The Situation: While Travis d’Arnaud got off to a hot start this year with a .289/.317/.526 line through his first 10 games, the dream faded when he fractured his right hand. To compensate for this loss on a red hot club, the Mets will call up former first-round pick Kevin Plawecki.
Background: Plawecki was a supplemental first-round pick by the Mets in 2012 after a strong career spent torturing Big Ten pitchers at Purdue. During his debut summer in the New York-Penn League, Plawecki hit .250 with eight doubles and seven home runs in 61 games. He followed up his solid professional debut with an even more impressive full-season debut, splitting the 2013 season between Low-A Savannah and High-A St. Lucie, where he combined for a .305/.390/.448 line to cement himself as a top prospect in the Mets system. His second full season of pro ball saw him continue to rake, as he finished with a .309/365/.460 line in 101 games across Double-A and Triple-A.
Scouting Report: Plawecki offers a bat-first profile that centers on his extreme knack for contact. He has excellent bat-to-ball ability and his contact is frequently hard and sprayed to all fields. Armed with a strong knowledge of the strike zone, an ability to recognize pitches quickly, and a willingness to work deep into counts, Plawecki is frequently in a position to drive pitches. His power plays to the gaps and as a full-time player he could notch 20-25 doubles and augment that power with 10-12 home runs when he turns on a pitch.
All told, Plawecki’s offensive game should hold up a the big-league level, where he is capable of posting a solid batting average and high on-base percentages, with some fringe power backing it up. That type of offensive package should play well at the catcher position in today’s game, and gives him a chance to be an above-average offensive contributor.
On the defensive side, Plawecki draws mixed reviews from scouts throughout the industry. He consistently receives the ball well and builds a strong rapport with his pitchers. His arm typically grades as having average raw strength and plays well at the position. Where scouts tend to differ is when the discussion turns to his footwork and blocking. On his best days, Plawecki demonstrates quick feet and snaps a fast release, allowing his arm strength to play up slightly. On other days, Plawecki looks slow and occasionally clumsy with his footwork, forcing his defensive package toward the fringe level.
Having personally scouted Plawecki every season from 2011 through 2014, I have seen the best and worst the catcher has to offer on both sides of the ball. When all of my observations are combined, I find it reasonable to project a solid all-around backstop who can play every day at the major-league level while providing quality offense in the bottom third of the lineup.
Immediate Big-League Future: Plawecki has gotten off to a rough start in 2015, though he has turned things around a bit in his past few games. Plawecki should get the bulk of the time behind the dish for the Mets until d’Arnaud is healthy, given that Anthony Recker is his only current competition, leaving him with ample opportunity to establish himself as a viable big-league catcher with both the glove and, more importantly, the bat. —Mark Anderson
Fantasy Impact: When injuries strike and top prospects get the call, there is often a level of uncertainty around how much playing time the manager is actually going to give the new, inexperienced toy he has to play with. This only rings more true for catchers. However, Terry Collins did his best to assuage those concerns for Plawecki's current and future fantasy owners, by telling Adam Rubin of ESPN New York that the call up will serve as the Mets' starting catcher upon arrival. Of course, once d'Arnaud is healthy, Plawecki will turn back into a pumpkin from a fantasy perspective, even if by small chance he ends up sticking with the club at that point.
So that leaves Plawecki around 6-8 weeks to show fantasy owners what he can do. In a nutshell, he is capable of doing enough at the plate (not to mention his defense, which Mark did above) to warrant the playing time he'll get, but not enough to be rosterable in one-catcher mixed leagues. It's been a really strange year so far in fantasy for catchers, as A.J. Pierzynski, Caleb Joseph, Roberto Perez and Robinson Chirinos are all sitting in the top 10 after the first two weeks of the season. But even with that weirdness (and injuries to Yan Gomes, Devin Mesoraco and the aforemention d'Arnaud), Plawecki will fall outside of the top-15 fantasy catchers. At best, he's likely to be more of an empty average for now, capable of hitting .270-.275,but offering little in terms of power or speed. In fact, if you're looking to the waiver wire, I'd look first at Caleb Joseph and J.T. Realmuto, if you need a short-term answer at the position. However, in the long run, Plawecki could approach .290 with his batting average and reach double-digits in home runs over the course of a full season—so don't take that to mean he'll be an empty average in perpetuity.
That said, Plawecki needs to be owned in just about all two-catcher redraft leagues and any mixed leagues greater than 16 teams. In fact, Mike Gianella and I would likely have put in a bid for him (to replace Ryan Hanigan) in mixed LABR (two-catchers, 15 teams) had we not already spent half our FAAB budget. For full disclosure, we did bid $2 on Realmuto and as of writing this, I'm not sure if we got him or not. In that sort of format, I'd be comfortable going up to $3-$4 given the need. In NL-only formats, a bid of $10 is warranted given the playing time he's looking at in the near future at such a tough position to fill appropriately. In dynasty league formats, Plawecki checks in as my fifth-ranked catching prospect and someone who is just slightly outside the top-100 overall. He should be owned in just about all 14-team dynasty leagues and deeper (along with any two-catcher leagues), but the lack of overall upside makes him a tough sell in those shallower formats. —Bret Sayre
- 90th percentile: .291/.354/.430, 3.6 WARP
- 50th percentile: .245/.302/.362, 1.1 WARP
- 10th percentile: .200/.251/.295, -0.7 WARP
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