Kevin Plawecki gives Mets' organization depth at catcher

Kevin Plawecki during spring training practice on Sunday, Kevin Plawecki during spring training practice on Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014. Photo Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - Aside from starting pitchers, they are perhaps the most precious commodity in the game. Front-office types gripe about their scarcity. And scouts take note when they see a player who actually might make it to the big leagues as a catcher.

"When you watch catching, it's like everything kind of right now gets knocked up a peg," one talent evaluator said. "Because there are no catchers, really."

Which is why the Mets someday might face an interesting situation with catching prospect Kevin Plawecki.

Chosen 35th overall in the 2012 draft out of Purdue, Plawecki flourished in 2013, his first full professional season. He lived up to his billing as a gifted contact hitter. Between low Class A Savannah and high Class A Port St. Lucie, he hit .305, reached base at a .390 clip, drove in 80 runs in 125 games and drew raves for his ability to crush fastballs.

"He's somebody we feel very highly about," Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said. "He does have our approach and we like what he does behind the plate."

Plawecki earned an invite to major-league spring training. He's ticketed for Double-A Binghamton, but some project him as an everyday big-league catcher down the road.

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If Plawecki meets those expectations, the Mets might find themselves in an enviable position. They already have a catcher of the future in place in Travis d'Arnaud, meaning that any excess might serve as an attractive piece in a future trade.

Not that Alderson would be eager to make a deal if the Mets eventually build up a surplus of catchers, a position that seems increasingly difficult to fill. But young catchers often factor into major trades.

"We'll keep developing," he said. "We're happy it's a strength. We're not looking to trade from that strength necessarily."

Plawecki, who turns 23 on Wednesday, will have a chance to bolster his stock in Double-A by showing an above-average bat to go with a developing defensive skill set.

"Just watching him in BP, he has a clue," manager Terry Collins said. "He squares it up pretty good and it's loud. I'm really impressed with what I've seen at the plate."

Throughout the organization, the Mets preach pitch selection at the plate, a style that fits Plawecki. In his final season at Purdue, he struck out only eight times. He hit only .250 for Class A Brooklyn in 2012 before putting together his strong 2013 campaign.

"It's important to get good pitches to hit," Plawecki said. "As long as I'm doing that, I'll get my walks and I'll get my hits. I'm just trying to limit the strikeouts as much as possible."

Late last season, down the stretch of Plawecki's first full pro year, the Mets moved him to first base. But his future remains firmly at catcher.

The scout labeled Plawecki's defensive skills as solid despite an average arm. And though Plawecki's "quickness of action" when blocking balls behind the plate has raised some questions, he has earned a strong reputation as a receiver.

Said the scout: "I don't see any risk of him having to move anywhere else, at least for a while."

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That fact alone might be enough reason for the Mets to keep close tabs on Plawecki.

"I'm trying to learn as much as I can from these older veteran guys," he said last week at camp. "Hopefully, I can use it to get better and hopefully use it to succeed this season."

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