2014 Mets Season Preview: Juan Centeno

Juan Centeno - Gordon Donovan

Rewarded with a cup of coffee after handling the bulk of catching duties for the Las Vegas 51s last season, is Juan Centeno ready for the big time?

Drafted in the 2007 MLB Amateur Draft as a 17-year-old out of Puerto Rico, Juan Centeno has slowly but surely risen through the Mets' farm system and is on the cusp of graduating. He made few waves his first three years in the system, getting limited playing time in rookie and Low-A ball with the GCL Mets and the Brooklyn Cyclones, respectively. It wasn't until 2010, when he hit .371/.417/.517 with Brooklyn, that people began taking him seriously as a prospect.

In seven seasons in the Mets' system, Centeno is a career .274/.326/.335 hitter. He spent the bulk of his playing time in Triiple-A Vegas, getting in 67 games while splitting time with Francisco Pena, and hit .305/.346/.371. In 2012, with the Binghamton Mets, he played in 79 games, splitting time with Pena and Kai Groaner. There, he hit .285/.337/.342. With the St. Lucie Mets in 2011, Centeno played in 52 games, again splitting time with Pena, and hit .318/.368/.382.

Clearly a pattern is emerging: Juan's bat is particularly light. Of the 1,138 plate appearances he's had in his career, only 48 have gone for extra bases, translating to a .061 ISO. Though MLB catchers hit a collective .245/.310/.388 in 2013, it might be a stretch to imagine Centeno reaching those marks, particularly the slugging percentage. It's a shame that his offensive production is so light, as his walks and strikeouts look good, he makes a lot of contact, and he excels at the defensive duties of catching.

Yes, indeed, when it comes to Juan Centeno, defense is the name of the game. While hit most notable accomplishment has been throwing out noted speed demon Billy Hamilton, the Puerto Rican backstop has been stopping potential baserunners for years now. In his Minor League Baseball career, Centeno has thrown out 42 percent of all baserunners who have tried to steal against him. In the past three years, against High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A competition, he's gunned down 39 percent, 41 percent, and an astounding 56 percent, respectively. As Jeff Paternostro noticed, Centeno doesn't have the strongest arm in the world, but his movements behind the dish are quick and fluid, minimizing wasted time and maximizing his chances for throwing runners out.

Centeno has a fair chance of making the big league club out of spring training. The odds of him supplanting Travis d'Arnaud as the everyday starting catching are slim, if not nonexistent, but the role of backup catcher is still potentially up for grabs. Anthony Recker, who was used in that role for much of last season, and former top prospect non-roster invitee Taylor Teagarden probably have more offensive upside, so Centeno's prospects of making the Mets likely hinge on whether or not the team is interested in maximizing the offensive or defensive potential of the position. If the answer is defense, Centeno is certainly the best man for the job.

At the very least, even if his career never pans out, Juan will always have that picture perfect throw to gun down Billy Hamilton and hand him his first major league caught stealing.

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