Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki barely register on the star-radar. When sharing the job, the New York Mets catchers aren’t so bad.
The New York Mets didn’t have too many options this offseason in regards to upgrading behind the dish. Jonathan Lucroy looked like he could improve the roster. A down year in 2017 may have made it more lateral than upward.
Instead of taking a chance on Lucroy in free agency or adding someone else, the Mets decided to stick with what they knew. Once again, Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki were called upon to receive pitches from this stellar pitching staff.
As bad as it may sound, the Mets catching platoon isn’t so poor when compared to the rest of the league.
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The second-tier includes a huge drop-off before we get to guys like d’Arnaud and Plawecki. This pair falls somewhere in the middle.
Judging d’Arnaud is far easier at this stage. He’s played in about 400 big league games over parts of six seasons. We’ve seen him at his pretty good to his downright awful. At best his best, he gets the job done and nothing more. He’s a formidable catcher you can rely on to come up with the occasional big hit.
Meanwhile, Plawecki is far more difficult to rate. Last year looked like a step up. Unfortunately, with only 18 plate appearances to base it on, we can’t get a full assessment.
With the expectation that Plawecki should share more of the work with d’Arnaud in 2018, this season will give us a better basis to know exactly what he is. When we do, we’ll know better whether or not the Mets made the right decision.
The d’Arnaud/Plawecki platoon could work
Baseball is changing. One of those changes is the increase in platoons. In particular, many teams are keen on employing two catchers who can play regularly. Rather than aim high for a star behind the plate, employing two average guys can work.
The Los Angeles Dodgers will use catchers Austin Barnes and Yasmani Grandal this year. Down in Baltimore, the Orioles will do the same with Caleb Joseph and Chance Sisco. While this isn’t ideal, it does help teams survive any serious injuries.
Imagine what would happen if a team with a star catcher loses their backstop. It’s similar to a quarterback going down in the NFL. Only certain players can fill in, often leading to a huge drop in talent. By employing two average catchers and letting them share playing time, the Mets are in a safer situation. They will always have someone fresh, capable of taking over the job full-time.
We’ve seen Mickey Callaway rotate his players in and out regularly in 2018. In center field, Michael Conforto is sharing time with Juan Lagares and Brandon Nimmo. We should also see Jose Reyes play all over the infield and Wilmer Flores do the same.
It’s a little different at the catcher’s spot. For them, the preparation is a lot lengthier. They need to know the opposing pitchers and batters better than anyone else. Using both of their minds and bats together, d’Arnaud and Plawecki can use their smarts well-rested bodies to make up for their other shortcomings.