’s struck out 97 times.

To be fair, however, Plawecki during the 2015 season was suffering from regular dizzy spells due to a sinus problem that required off-season surgery to correct.  He described it as almost feeling drunk without having had anything to drink.  Granted, the Mets organization was not very deep in catchers, but you’d think someone on the staff would have noticed. 

In 2016 you’d think with the issue corrected he’d have been ready to tear the cover off the ball as he’d done as a career .296 hitter in the minors.  He began to show immediate improvement and in just 200 ABs in 2016 in Las Vegas he hit 8 HRs, drove in 40 and was batting .300.  At the major league level, however, he was under the Mendoza line.

Fast forward to 2017 and Plawecki is on fire in Las Vegas.  He’s hitting .329/8/39 in 239 ABs.  More importantly, he’s only struck out 32 times.  For most Mets fans (and probably Mets management) Plawecki is a lost cause, but the ever-frugal organization might want to bring him up and see if he would be a worthy backup to Travis d’Arnaud because Rene Rivera is being paid $1.75 million and set to hit free agency.  Plawecki comes at major league minimum.  Granted, he’s not the backstop that Rivera is, but Rivera is a career .217 hitter over nearly 1400 ABs.  He’s not exactly Johnny Bench on either side of the game. 

Obviously Travis d’Arnaud has been a disappointment, but while they await Tomas Nido and Patrick Mazeika, they may opt for one more year of d’Arnaud to show whether or not he can put it altogether.  Many feel he’s underperforming, but it’s really his batting average that is a concern.  From a run production point of view he’s hit 10 HRs and driven in 36 in just 227 ABs.  If he produced 20/72 over the course of a full season I don’t think anyone would reject that.  He’s earning $1.875 million this year and is arbitration eligible.  Given that he will likely get a pretty big bump to $3 million or more, I can’t see the Mets paying nearly as much for a backup.

Many are clamoring for Jonathon Lucroy to be signed as a FA.  He’s having a down year by his standards – just .245/4/28  in 290 ABs – worse than d’Arnaud.  What Lucroy does have going for him is greater overall health and a yearly average of .280/16/77.  He’s currently earning $5.25 million and available to the highest bidder (assuming Colorado doesn’t seek to use its exclusive negotiating position to retain him – something the Mets should be exploring with Jay Bruce). 

So the question becomes whether the uptick in batting average Lucroy would provide is worth double what d’Arnaud would provide, taking into account that Lucroy will start the season at age 32 and d’Arnaud at 29.  Three years in catcher-time is almost like counting dog years. 

Personally, I think that d’Arnaud deserves one more year and Plawecki deserves a shot as the major league backup.  Granted, neither are terrific defenders, but then that’s true of Lucroy as well.  Unless the Mets can wrangle a top catching prospect from another club in trade, those appear to be the options – Lucroy, d’Arnaud, Rivera and Plawecki.  The only hope is that the Marlins go full fire-sale mode and will consider moving J.T. Realmuto before he becomes expensive.  Unfortunately, that’s a mere pipe dream, just like the one I have regularly about a new management team.


Thomas Brennan said...

The Mets have 50 or so games to figure out who their catching tandem in 2018 will be. I favor d'Arnaud and Plawecki, as Rivera is a light hitting, aging (just turned 34) catcher. Who has hit 11 for 70 since June started, reminiscent of Anthony Recker. His 51 Ks to 9 walks this year is also not endearing to me, even if he is the best of the 3 defensively.

They should get a really good look at Plawecki over the last 50 games, just like they are doing already out of necessity with the oft-recalled Rafael Montero, to see what K Plaw can really do in 2018 in beyond.

Mack Ade said...

Reese -

Good morning.

I am a big fan of having the best players in my organization on my 25-man squad. Crazy me.

That being said, I have lost my love for d'A and, frankly, have never found it for Plawecki,

Still, there is no other option in the organization plus the industry itself is not crawling with major league ready catchers.

I am with Tom here... take this in three parts.

1. Split time for the rest of this year with d'Arnaud and Plawecki. Tell d'A in no uncertain terms that this is his last chance to impress.

2. Go into the off season and try to find a solution to this.

3. If no one is found, bring back Travis and Kevin for another year until either Nido or Mazeika is ready for their shot.

Reese Kaplan said...

I'm thinking money can be better spent on 3B, CF (if Bruce doesn't come back in RF), the bullpen and the rotation.

Mack Ade said...

Reese -

I agree on the money priority, bigger fish issue.

Thomas Brennan said...

I have an article that touches on what might be a big part of Travis' problems

Eddie Corona said...

Reese, your spot on ... biggest problem is that the whole sport has catching issues... so there is absolutely no reason to a lot any significant funds for marginal (if that improvements) stay in house... and hope Nido or Mazeika comes fast...

If Bruce takes the qualifying Offer then great we can have him back for 2018 and a OF of (cespedes, conforto and Bruce) for 1 year but no way to sign him for multiple years... (he had a big year on a walk year... sounds familiar)

I wouldn't mind another offensive year like this year (meaning a bunch of 1 year contracts ) until the end of the 2018 season when that free agent class comes to be... if you want to spend thats the class to do so...
a 27 year old harper or machado would be trans-formative around a Conforto, rosario and either a smith or alonzo...

Peter Hyatt said...

15 + games out.

Wouldn't now be a good time to find out who is a lost cause (a AAAA lifetime player) and who isn't?

With Plaweki, is he just a AAAA player OR

has he figured things out?


Gavin C?

Extended playing time that is consistent could help.

After all, there is always a certain former Met utility player who seemed to "figure it out" to hit fairly well in LA.

Thomas Brennan said...

Peter, see my posted comment to my article about defense today, as it pertains to Wilmer.

Reese Kaplan said...

The other thing to observe about Wilmer Flores is that the more he plays, the better he does. So naturally the Skipper sits him as much as possible.

Thomas Brennan said...

We fans always hope. We hoped Amed would be a ball on fire when he came up – so far, he is not. We hope Smith will be a star when called up – he might not be for a while. We don’t perhaps remember that when Wilmer was in the PCL, at the same age as Smith, he hit better than Smith (more RBIs, more power). And it has been a struggle for Flores at times, but now he is past struggling, hitting .300 in 223 at bats with 11 homers since April. Why not put an already-broken-in Wilmer at first, where he might hit .300 with 30 homers over a full season, rather than perhaps deal with 1 or 2 years of a struggling Smith. We want to win it all in 2018, right? Why not trade a few number one draft pitchers (Dunn, Kay) with Smith to a team that has an elite, cost controlled starter or bullpen ace? And put Wilmer at first.

Reese Kaplan said...

Because it makes too much sense? :)

Seriously, I think Smith will be the kind of contact hitter this club needs. That being said, there's room for Wilmer Flores in 2018 at 2B or 3B. Flores' 2B fielding numbers are actually better than some Irishman in DC.

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