New York Mets: Three underrated players crucial to success in 2020
After Wilson Ramos, the catching options are rather slim. For the last couple of years, Tomas Nido has served as the primary backup catcher. Though Nido is often cited for his superior defensive glove, his batting averages of .167 and .191 in 2018 and 2019, respectively, do not inspire much confidence in his offensive ability.
Luckily for the Mets, they’ll have another potential backup catcher this season in Rene Rivera. The 36-year-old backstop first played for the Mets in 2016, when he spent 65 games behind the plate. He returned to that role in 2017 until his first stint in Queens ended in August when he was claimed off waivers by the Chicago Cubs.
Rivera returned to Flushing last year on a minor league deal. He spent much of the season in Triple-A Syracuse, where he mashed 25 home runs. After a brief cup of coffee back in the big leagues at the end of the 2019 season, mostly catching Noah Syndergaard, the Mets re-signed him in January 2020.
Rivera’s career stats of a .221 batting average and a .626 OPS are not head-turning, by any means. They do suggest that he is slightly more threatening at the plate than the often ice-cold Nido. Rivera also has a much higher career caught-stealing percentage, albeit with a much larger sample size. He has thrown out 36% of potential base stealers in his career, exceeding Nido’s career 13% mark by a wide margin.
With any luck, Ramos will catch the large majority of Mets games this season. However, on days he does not catch, the Mets might be better off with Rivera behind the plate than Nido. Rivera is nearly as good defensively as Nido, with more power and a better overall bat. Rivera’s presence on the field might not be the deciding factor in the Mets’ success this season, but his arm, more so than Nido’s, can minimize stolen base threats and halt opposing rallies.
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None of these three players are poised to compete for “team MVP” in 2020. However, the Mets should hope that one of them will exceed expectations and become a prominent figure on the 2020 roster.