27-year-old Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud remains on the DL this week; unfortunately for both him and the team, the news of his injury was not really news at all. D’Arnaud has suffered a host of injuries over his minor and major league career, and has rarely been healthy for an extended period since 2010. From 2010-2013 he racked up multiple injuries including herniated disc that required surgery, a torn knee ligament, and a fractured foot. Upon joining the Mets in the majors for the 2014 season he suffered a concussion and chipped elbow bone, while in 2015 a fractured hand followed by a hyperextended elbow kept him out for 78 games. His current rotator cuff strain has held him on the DL since April 26th, and his May 7th throwing program was cut short–followed by a trip back to New York for a plasma injection the following Monday–suggesting d’Arnaud’s date of return is still very up in the air.
While his replacement Kevin Plawecki was initially disappointing offensively, after Collins applied some public pressure and Plawecki took to working with hitting coach Kevin Long, he’s seen some dramatic improvement. He hit two doubles and a home run in the five games immediately after Collins’s statement, and upped his overall contact, finally managing to bring his 2016 average out of the .100s. But despite Plawecki’s uptick, there’s no arguing that the Mets could benefit from a backstop with some hitting power. The problem is there’s really little to be found, and it’s been a problem for many teams of late. So I figured I I’d peek in at the minors to invest my hopes in the up-and-coming set—hey, a girl can dream.
Okay, he’s been an official Met for a few weeks now after being called up from Las Vegas to serve as backup catcher, but here’s a progress report: The 32-year-old is no stranger to the majors, but he remains a back-up catcher mainly due to his lack of offensive staying power. Since his callup he hit a home run against the Braves, knocking in Flores for a two-point lead, but overall he’s batting a lackluster .167/.375/.417 with the Mets thus far (albeit from a small sample size of 16 plate appearances). His time with the Padres in 2013-14 showed the most offensive consistency—Rivera averaged in the .250s and hit 11 home runs in 2014, so I’m holding out hope for his bat. Defensively, Rivera floats around average in most advanced catching metrics, but his biggest strength is undoubtedly his quick defensive arm; he has a career caught stealing percentage of 38 percent, besting both d’artaud’s 23 percent and Plawecki’s 28 percent.
Johnny Monell (Las Vegas 51s, Triple-A)
Bronx-native Monell, age 30, has a few major league games under his belt, too—he played for the Giants in 2013, and was called up by the Mets last year, where he batted .167/.231/.208 in 27 games. Both his 2016 season in Las Vegas (.243/.323/.351 so far) and his minor league career stats (.269/.350/.446) are significantly better, though. If he could shake off the Citi Field stage fright, he has the potential to be a valuable backup.
Xorge Carrillo (Binghamton Mets, Double-A)
The 27-year-old was the Mexican Pacific League Rookie of the Year in 2014, and has bat consistently above .250 during his time in the minors. He hit 13 home runs in 2015, and is currently batting .250/.296/.434 with two home runs in 20 games for Binghamton, with a 2016 caught stealing percentage of 31.
Tomas Nido (St. Lucie Mets, High-A)
When I saw the catcher / DH designation next to Nido’s name, I felt my heart go pitter-Piazza-patter. Could it be—a strong offensive catcher? All signs point to yes; the 22-year-old is currently hitting .305/.330/.429 for St. Lucie, with a CS at 45 percent. The Mets chose Nido in the eighth round of the 2012 draft, and offered him a bonus to turn down college at Florida State to play for Kingsport. Last year he was named 2015’s South Atlantic League Mid-Season All-Star.
Ali Sanchez (Kingsport Mets, Rookie), Freshly 19, Sanchez is still a baby—he signed with the Mets in 2013 as a No. 25 international prospect when he was sixteen years old—but he’s another catcher / DH who’s shown continued promise. At 17 he hit .303/.406/.394 with an .800 OPS in his 50 games in the Dominican Foreign League. He spent 2015 with the Gulf Coast League before moving to the Kingsport Mets, and in his 49 games across two teams (the Gulf Coast League season has approximately 59 games; the Appalachian league’s runs 68) Sanchez continued to perform above average amongst catchers offensively, hitting .272/.330/.306. As an interesting bonus, Sanchez, who bats right, fares considerably better against lefties, averaging .300 against southpaws versus .262 against right-handed pitchers.
Defensively Sanchez also shows skill; of the 72 runners who’ve attempted stolen bases on his watch Sanchez has caught 37 of them, for an impressive CS of 51 percent. (In the majors, Salvador Perez leads current MLB catchers with a 2016 CS percentage of 58.3, Buster Posey behind him at 50 percent.) Sanchez will start the season with in Kingsport next month, but given the dearth of solid catchers out there, it’d be unsurprising to see him in Brooklyn later this year.
Photo Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports