In late 2014, early 2015, Mets C Kevin Plawecki was widely considered the second-best catching prospect in baseball, according to more or less every every published top prospect list.
Three and a half years later, after years of being labeled only a backup catcher, he's starting to show that maybe, possibly, he can be counted on as every day catcher for the Mets.
Prior to his first call-up during the summer of 2015, Plawecki was often labeled by scouts as an "offensive catcher," mostly due to his average defensive skills, short, simple swing and impressive contact rate.
In his last 18 games, during which he has started 16 times, Plawecki looks like the player scouts predicted he could be, as he's batting .267/.338/.467 with five extra base hits (including three homers) and 14 RBI, while averaging fewer than one strikeout per game. In addition to having the fourth-most offensive WAR among NL catchers during that stretch, Plawecki is also simply "moving the line," either by putting the ball in play or reaching first base in exactly half of his plate appearances.
Earlier this season, he missed nearly seven weeks between April and June due to a broken bone in his non-throwing hand.
During Game 1 of Thursday's doubleheader, he went 4-for-4 with three RBI, three runs scored and two walks during the team's 24-4 win against the Phillies at Citizen's Bank Park.
"He's still a solid, very sound receiver, though I think he can still improve on his throwing," an NL scout recently told me, noting that he and his colleagues all hear Plawecki has long been the preferred backstop among his pitchers. "I had him a few years ago as a guy that could hit .280, maybe 10-15 home runs. I still think he has that in him if they give him the runway to be that guy."
At the time of Plawecki's promotion in 2015, starting catcher Travis d'Arnaud was seemingly on the road to becoming an elite, every day catcher as he hit .283 with five HR, eight doubles and 21 RBI down the stretch.
However, since the end of 2015, d'Arnaud has missed nearly 65 percent of the team's games due to a laundry list of injuries, including having Tommy John surgery this past May.
At this point, the ship has sailed on d'Arnaud, who isn't expected to return until next spring, at which point he'll be 30 years old and a free agent at the end of the season.
The question for the Mets this winter then becomes whether to finally bank on Plawecki as their starting catcher or acquire someone new...
I'm old school in that I still believe it's important to have the best possible game-calling, defensive catcher possible. The only way I can justify having a weak defensive catcher is if he's Mike Piazza and has the endurance and ability to be one of the team's top offensive players as well.
Along those lines, the Mets have talked multiple times during the past year about the potential of trading for 27-year-old catcher J.T. Realmuto. The Mets are not the only team interested in Realmuto, though, with the Nationals reportedly having been in constant contact with Miami since last summer. Realmuto is earning $2.9 million this season, is arbitration-eligible the next two years and able to be a free agent after the 2020 season.
Similarly, the Royals reportedly talked to multiple teams this past winter and July about trading catcher Salvador Perez, who is hitting just .237 with a .277 OBP but with 21 HR and 17 doubles. Unlike Realmuto, who is younger and more affordable, Perez will soon be 29 years old and is due $40 million the next three seasons.
The best every day, free agent option this winter will be Wilson Ramos, who signed a two-year deal in 2017 with the Rays, who recently traded him to the Phillies.
Ramos, who is batting .308/.355/.510 with 32 extra base hits, has created the most runs at catcher this season, according to FanGraph's wRC+. Realmuto is second to Ramos.
The way I see it, if the Mets aren't going to sign Ramos or trade for Realmuto, they may as well commit to Plawecki, while getting him an experienced, defense-first backup, such as Rene Rivera was a few years ago.
The Mets have allowed the most stolen bases in baseball this season. What's worse, opposing base stealers are 20-of-22 with Noah Syndergaard on the mound. In games when facing a high-running team with Syndergaard on the mound, the backup with a better arm can fill in for Plawecki.
Otherwise, assuming he continues to hit as he has the past few weeks, Plawecki has absolutely earned the opportunity to meet expectations set for him three years ago when a top catching prospect. And this time, when d'Arnaud returns from the DL, he can finally be Plawecki's backup instead of it being the other way around...
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!