What should Mets fans expect from Plawecki, the Mets' first supplemental first round pick in 2012? A competent, if young, catcher. Put simply, that's a drop from the level at which d'Arnaud had started his 2015 season.
Plawecki's offensive performance in Triple-A is characteristic of what he is likely to produce in the big leagues. In 52 games over the last two years, he has hit .270, with a .325 OBP and .402 SLG in the offense-friendly Pacific Coast League. He's accomplished this with a line drive swing and an aggressive approach paired with a keen plate eye. In Triple-A, Plawecki's strikeout rate was just 12 percent, well below the PCL average of 20 percent. His walk rate of 7.2 percent was below the PCL average of 8.7 percent. Plawecki will attack early count fastballs if he gets something he can handle, rather than hanging around in the count. Once that opportunity passes, he is quite disciplined about swinging only at strikes. However, he will see many fewer hittable early count fastballs in the majors than he ever has at any point in his life. As with any young hitter transitioning to the big leagues, expect Plawecki's walk rate to decline some and his strikeout rate to rise.
In his first nine games this year, Plawecki had hit .216, with a .237 OBP and .324 SLG for the Las Vegas 51s. After going 0-for-17 start to the year, he was 8-for-20 (.400) with a two doubles and a triple in his last five games, including a final one which was shortened to two at-bats when the was removed from the game as a precaution before his big league call-up. He ran an wRC+ of 99 in the PCL in 2014, where 100 is average, which is to say Plawecki was basically an average hitter in Triple-A. Plawecki is quite unlikely to be a league average hitter in the big leagues, but he does not have to be.
The more important standard against which to compare Plawecki is that of big league catchers, who produced the third-lowest OPS of any position in baseball in 2014 at .689, better only than second basemen (.686) and shortstops (.678). So far in 2015, the position is off to an even slower start, with catchers hitting a collective .221, with a .299 OBP, .354 SLG and a .652 OPS, the lowest of any position in baseball. Deflate his numbers for the extreme environment of the PCL, subtract out some walks, add in some strikeouts and a reasonable median expectation is that Plawecki will be an approximately average catcher offensively from the beginning. In fact, Baseball Prospectus' 50th percentile PECOTA projection for Plawecki (.245/.302/.362) suggests he will be a tiny bit above average offensive catcher.
Between Double- and Triple-A in 2014, Plawecki accounted for 24 doubles and 11 home runs, a career high, in 101 games. Similarly. His swing is line-drive and contact oriented and it's relatively rare for him to hit soaring high fly balls. In the big leagues, that should turn into plenty of doubles, and were he to play everyday, double-digit homers. Again, based on the quality of catchers in the big leagues, this is more than acceptable. Plawecki cannot rely on his speed to turn singles into doubles. He's a catcher and runs like one.
As with a bat in his hand, defensively, Plawecki should hold his own. On his way through the minors, he consistently drew high marks from pitchers and pitching coaches for the work he put in working with his pitchers and attempting to execute their game plans. In this respect, the move to the majors will offer a much greater wealth of data, and better hitters and pitchers alike. Plawecki is a solid receiver. There are two areas where he can struggle defensively. The first is throwing. His arm is a little below-average for a big league catcher. He has put in good work on his body and conditioning to be agile behind home plate which has helped him maintain his mechanics at game speed, but teams will still test him and he will need help from his pitchers in controlling an opposing team's running game. The effect of moving from d'Arnaud to Plawecki's arm should cost the Mets a few bases a week.
Can the Mets survive d'Arnaud's injury by replacing him with Plawecki? Absolutely, but expect a decline.