Mike Nickeas made his MLB debut back in September 2010. While he collected his 1st home run that September on a scorcher to the right-center field bullpen, it was clear to see early on that he was not a Major League hitter. The team boasted about his defense, his guile and his personality, and while he is no Johnny Bench back there, he handles the backstop well. During spring training, stories were written about how he spent all winter working with coaches on his hitting. That was the selling point: he’d be a great defensive backstop and be better at hitting than was originally anticipated. One could argue, however, that it’s even clearer now as we head into the thick of the 2012 baseball season that Mike Nickeas may never be able to handle Major League pitching.
In 71 at bats this year, he has collected just 11 hits for a .155 avg. He has struck out 17 times and grounded into 17 double plays. I have yet to see him catch up to a fastball, even if it is right down the middle. He straight up cannot handle a Major League fastball.
His hits, however, have been very timely. He hit the go-ahead single against the Diamondbacks after we had lost 4 straight and were back to .500. He drove in the 1st run of the day game in Pittsburgh that won us that series. He drove in the 1st run in what was, at the time, a pitcher’s duel between R.A. Dickey and David Price this past Tuesday. He has 11 RBI and they all have helped us win games. They all have come off breaking pitches as well. You probably won’t see Nickeas driving in any runs on a fastball.
Truth be told, Nickeas seems to be the best option to back up Josh Thole. Down on the farm of Buffalo, there is Rob Johnson, who performed solidly with the bat in his time up with the big club. He has, however, a career batting average below the Mendoza Line, and he, in all likelyhood, wouldn’t have sustained that type of hitting. His defense wasn’t all that astounding either, which helped Nickeas’ case when it was time to send a catcher down. Then there is Lucas May. Lucas tore the early part of Spring Training up, but has not performed whatsoever in Buffalo with a .209 avg. His defense is not that great as well, leaving the Mets very thin when it comes to catching depth.
While he might not be Lenny Harris with the bat, Mike Nickeas has handled his role on this club well. He has blended with the personalities that make up this team, and he profiles as an unlikely hero, a Mark Belhorn or Bucky Dent type, if you will, when crunch time comes to get that ring.
Until a better option presents itself, I’d go ahead and stick with the Nick.