Travis d’Arnaud was at it again last night. The resurgent catcher went 3-5 with 2 RBIs, including the game-winner in the 9th of the Mets’ 5-4 win in San Diego. In 17 games since his return from Triple-A exile, d’Arnaud is batting .318 with an .887 OPS, striking out just 13 times and grounding into only one double play.
Also hot out of the post-ASB gate was New York’s other heralded catching prospect. Kevin Plawecki went 2-5 with an RBI in Las Vegas’s 7-6 Thursday night loss in Salt Lake. While his first two weeks in Triple-A haven’t been anything to write home about (.234 average, .725 OPS in 15 games), the pace at which he made it to the minors’ highest level can’t be overlooked. He conquered the four lower minor leagues in half a season each and raked in Double-A Binghamton the first half of 2014. It should be only a matter of time before Plawecki figures out the Pacific Coast League, and at the rate he’s going, he could be on the doorstep of the majors by early 2015.
There are two main arguments against moving Plawecki. The first is a more positive outlook: having two top-notch catchers on roster will maximize production from baseball’s toughest everyday position. However, if Alderson’s wish list holds true, the Mets are short on left field and shortstop. With the d’Arnaud-Plawecki combination, catcher is set for 162 games, but those positions are not. Trading Plawecki would mean an elite catcher only starts 115 games in a season, but left field or shortstop now has quality production for around 150 games. Trading Plawecki could help New York maximize its production throughout the entire lineup.
The second argument against moving Plawecki is that the jury is still out on Travis d’Arnaud. Yes, d’Arnaud has been hot this month, but no one stays hot forever. Travis says his mentality has improved, but what happens when he hits his next slump? Will Citi or Cashman be the field he breaks out of it?
While competition with Plawecki may continue to push d’Arnaud to be his best, trading Plawecki may help him even more. It will signal that the Mets are confident enough in d’Arnaud to make him outright catcher of the future. It will build on Travis’s already-improved mindset, which matched with his solid mechanics should help him whenever that next slump comes around.
So, with Plawecki on the trading block, the question becomes what type of deal the Mets make. Paired with a pitching prospect, New York may be able to parlay Plawecki into a left fielder or shortstop, a la Starlin Castro or Javier Baez. Mixed into what Ron Darling would call a Mike Piazza-type deal, the Mets could pry someone like Paul Goldschmidt away from Arizona (in the linked-to scenario, Plawecki could be the piece that brings in Gregorius/Owings).
Every team in the majors craves a catching prospect like Kevin Plawecki. The Mets are lucky to have him. They are also lucky to have a 25-year-old catcher who has just figured it out. D’Arnaud’s presence means Plawecki may never become the man in New York, but that leaves 29 other places he could become the man. Time for Sandy Alderson to think Beltran/Dickey/Byrd and sell high on Kevin Plawecki.