Plawecki Should Start in AAA

Finally, some common sense. The Mets are now talking about making Johnny Monell the back-up catcher on the Opening Day roster instead of Kevin Plawecki

Truth be told, Plawecki is the better player right now between him and Monell. However, he’s also still considered a prospect that is going to need to receive regular at bats to get better. Remember Plawecki was a player the Mets believed could’ve challenged Travis d’Arnaud for the starting catcher spot last year. After 2015, it was clear Plawecki has more work to do offensively. 

Plawecki was pressed into action when d’Arnaud got injured twice last year. In 73 games, Plawecki hit an ugly .219/.280/.296 with a 3 homeruns and 21 RBI. His OPS+ was a putrid 69, and his 60 wRC+ was just as bad. Yes, the Mets lineup at the time was historically bad, but his numbers show he was a big reason why. Simply put, Plawecki showed he was not ready for big league pitching.

Not to pile on him, but his AAA numbers suggests he shouldn’t have been called up in the first place. In 65 game in Las Vegas, Plawecki only hit .262/.318/.392. These numbers are even more troubling when you consider Cashman Field is a hitter’s park, and the Pacific Coast League is a hitter’s league. However, that’s not reason for concern. It’s reason to believe he just needs more time. 

Up until his promotion to AAA in 2014, Plawecki raked.  In 58 AA games, Plawecki hit .326/.378/.487 with six homers and 43 RBI. At that point, the Mets got aggressive with him and sent him to AAA where he hit .283/.345/.421 with five homers and 21 RBI in 43 games. It was 2015 when he rwall started to struggle. In the 22 games he played before getting called up to hold the fort for d’Arnaud, he was hitting .224/.267/.341. His hitting woes continued in the majors. 

At this point, it should be noted that Plawecki did undergo sinus surgery in the offseason in the hopes it would cure the dizzy spells he experienced during the 2015 season. His dizzy spells could reasonably explain the precipitous drop off in his numbers. It may not. We will see in 2016. 

Getting back to the 2016 season, the Mets have an option to make at backup catcher. d’Arnaud is the clear-cut starter. If healthy, he should be an All Star. If healthy, he needs to play as much as reasonably possible. For a catcher, that typically means you get days off in the following situations: (1) day game after a night game; (2) second game of a doubleheader; or (3) game after you caught a long extra inning game. There are other reasons, but those are typically the main ones.  With that in mind, absent injury, your starting catcher will typical catch around 130 games. 

In a 162 game season, that only leaves Plawecki with 32 games to play. For a player coming off a lost years, that will not help his development. He needs to play and see pitching. He needs to hit. If d’Arnaud gets hurt (again), Plawecki could come up from AAA and start in d’Arnaud’s spot.  If Plawecki is then needed he will have been playing everyday, and he will hopefully in a nice groove instead of rotting away on the bench. 

Let someone like Monell, who is getting no better, play those 32 games. Monell can hit terribly for those games. He can also prevent Plawecki from accruing service time. 

Now, Plawecki is no longer a rookie due to the time he played in the majors last year. He’s also not arbitration eligible. Each day Plawecki is in the majors is another day, he’s closer to arbitration. It’s also another day the Mets lose team control of him. If you’re losing team control of him because he’s actually playing that’s understandable. However, losing control of him so he can play 30-40 games a year as a backup catcher makes no sense. It’s a mismanagement of team assets. 

Keeping in the minors permits Plawecki to get the at bats he needs to improve. It also permits the Mets to keep team control. This helps Plawecki, and it helps the Mets. It permits the Mets to have more control for more years if they ever move on from d’Arnaud. It also makes Plawecki a more attractive trade option in the future. His value goes up if a team has more years of control. 

In sum, Plawecki being the backup catcher helps no one. It doesn’t help him get better. It also doesn’t help the Mets maximize his value. Monell should be the backup catcher in 2016.