Saturday, March 29, 2008

Mets 2008 Preview: Catchers

Previously, with Lo Duca and before him Piazza, the catcher was expected to be both a valuable component of the offense and one of the more media-prominent members of the team. This year marks something of a change in philosophy, as the Mets are looking to get fewer hits and quotes, in return for fewer passed balls and more thrown out base stealers.

Brian Schneider
Chinese Zodiac: Dragon
Career AVG/OBP/SLG: .252/.323/.377
I’m not sure how sold I am on the concept of a defense-first catcher. In the end, though, truly good hitting catchers are so hard to come by that perhaps the wise thing is to go with defense, which you can more or less count on, rather than overpay for a player like Paul LoDuca, who is a good hitter for a catcher but still not overwhelming in the context of major league line-ups in general. (In LoDuca’s case the issue is further confused because the two things that he excelled at, hitting for average and not striking out, are probably generally considered more valuable than they actually are) Still, half of a prized outfield prospect doesn’t exactly seem like a bargain, particularly because Schneider is already having hamstring problems in spring. I sincerely hope that Schneider is at least deeply adequate, just so that I won’t have to waste more energy cursing the Milledge deal.
UPDATE: Atlanta was able to tie the first North American regular season game in top of the nineth inning, thanks to a Paul LoDuca passed-ball, so Schneider seems like a little bit of a better idea all ready. And the Nationals won on a walkoff homer in the bottom of the nineth, so that was cool.

Ramon Castro
Chinese Zodiac: Dragon
Career AVG/OBP/SLG: 234/.310/.413
Ramon Castro’s solid hitting and defense are offset by the fact that he has never shown himself durable enough to catch a full season. What is it like being a perfect back-up catcher? Is it like going through life knowing that you excel at substitute teaching? If I were Willie Randolph I would see if I could sort of push things to the point where Schneider was more Castro’s backup than the other way around. The highlight of Castro’s spring came when he stuck a plastic cup onto Luis Castillo’s cap with several wads of bubblegum.

“I got one that can throw but can't catch, one that can catch but can't throw, and one who can hit but can't do either.”
-Casey Stengel

Raul Casanova will probably start the season as the Mets back-up catcher, while Castro recovers from a hamstring injury. Casanova is part of a group of catchers in the Mets minor league system that includes Gustavo Molina and Robinson Cancel, who have had nice spring trainings but are each regarded as some combination of bad at hitting, bad at defense, or too old to be a viable, long-term option in the major leagues. Given the frailty of Castro and Schneider, I would not be even remotely surprised if, at some point in the season, the Mets go and overpay for a scrub to fill in behind the plate. In my uninformed opinion my, the Mets fucked up miserably last year when they allowed prized prospect Jesus Flores to be taken by the Nationals in the rule 5 draft; now they have almost no prospects at catcher, and a long-term solution better than Schneider seems unlikely.

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