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2016 Mets season preview: Kevin Plawecki

The Mets backup catcher will look to improve his offensive output in 2016.

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

When Travis d'Arnaud went down with a fracture in his hand last April, the Mets summoned Kevin Plawecki to fill in. The former Purdue Boilermaker had some good moments in his first major league experience, going 2-for-4 in his debut and becoming the first player to hit his first home run in a Subway Series game when he homered off CC Sabathia in late April. While he was sidelined for a time by dizziness, Plawecki has since had sinus surgery to hopefully correct the issue and keep him healthy and available for 2016.

Plawecki's calling card was supposed to be his offense, but his production wasn't good in 2015. He accrued 258 plate appearances with a paltry 60 wRC+ and a .219/.280/.296 line. His batting average on balls in play was a bit low, but he hit far too many pop-ups and generally pounded the ball into the ground when he did make good contact. Add in his middling power—3 home runs and a .077 isolated slugging—and 22.8 strikeout percentage and you wind up with a well-below-average offensive player, even for a catcher.

Conversely, Plawecki's defense shone in his major league time. While he was roughly average in terms of blocking and slightly below average in terms of limiting base stealers, Plawecki rated as the 10th-most valuable framer among major league catchers per Baseball Prospectus. Depending on how much you buy into framing numbers—and there's some debate as to how exactly the theoretical runs they represent map over to actual runs—Plawecki's receiving won the Mets as many as 1.2 games in 2015. For a catcher lauded more for his offense, those are some very promising numbers for his future production, even if the bat never fully develops.

It's far too early to write off Plawecki's bat entirely. d'Arnaud's struggles in 2014 are a great example of how catchers often have a hard time upon arriving to the major leagues as they juggle their many other responsibilities. And while Plawecki doesn't have the power upside that d'Arnaud does, there's still potential for the solid hitter with gap power that scouts projected before 2015. There was some talk of sending Plawecki down to the minors temporarily to start the 2016 season so that he can get at-bats during the sparse early schedule. That talk seems to have died down, but the plan seemed to be for at most a temporary demotion. Either way, Plawecki should serve as an above-average backup catcher in 2016, hopefully getting time to work on his offense now that he's familiar with the major league pitching staff.