In the spirit of Pitchers and Catchers, the Mets have a new look behind the plate. For as much Josh Thole found favor with me and many other forgiving Mets fans, an upgrade at back-stop was very clearly needed. The desired affect of trading Thole and R.A. Dickey for Toronto’s top catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud is still at least a half-season away from being realized. But as part of the exchange, the Blue Jays also sent over veteran catcher John Buck.
Until Travis d’Arnaud is ready to assume full-time duties in Flushing, John Buck looks to be the Mets starting catcher this season once they head back north. In an earlier transaction, Sandy Alderson also claimed Anthony Recker off waivers back in October from the Chicago Cubs. Recker figures to be the second string catcher. Landon Powell deserves a fair mention. He was signed to a free agent contract in January and is in camp as a non-roster invitee.
Last season, Josh Thole kept various company behind the plate with Mike Nickeas, Kelly Shoppach, and Rob Johnson. Offensively speaking, the position of catcher combined to hit eight home runs and totaled seventy three runs batted in. That’s right in line with a season in which the Mets ranked eleventh in the National League in home runs, and twenty-second overall. Additionally, they ranked eleventh in team slugging, and twelfth in runs scored.
Let’s omit Travis d’Arnaud from this conversation, and assume John Buck will be the 2013 full time catcher. If in 2013 Buck merely hits to his nine year regular season averages, he will get 348 at-bats, hit thirteen home runs, and drive in sixty runs. His 162-game season average projects to twenty home runs, and seventy two runs batted in. It appears then, the Mets have consolidated back-stops, and improved the position’s power.
Here then is the Mets potential wild card behind the plate – Anthony Recker. He only has twenty seven games of MLB experience. But on a minor league level, here is what his record shows; give him 200 at-bats, he will hit ten home runs. From class-A through AAA, Recker had at least 200 at-bats in his last seven minor league seasons, and power wise, he has maintained consistency at all levels. In a split A-AA season in 2007, he hit seventeen home runs in 408 at-bats. Fast forward to AAA and in 2011, he hit sixteen home runs in 345 at-bats. Then in 2012, hit ten home runs in 222 at-bats. Anthony Recker’s regular season minor league averages are remarkably similar to John Buck’s major league averages noted above. I omitted his 2005 season because he did not attain 200 at-bats. Since then, Anthony has averaged 347 at-bats, thirteen home runs per season, and fifty three runs batted in.
Based purely on 3.5 at-bats per game and a 100/62 game split, the position of catcher has the potential to post decent numbers at the bottom of the order. If John Buck starts one hundred games and gets his 350 at-bats, that leaves sixty two games and potentially 217 at-bats for Anthony Recker. From 2006 through 2012, and from class-A through AAA, Recker has consistently hit double digit home runs. At twenty-nine years old now, I believe he can translate at least ten home runs at the major league level into this upcoming season. Should that be the case, the Mets 2013 catchers can possibly post an end of season line (simple version) that may resemble this:
Average – .253
Home Runs – 23
RBI – 90
At this time of year, every baseball season starts out with a dream. Every team is in first place during Spring Training. As such, any player can be a star. As it pertains to the Mets catching situation, we’re just asking one guy to play up to his career averages, and for another seasoned minor league veteran to hold his own as the back-up. If both can manage that, the glaring need for more offensive production at catcher will have been met.