While we're all more or less familiar with the Mike Baxters and Aaron Harangs of the world, Juan Centeno is the latest legitimately new player joining the Mets roster; he'll join Matt den Dekker as the second player to make his Mets debut this September.
So to quote my favorite line from the movie 'Juno', who is the kid?
Juan Centeno is a 23-year-old catching prospect who solidified his status in the Mets system with a strong 2013 campaign covering for an injured Travis d'Arnaud in Triple-A Las Vegas, where he batted .305/.346/.371 in split-duty with Francisco Pena.
The Mets originally drafted Centeno back in the 32nd round of the 2007 draft; as an aside, he'll join Zach Lutz (5th), Lucas Duda (7th), Robert Carson (14th), and Dillon Gee (29th) as the club's existing spoils from that draft class (Note - first-rounder Eddie Kunz begat Allan Dykstra by way of trade). Centeno will also join Angel Pagan as one of the very few successful Puerto Rican high school draftees in the club's history.
Centeno is an interesting player in that he was not considered much of a prospect until very recently. In fact, through his first three professional seasons Centeno sported a career .174/.246/.197 line with zero home runs and a single stolen base. At that point, even his most ardent supporters would have said he was a nice glove that just didn't have the stick to be considered relevant.
Things began to change, however, in 2010 when the young catcher opened some eyes by batting .371 with just eight strikeouts in 32 games for Brooklyn -- showing a taste of the offensive skillset that would ultimately carry him up the chain. Namely, I'm speaking of Centeno's excellent ability to make contact. Since that stop with Brooklyn he has generally posted strikeout rates at 12% or better, while featuring a strong ability to turn that contact into hits and maintain a strong average:
Unfortunately, when I said he turns 'contact into hits', it would have been more accurate to say that he turns contact into singles. The compact lefty features about as much pop as you'd expect from a ballplayer that stands 5'10", 170 lbs. He's wont to flare anything on the outer half of the plate the other way and does not often drive the ball.
Additionally, he's not the most refined hitter -- meaning that he's posted inconsistent walk rates and subsequent so-so on-base numbers. In short, he's a limited offensive player who needs the singles to drop to remain useful. On the bright side, he's always posted strong numbers against lefties, featuring a reverse-platoon split for his career.
The good news is that what he lacks offensively, he nearly makes up for on the other side of the ball. Centeno is a very strong defender behind the plate. He carries his small frame very well, showcases very quick footwork, and possesses a strong arm -- which all leads to stellar caught stealing percentages. Centeno has regularly posted rates in the 40-50% range throughout his career; this season he's nailed an incredible 30 of 54 Pacific Coast League runners (56%).
In terms of profile, Centeno pretty clearly projects as a potential backup catcher at the major league level. While he'll never possess the kind of pop of an Anthony Recker, he would fit well as a defense-first option on a team that boasts a strong offensive option in their no. one catcher -- something the Mets will hope to do with d'Arnaud.
In any case, Centeno's development as a prospect must already be considered a success when you realize that the club has managed to graduate just three other 32nd round players in their 46-year draft history. Huzzah!