With all the hoopla surrounding Luis Castillo, Oliver Perez, and other roster crunch candidates this Spring, one player has uncharacteristically slipped under the New York media’s radar–catcher Mike Nickeas. Due to Ronny Paulino’s PED suspension, Nickeas figures to open as the Mets backup catcher to Josh Thole come April 1st. But considering Paulino’s recent “concerning” blood test results, Mets fans might have to get used to the native British Columbian for a bit longer than expected.
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.
If not for Paulino’s PED and now blood test troubles, Nickeas would certainly be out of a job. Like so many have learned before him, it isn’t uncommon in baseball for one player’s misfortune to be another’s shining moment.