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A look at the Mets’ catching situation

With Wilson Ramos now in the fold, how does the Mets’ catching situation look?

MLB: Game Two-Atlanta Braves at New York Mets Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

This past year, the output by Mets catchers was definitively in the bottom of the league. Between Kevin Plawecki, Travis d’Arnaud, Devin Mesoraco, Tomas Nido, and Jose Lobaton, Mets catchers in 2018 combined for a paltry .202/.289/.353 batting line, a fruitless 79 wRC+ that ranked 20th in baseball, and a meager 0.4 fWAR, which was 25th in baseball.

So it makes a lot of sense that the Mets brought in Wilson Ramos to fix those woes. Ramos, whose 131 wRC+ was the highest mark by any catcher with over 100 PAs, hit a fantastic .306/.358/.487 with 15 homers, a 111 DRC+ and 1.8 WARP in 416 trips to the plate. However, it’s not terribly likely that Ramos continues to hit at prime Buster Posey levels going forward. That batting line was buoyed by a ludicrous .353 BABIP, and Ramos’s xWOBA of .338 was 24 points lower than his actual wOBA of .362. In addition, Ramos’s DRC+ being 20 points lower than his wRC+ is telling, as DRC+ is thought to be more predictive.

That said, it doesn’t appear as though Ramos is about to turn into a pumpkin, either. While he is 31-years-old, he has been an above-average hitter for much of his career, and has been a great hitter in two of the last three years. Steamer is projecting a 106 wRC+ and 2.1 fWAR for Ramos in 2019, which would still render much him better than anyone else who caught for the Mets this year.

Any way you slice it, Ramos instantly makes the crop of Mets catchers better. With Mesoraco no longer with the organization, Ramos effectively takes his place, and it’s quite an upgrade. He joins Plawecki, d’Arnaud, and Nido as the crop of catchers most likely to see all the action behind the plate this season.

Plawecki split time with Mesoraco for most of 2018, and his season was a step back from his more productive 2017. In 277 plate appearances this past year, Plawecki hit for just a 93 wRC+ and an 88 DRC+, and was worth just 0.6 WARP. Given that this was more in line with the type of offense he had shown at the MLB level before 2017, and that the quality of his batted balls roughly justified his output with an xWOBA of .306 being just four points higher than his actual wOBA of .302, it’s fair to expect Plawecki to be this kind of hitter going forward.

Plawecki has also never been a particularly strong defender. While he has typically been at least average at throwing and blocking, he has consistently been below-average at framing by Baseball Prospectus’s framing metrics. When you combine that middling defense with his sub-par offense, Plawecki is ideally not anything more than a part-time player. The Mets appear to be shopping him to see if they can trade him for bullpen help, though it’s unclear how likely a deal actually is with how wildly and furiously rumors have been swirling this offseason.

Behind him on the depth chart comes d’Arnaud, who is more of a wild card now than anyone else. If Plawecki is moved, d’Arnaud figures to be the primary backup. But if Plawecki stays, then d’Arnaud might not even break camp with the team after spring training. Regardless, the 29-year-old is coming off a lost season in which he played just four games due to Tommy John surgery. His career to this point has been punctuated by injuries, which has made it nearly impossible to evaluate the former prize of the R.A. Dickey trade over any discernible sample size.

Throughout his career, d’Arnaud has flashed signs of being anywhere from an elite catcher to a glorified backup. After Tommy John surgery, though, it’s impossible to know exactly what you’re going to get out of him now. One skill d’Arnaud has always possessed, regardless of health, is an elite framing ability. With that framing ability, he doesn’t even need to crack a 100 wRC+ in order to have a place on a roster, but relying on him to stay healthy in any capacity is quite a risk to take.

Finally, the catching depth is rounded out by Tomas Nido. The 24-year-old is is already a stout defender at basically every aspect of catching, which could instantly make him a valuable backup catcher. Unfortunately, the main obstacle preventing that right now is his offense. Through his first 100 plate appearances at the big league level, Nido’s wRC+ is just 27. That said, he did hold his own at Double-A last year with the bat, and has only had 19 plate appearances at Triple-A. He’s still got work to do, but if Nido can get his offense to at least Jeff Mathis levels, he could carve out a nice career for himself as a serviceable backup catcher who works well with pitchers and calls a good game.

All together, Steamer—which is notoriously conservative in its projections—currently projects Mets catchers to total 3.0 fWAR in 2019. In 2018, 3.0 fWAR out of the catcher’s position would have put the Mets in a tie with the Braves for the sixth-best catching unit in baseball. It goes without saying that Steamer is far from perfect and has a large error margin, but it’s encouraging to see nonetheless.

With the addition of Ramos, the Mets now have an elite offensive catcher to go along with two solid part-time options, and an emergency catcher in Triple-A who could develop into a fine backup himself with a little more experience. All of a sudden, the Mets seem to have legitimate value at the catcher position, which it feels like they haven’t had in quite some time.