The Mets made Stetson catcher Patrick Mazeika, a junior, their eighth-round pick, and he was an easy guy to overlook. In fact, Baseball America overlooked him entirely, leaving him off their Top 500 players list, a circumstance I thought a little perplexing, especially given the utter lack of catching available in this year’s draft.
It’s true that Mazeika’s junior season was a little bit of a mixed bag. He showed an increased ability to hit for power, but he hit just .307, which may have scared some evaluators off. But it’s also true that he was perhaps the best freshman catcher in the country in 2013, batting .382/.488/.495 for the Hatters. He followed it up with a very solid sophomore campaign in which he hit .354. His performance on the Cape wasn’t as strong—he hit just .207—and there was enough concern about his offensive performance and defensive shortcomings that he was available to the Mets in the eighth round. But for a college pick at this spot, I think Mazeika is a smart choice.
We’ll start with the bat, because that’s why he was drafted. Mazeika has a smooth swing from the left side marked by a deep hand load and a very flat swing path. At this point, I wouldn’t touch the swing—it’s flat and that’s all there is to it; he’ll have to make it work as is. And as it is, he’s capable of making some very hard contact, which gives him gap power and the chance to hit the occasional line drive out of the park. He needs to be careful not to overstride: when he does, he brings his weight too far forward too soon, and finds himself hitting off his front foot.
But his best offensive feature is his approach at the plate. He almost never strikes out—his low batting averages this season and on the Cape were induced by a terribly low batting average on balls in play, something that may have more to do with luck than skill. He’s also an incredibly patient hitter who works counts and draws lots and lots of walks. Sometimes it might pay for him to be more aggressive, but the walk rate could make him an on-base machine of a backstop, something that doesn’t happen very often.
The biggest question is his defense, as it is for most catchers. Scouts around here were pretty split as to whether he sticks at the position long-term. Some thought he was a hair too large to stay at the position at 6-3 and 220, and that he lacks the natural agility required to succeed. They might very well be right: by all reports, he isn’t the most polished or even the more comfortable backstop back there, but it should be noted that he does throw pretty well. His arm strength is solid-average back there, but it plays up thanks to a very quick release. His pop times have always been above average. A below average runner, Mazeika will be confined to first if the tools of ignorance become too much for him. I won’t say that he couldn’t make it to the majors as a first baseman—on-base ability plays anywhere, if only in a reduced role—but he will need to continue to produce to make that happen.
Mazeika has already indicated that he plans to sign with the team.