All season, the Mets had a significant problem at the catcher position. Travis d'Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki were each batting under .240 with an OPS under .700 at the end of August and minimal history of success to look back on, particularly in Plawecki's case. But both have had a surge of production that may help simplify an issue for a team facing a very complicated offseason.
On September 1, d'Arnaud was sitting on a .232/.281/.394 slash line over 306 plate appearancesm -- a deeply disappointing season in which he finally seemed to be capable of staying healthy for a long stretch. Since the beginning of the month, though, he has been on fire, batting .315/.367/.741 with six home runs in 60 plate appearances, while striking out only five times.
It hasn't all been against September call-ups either -- five of his six home runs came against established major leaguers, and his OPS is seventh-best in baseball for the month. D'Arnaud's season line is still below major league average overall, but better than the average catcher, particularly in regards to power. He's not out of the woods yet, but this explosion could not have come at a better time.
Plawecki's improvement has been more subtle, but his .781 September OPS is enough to bring him up to average catcher offensive production, and by far the best season of his career to date. In particular, he's sporting an impressive .333 OBP for the season, and his 13 percent strikeout rate would be one of the best in baseball if he had enough plate appearances to qualify.
Combined with his above-average defense behind the plate, this season's performance is making a strong argument for his capacity to serve as a major league quality backup catcher -- something he urgently needed to prove as he will be out of options next year and will not be able to be sent to the minors without being exposed to waivers.
As with so many positions, catching options hitting the market this offseason are few and likely to get big paydays due to scarcity. Jonathan Lucroy, the only notable name, is having the worst season of his career on both sides of the ball. Alex Avila is tearing the cover off the ball, but is a big question mark defensively, and his history is spotty overall. Both are likely to get solid contracts for multiple years and everyone else is old, bad, or both.
The Mets are looking at a minimum of four starting position player holes to fill and it's difficult to see them making an upgrade at catcher without sacrificing significantly more elsewhere. Moving forward with the assumption that d'Arnaud and Plawecki will split time in the majors allows the team to go ahead with just a minor league backup and young Tomas Nido, who should be in Triple-A next year.
Two young catchers pushing one another to improve is a luxury most teams would want, and while the growing pains and inconsistency are frustrating at times, Plawecki and d'Arnaud are showing why they garnered high praise as prospects. Helped along by a mediocre catching market, they may have bought themselves another shot to fulfill the promise they've carried these past years.
Maggie Wiggin (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Archive Posts) has been a Mets fan since birth and a MetsBlog contributor since 2013. She loves throwing hard and hitting hard and hates the DH. When baseball is out of season, she fills her days with data analysis and evaluation and patiently waits for Spring