Catcher, is for the first time in some time, not a major concern for the Mets. Travis d'Arnaud, after his early-season struggles, and his get-right session in Las Vegas produced the best season by a Mets catcher in years. His 105 wRC+ was the best for a Mets' backstop since Josh Thole's 103 in 2010, although that covered under 300 plate appearances. The last Mets backstop to match d'Arnaud's 105 wRC+ was Ramon Castro (126) in 157 PA in 2007. Counting playing time, the last Mets' backstop to achieve a 105 wRC+, in at least 400 PA was Paul Lo Duca in 2006.
However, d'Aranud has been injury-prone in the last few seasons, and his 2014 ended early with surgery needed for bone chips in his elbow. Catchers take such a physical beating that depth is particularly important.
So, on to the minor leaguers, ranked by prospect status.
- Kevin Plawecki
- Ali Sanchez
- Juan Centeno
- Brandon Brosher
- Tomas Nido
- Xorge Carrillo
- Colton Plaia
- Cam Maron
- Darryl Knight
Plawecki hit his way out of Double-A (.326/.378/.487 in 58 games) and was solid in the final 43 games of the year in Triple-A (.283/.345/.421). The scouting report on the former supplemental first-rounder has barely moved in the last year, but now he should be in the big leagues in 2015. Plawecki looked like he was in slightly better shape this year than in the past, and he was plenty durable. He's a very aggressive hitter, who knows the strike zone, that leads to low strikeout rates (11.5 percent between Double- and Triple-A) and a 7.2 percent walk rate. He can barrel balls to the gaps, but he's not going to be a major power threat - his 11 home runs in 2014 were his most as a professional.
Plaweckis is, in most respects a fine, if unexceptional, defender when it comes to working with pitchers, and receiving and blocking balls. However, despite working hard on his throwing, it can be a liability. He threw out 23 percent of opposing runners overall this year (19 of 81) and just 10 percent (3 of 29) in Triple-A. When he misses, his throws sail high and to the first base side of second base.
Add it all up, and there's a competent major league catcher in here, good enough to start for many teams, but who, when d'Arnaud is healthy, will be no better than the second-best catcher on the Mets. Still, he should make his big league debut in 2015.
From Plawecki at the top of the system, to find the next-best catching prospect, we must veer all the way to the bottom for Ali Sanchez, who the Mets signed for $690,000 as a 16-year-old out of Venezuela in 2013. Baseball America had him ranked No. 25 in that summer's international class.
Sanchez hit a healthy .303/.406/.394 with seven doubles, three homers, 27 walks and 31 strikeouts in 50 games in the DSL in 2014. He attended the Mets Instructional League and will begin 2015 with one of the Mets' short-season teams in either the Appalachian League or the Gulf Coast League.
What's a replacement-level catcher look like? Something like Juan Centeno, who bounced between Double-A, Triple-A and the big leagues when the Mets needed help, and to make way for Kevin Plawecki. Still, Centeno's arm, contact ability and strike zone judgement got him to the big leagues.
4. BrosherThe Mets were in the process of converting Brosher to catcher in the Appalachian League this summer when he broke his foot at the end of June before the season was two months old. Brosher's a big kid at 6'3", 225 with a strong build. I really liked his swing in a short look in batting practice and games. He was reasonably short to the ball, with the strength to generate carry. In the one week he played in the Appy, he hit 12-for-31 with four homers (yes, that's .387/.424/.774 in 7 games) on his way to a Player of the Week Award.
To be honest, I have no idea if he can catch. He slipped in the draft because he was committed to Oral Roberts as a pitcher (he touched 94 in high school) and looked like a tough sign. Still, the Mets took him in the 36th round and signed him for $167,500.
If you want a deep sleeper in the Mets system, Brosher's an interesting bet.
This is likely the line for the Top 41 list.
The Mets went overslot to sign Nido as an eighth-round pick in 2012, and he won't turn 21 until April 2015, when he should make his full-season debut with Savannah. He has a solid arm and some line drive ability. Repeating Brooklyn, he doubled his walk rate from 3.2% last year to 6.9% in 2014.
Guys like Xorge Carillo, Cam Maron and Colton Plaia are all useful players for minor league affiliates but are unlikely to ever be big leaguers, giving them org value. They have different skills sets (Carillo has the best power, Maron is Josh Thole-lite, an Plaia is a nice catch and throw guy) but none will likely be productive big leaguers.