Just to make sure you fans out there couldn’t be more depressed about the Mets catching situation, the team went out and signed a career .197/.275/.297 guy in Rob Johnson to compete for backup duties in Spring Training. However, don’t let this contract fool you–Mike Nickeas, who swatted a .189/.246/.264 line in 2011–is still the favorite to understudy Josh Thole.
To Johnson’s credit, the 28 year-old enjoyed a far more successful career in the Minor Leagues than his various cups of Major League coffee. Drafted in the 4th round of the 2004 draft by the Seattle Mariners, the catcher exhibited significant promise in his first full Minor League season. In 2005, between two Single-A levels, Johnson posted a .280/.332/.432 line with 11 HR, 63 RBI, 56 R, and 12 SB in 421 PA’s.
The Mariners, who were very confident in Johnson’s abilities, promoted the young catcher to Triple-A. His stats suffered, swatting just a .231/.261/.318 line with 4 HR, 33 RBI, 28 R, and 14 SB in 359 PA’s. Despite the disappointing season, the Mariners still started Johnson at Triple-A the following season (2007), where he posted an improved .268/.331/.372 line in 465 PA’s. The 2007 season also marked the catcher’s first taste of the big leagues (3 PA’s).
Johnson got more used to advanced pitching in 2008, owning a respectable .305/.363/.441 clip in 463 PA’s, including 9 HR and 30 2B, but he didn’t impress in the Majors when he got the call (.213/.289/.326 line in 31 PA’s). With two solid seasons at Triple-A under his belt, the Mariners decided to promote Johnson to backup duties in 2009. The 25 year-old hit to the tune of a .213/.289/.326 line in 290 PA’s, but also gunned 31% of baserunners. Mariners pitchers also seemed to enjoy throwing to Johnson, as they collective hurled a 3.22 ERA with the backstop.
In 2010, the Mariners decided to give the starting catcher duties to prospect Adam Moore, yet even though the promising youngster posted just a .195/.230/.283 line in 218 PA’s, Rob Johnson still couldn’t steal the gig (.191/.293/.281 line in 209 PA’s). After the season, the Mariners had obviously seen enough of the light-hitting backstop, and sent him to the San Diego Padres for a player to be named later or cash. Johnson posted an identical .190/.259/.285 line in 199 PA’s as he did in 2010, and also continued to be a solid defensive option (5 passed balls, 23% CS%, and 3.22 ERA).
Looking ahead to 2012, despite Johnson’s experience in the Major Leagues, it still looks as though the New York Mets favor Mike Nickeas as the second fiddle to Josh Thole. Neither Nickeas nor Johnson pose much of a threat to Thole’s playing time–a commodity most Mets fans were hoping the backup catcher would encompass–but as a pure depth move, having Johnson catch games in Triple-A doesn’t seem to harm anybody.