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Kevin Plawecki seeks to build on his strong finish from last season

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If he can sustain the benefits reaped from the adjustments he has made at the plate, he could be a valuable piece for the Mets in 2018.

MLB: Atlanta Braves at New York Mets Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

After dismal showings at the plate over parts of two big league seasons in 2015 and 2016, Kevin Plawecki seemed to finally figure it out last season, showing signs of the hit tool he had as a prospect. The result was a 106 wRC+ in 37 games for the Mets’ backstop, which he hopes to build on this season.

I recently wrote a piece about how the adjustments Plawecki has made with his swing are paying off and may continue to do so in 2018. He successfully raised his launched angle and hit into fewer ground ball outs. The fact that he already has the natural talent and hit tool as a base to build from is a reason for the Mets to be optimistic about his development going forward.

The projection systems are slightly less optimistic, however. Steamer predicts a .247/.311/.382 slash line with an 85 wRC+ over 118 plate appearances, good for 0.6 fWAR. Meanwhile, PECOTA projects a .237/.302/.360 slash line with 0.4 WARP over 99 plate appearances. One aspect of these projections that stands out is the small share of playing time they believe Plawecki will earn, which is probably underestimating his WAR. For either one of the projections to come to pass when it comes to the number of plate appearances for Plawecki, Travis d’Arnaud would have to achieve a career-high number of games played. Not only is that questionable because of d’Arnaud’s checkered injury history, it also seems unlikely because the Mets have indicated that the two catchers will share time behind the plate this season—an arrangement that worked so well down the stretch in 2017.

Plawecki is fine with that. At camp on Monday, he told Abbey Mastracco:

We’re great friends. I think it’s important for us to both just support each other and that’s what we’ve done since day one. The situation is what it is -- we just want to win games. It doesn’t really matter how we do it. No matter who’s back there, we’re supporting each other and pulling on the same end of the rope.

Mickey Callaway believes Plawecki and d’Arnaud sharing time is a good recipe for success for the Mets, not only because both players showed signs of life with the bat toward the end of last season, but also because they bring different defensive strengths to the table. Travis d’Arnaud is an excellent pitch framer, but Plawecki throws out runners at a better clip—something the Mets’ pitching staff, which is vulnerable to the stolen base, can benefit greatly from. “Our pitchers have to do a better job of controlling the running game for those catchers to be a little more comfortable back there,” Callaway said. “And that’s going to be one of the things that we emphasize in camp.”

Here’s hoping the new-and-improved fly-ball-hitting Plawecki can help make the catching position one of strength for the Mets in 2018.