The Mets announced that the team had promoted catcher Kevin Plawecki from Double-A Binghamton to Triple-A Las Vegas. The team’s supplemental first round pick in 2012 out of Purdue, Plawecki has been on a tear for the last six weeks.
Since May 2, the 23-year-old has hit .351/.402/.548 with 12 doubles, six home runs, 12 walks and 19 strikeouts in 44 games. That’s a .191 isolated slugging percentage, a 6.3 percent walk rate and a 10 percent strikeout rate. Plawecki is an aggressive hitter who drills line drives to both gaps with good consistent barrel contact and relatively few strikeouts. Overall, he hit .326/.378/.487 in 58 games in Double-A.
As Mets Catching Coordinator Bobby Natal put it, “He’s really pushing. He’s a special kid. He really is as far as his intelligence, learning, making adjustments, durability.”
Compare Plawecki’s Double-A performance to current Mets backstop Travis d’Arnaud, who homered in his return to the majors Tuesday. In 2011, as a 22-year-old, d’Arnaud hit .311/.371/.542 in 114 games with New Hampshire in the Eastern League. D’Arnaud’s isolated slugging of .231 was higher than Plawecki’s .161 at a younger age (22 to Plawecki’s 23). Their plate discipline statistics suggests a different approach. D’Arnaud walked slightly more (7.1 percent to Plawecki’s 6.4 percent) and struck out much more (21.5 percent to 10.8 percent).
Natal had already begun preparing Plawecki for Triple-A and the big leagues all season long.
“Now, we’ve been really focusing on moving it to the highest level,” he told MMiLB. This included a focus on how to run pitcher-catcher game plan meeting, communicating and working with pitchers, especially as the “young guy” in the room. Generally, they focused on “just what’s expected of a big league catcher.”
The former big leaguer, Natal, sees a willing pupil in Plawecki.
“He listens to everything,” Natal reported.
Defensively, Plawecki threw out 31 percent of opposing runners in Double-A, which is similar to his pace last year across the two Single-A levels, when he gunned down 29 percent of opposing runners (28-of-98) for Savannah and St. Lucie.
Natal pointed out three mechanical things that Plawecki has been working on to improve his ability to throw out opposing baserunners.
- “He leaks a little bit. He gets a little quick.”
- “he has a little waggle in the back. We worked on trying to clean that up.” (Editor: Think of an extra wrist flick as the hand comes up into a cocked position to throw.)
- “Keep everything going forward. Sometimes he would stop and not stay through his throw.”
Catching is much more than throwing out runners, and it might even be a tertiary concern after receiving and game-calling in the big leagues. In that respect, Natal seemed pleased by the overall package, “I think he’s doing very well defensively.”
Plawecki is not coming to New York. Instead, he’s heading out to Las Vegas, where he will be one step and a few flights from Citi Field. In the Pacific Coast League, Plawecki will see craftier pitchers and more advanced game plans. D’Arnaud just abused PCL pitching (.436/.475/.909 with eight doubles and six home runs) for 15 games while getting his head right. That will be a tough act to follow.
Should Mets fans expect to see Plawecki in New York this year? Maybe.
He is not on the team’s 40-man roster and would not need to be added after this season to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. Keeping him off the team’s 40-man roster during this season would preserve flexibility this coming winter. Whether he sees the big leagues in 2014 will be determined in part by his own performance, in part by d’Arnaud and Anthony Recker’s performance in front of him, and in part by bigger roster considerations.
But as Natal put it, Plawecki is pushing and that’s really all he can do.