The Mets minor league catching situation is dire. Very few prospects, let alone impact players or even just future starters. High profile whiffs like Francisco Pena and Blake Forsythe hover like black clouds, making mediocre players like Kai Gronauer look good. However, one player who is providing some hope for this situation lately is Savannah's Albert Cordero. The 21-year old backstop is in the process of affirming his status as the Mets best and brightest catching prospect.
After showing promise in the international summer leagues, the slight-framed kid from Venezuela burst onto the scene in 2010 with a very strong season in Rookie-Level Kingsport. Former Mets catcher and K-Mets Manager Mike DiFelice noted Cordero's surprising pop as well as his natural instincts for catching. From very early on Cordero showed a proficiency for shutting down the running game, nailing 23 of 53 runners (43%). And eight home runs in 200 ab's is good in any context, but that kind of power from a 20-year old catcher making his stateside debut...well, let's just say it's a very good sign.
So it's no surprise that Cordero had some admirers come 2011. Many rated Cordero very highly within the system and I myself made mention of him in the Preseason Top 5 Sleepers. However, we were all left somewhat disappointed as the season got underway and Cordero struggled mightily. By the end of May he was batting .208 with a single homer and worse, he had managed an atrocious one walk versus 27 strikeouts. His first taste of A-Ball pitching -- in Savannah -- seemed to deteriorate his already suspect plate discipline, making his power all but useless.
However, things changed around the time of the All-Star Break.
Cordero reportedly made some adjustments to his approach, utilizing a more conservative plan of attack and it showed. Suddenly he began making modest gains in walks while making much more significant cuts in strikeouts (pictured below). This allowed his excellent natural power to finally begin coming through as his SLG inversely rose each month as his K% fell. His all-around performance at the plate blossomed, with a solid June (.688 OPS), followed by an strong July (.777) and now, he's having an outstanding month of August (1.343).
Through just eight games in August he's already knocked five extra-base hits including a couple more home runs. And that figure on the graph was no joke, he's yet to strike out in August while having already walked four times. Needless to say, his defense remains a strength as he's gunned down 22 of 50 runners (44%) this season, which is tops in the SAL. With 12 past balls -- accounting for most of his 14 errors -- he still needs to add some polish, but the ability is clearly there.
In short, we're looking at a kid who is transforming his 2011 season from a disappointment into a major success, and one who is likely the start and finish of any 'catcher of the future' discussion by this time next year. The continued growth of his defensive skills, power potential and most importantly the ability to adjust to better competition gives good reason to believe that he'll be able to continue his progression up through A-Ball in 2012.
In terms of his long-term future, despite strong recent gains his overall 11:52 BB-to-K rate indicates that plate discipline will always be something he must work at. In addition, at just 5'11", 175lbs it is yet to be seen whether his home run pop will become more gap-to-gap power at the highest levels -- especially Citi Field. Yet, if he continues to develop at this rate -- which is always a tricker proposition for catching prospects -- his defensive proficiency and potent bat certainly fit nicely into the mold of a Carlos Ruiz/Yadier Molina-style big league catcher, which the Mets would be more than happy with.
A Tale of Two Seasons for Albert Cordero: