With just over two weeks until Spring Training, the New York Mets roster is finally starting to take shape. While there are still some unknowns, the bulk of the starters and backups appear set in place.
Starting today, and continuing every Wednesday until opening day, each position will get its own deep dive analysis. First up are the catchers.
Going into the offseason, getting a new catcher was arguably the team’s greatest need. After an up-and-down 2019 season, former catcher Wilson Ramos literally and figuratively dropped the ball in 2020. Now, with Ramos gone, it’s new addition James McCann who will take up starting duties.
Signed to a four-year, $40.6 million contract on December 15, 2020, McCann will be a key fixture in what looks to be a solid playoff roster for years to come. While some fans may be disappointed that the Mets didn’t sign top free agent J.T. Realmuto, McCann still represents a huge upgrade over Ramos. He may even have the potential to be the best catcher the Mets have had since Paul Lo Duca. Of course, that will be dependent on McCann continuing the high level of play from his last two seasons.
Now 30-years-old, McCann was something of a late bloomer. In five years with the Detroit Tigers, he was a liability on both sides of the plate. Offensively, he slashed a dismal .240/.288/.366 with an OPS+ of just 76. He also wasn’t much of a power threat with just 40 homeruns in that span. Defensively, McCann didn’t fare much better, accumulating -10 DRS in that span. His pitch framing was also abysmal, ranking in the bottom half of the league almost every year. He even ranked as low as the 6th percentile in 2017. McCann’s one saving grace in this time was that he was above average at throwing runners out, catching 106 runners for a 38% CS rate.
Luckily, there was a light at the end of the tunnel as things finally started to click for McCann 2019. After signing with the Chicago White Sox, he transformed into an All-Star. He hit .273/.328/.460 with a 108 OPS+, 18 homeruns and 26 doubles that year. Contributing to this were massive increases in hard hit percentage and exit velocity that saw McCann emerge as one of the better hitting catchers in baseball. His defense also improved as he put up 4 DRS, though, his pitch framing was still subpar as he finished in the 12th percentile.
All of this came to a head in 2020, when McCann again set new career highs in just about every rate stat. This season also saw him finally emerge as a proficient pitch framer, finishing in the 88th percentile. If the last two seasons truly weren’t a fluke and McCann is indeed the player the Mets are paying him to be, their odds of making the postseason increase dramatically.
Returning once again as the team’s primary backup catcher is Tomas Nido. Things haven’t gone smoothly for the 26-year-old through his first four years in the majors. Slashing .197/.234/.583 with a meager 49 OPS+ and just seven homeruns in his career, don’t expect much from him in terms of offensive production. As a fielder, Nido’s been the epitome of mediocre, finishing with 0 DRS three times and saving just one run in his whole career. He’s not much of a thrower either, catching just eight runners for a 13% CS rate. Unlike McCann, Nido’s one advantage comes in his pitch framing where he’s slightly above average. Though 2019 was the only season where he played enough games to qualify, he still finished in the 73rd percentile that year.
Should Nido prove ineffective as the first backup, look to New York’s 20th ranked prospect Ali Sanchez to pick up the slack. Making a brief debut last year at just 23-years-old, Sanchez recorded one hit in just nine at bats. His limited playtime also meant that he didn’t get an opportunity to prove himself behind the dish. For now, all fans really have to go on is his strong minor league performance. A defense-first catcher, Sanchez has so far been excellent at every minor league level. His blocking, pitch framing and caught stealing numbers are all consistently well above average. While he’s gone back and forth between being decent and ineffective as a batter, there is hope that more time in AAA can help Sanchez finally find his footing. Barring an exceptional Spring Training, expect him to start the season there.
That’s it for the catchers. Check back next Wednesday when the first basemen get their analysis.
Featured Image Courtesy of Freep.com
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