The Plawecki “Problem”

Plawecki Face Swing Follow ThroughWhat else does Kevin Plawecki have to prove in the South Atlantic League? According to the Mets, nothing, really.

Coming off a relatively undistinguished .250/.345/.384 performance with 15 extra-base hits and 25 walks against 24 strikeouts in 61 games in Brooklyn, the Mets chose to start their 2012 supplemental first round pick in the South Atlantic League. The 22-year-old has responded by performing as one of the league’s best hitters through the first third of the season.

The 22-year old is hitting .361/.441/.595 with 20 doubles, a triple, five homers and 16 walks against 20 strikeouts in 186 PA over 43 games and has reached base in each of his last 33 contests. That’s an 8.6% walk rate, a 10.7% strikeout rate and a 14% extra-base hit rate. He’s leading the SAL in average, on-base percentage and doubles, and is tied for the lead in extra-base hits while sitting fourth in slugging. He’s tied for second in Fangraphs wRC+ at 184 where 100 is league average.

Earlier this week, Mets Special Assistant to the General Manager, J.P. Ricciardi saw the Sand Gnats in Savannah. He made clear that he thinks Plawecki is ready for advanced-A when I asked what else Plawecki had to prove in the SAL:

I don’t think there’s much more we have to see. I think it’s only a matter of time. He’s done everything he could do here.  What I’m really impressed with, he’s done a real good job behind the plate, as good as he’s been offensively. I think it’s only a matter of time before he says goodbye to Savannah. This was a good place for him to start; It was a good experience for him.

The numbers make Plawecki’s offensive prowess clear, but his defense is coming along as well. “Last night, I thought he did a really good job setting up some hitters,” Ricciardi said. “He’s getting better behind the plate and I think a lot of it is just getting assimilated with some of the pitchers he’s working with.”

A scout who has watched Plawecki in the last week praised his quick release and solid receiving skills. There’s really nothing in his own game holding Plawecki back.

This week, Mets VP of Amateur Scouting and Player Development Paul dePodesta told MLB.com, “We think he’s ready to move both offensively and defensively,” DePodesta said. “When the opportunity presents itself, we will move.”

The only other considerations are for the Gnats and the rest of the system. Savannah is currently 1.5 games behind Charleston for first place in the Southern Division. Removing Plawecki’s bat would make the Gnats’ odds of winning the division significantly longer.

And as for the other issue, DePodesta again to MLB.com: “If you have someone at a level in front of them that deserves to be playing, it’s difficult to move him up there,” DePodesta said. “It ends up being more about what opportunities are available and them being ready for challenge.”

The guy DePodesta refers to, in front of Plawecki, although not by name, is 22-year-old Cam Maron in advanced-A. Maron earned the advanced-A job this year by hitting .300/.403/.408 in 93 games with the Gnats in 2012. In advanced-A this year, the 34th round draft pick in ’09 has slipped hard, all the way back to .210/.280/.301.

It is noble that the Mets wanted to give Cam Maron his shot in advanced-A. However, the team invested seven figures in Plawecki. He has lived up to his end of the deal in the South Atlantic League. If the goal is to give the Gnats a chance to win a first half time, that’s fine. In a week or two, it will become clear if the Gnats’ can keep pace with Charleston who has a little bit easier schedule down the stretch. However, lets not pretend that playing time for Maron is blocking Plawecki. It is time to prioritize the development of the more talented player – Plawecki.

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