The New York Mets went 77-85 in 2011. As suggested by the sub-par record, there were a fair share of ups and downs throughout the season. “2011 Season in Review,” which will be an ongoing series, will analyze every single Mets player who picked up a ball or glove in 2011, for better or worse. This particular “2011 Season in Review” will take a look at catcher Mike Nickeas.
Nickeas was originally drafted in the fifth round of the 2004 MLB Amateur Draft by the Texas Rangers. The prospect kicked off his career with a promising .288/.384/.494 line with 10 HR, 55 RBI, 42 R, and 2 SB. There after, however, the catcher seemed to lose his stroke. He followed up his 2004 campaign with a discouraging .209/.275/.316 line with 6 HR, 30 RBI, 24 R, and 1 SB. Regardless of his bat, Nickeas still found a sense of confidence with his glove, which Baseball America tabbed as the best among catchers in the Rangers minor league system.
In 2006, Nickeas bat rebounded a bit before being dealt to the New York Mets in exchange for outfielder Victor Diaz. His offensive struggles only deepened with the Mets, with injuries almost spelling an end to an arguably lackluster minor league career. With only the love of baseball motivating him, Nickeas decided to give the sport another shot despite only garnering 74 PA’s in 2009. His hard work in the off-season paid off as the catcher posted a respectable .276/.389/.382 line with 5 HR, 33 RBI, 28 R, and 1 SB in 2010–which even earned him a late-season promotion to the show. Nickeas collected two hits in 10 PA’s for the Mets, but it was enough to know he made the right life decision.
Going into 2011, Nickeas didn’t have a spot on the Mets roster. That is, until Ronny Paulino‘s debut got pushed back due to blood test troubles. Like so many have learned before him, it isn’t uncommon in baseball for one player’s misfortune to be another’s shining moment. Nickeas received 23 PA’s during April, and posted a respectable .250/.348/.450 line with 1 HR, 3 RBI, and 3 R. But the backup backstop was sent back down the Triple-A, where he swatted a meager .214/.286/.304 line in 192 PA’s. Nickeas got called-up a few times in August and September, but didn’t do much offensively (collective .152/.176/.152 line in 36 PA’s).
From a defensive perspective, Nickeas offered the Mets a little more than he did with his bat. Mets pitchers enjoyed throwing to the catcher, who combined for an excellent 3.32 ERA with the 28 year-old. Nickeas also threw out suspecting runners at a solid 31% clip.
Looking ahead to 2012, with the Mets non-tendering Ronny Paulino, and too financially handcuffed to bring-in outside talent, it looks as though Mike Nickeas will start the season as the backup catcher to Josh Thole. While Nickeas will certainly provide the team with a better defensive option at catcher than Thole, his more or less horrendous bat doesn’t bode well for either pushing Thole or becoming a full-time catcher in the event Thole becomes injured.