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Mets’ Kevin Plawecki may only be passing through Queens, but he’s a keeper

Plawecki has shown flashes of potential with his bat and defense.

Kevin Plawecki (Photo by Alex Trautwig/Getty Images)

Kevin Plawecki (Photo by Alex Trautwig/Getty Images)

 

When people talk about the Mets’ future, the first area rightfully discussed is pitching. With pitchers such as Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz all 26 years old or younger, why not? However, the Mets are also blessed with two highly regarded young catchers in Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki.

While d’Arnaud has already started to establish himself as a fixture behind the plate in Flushing, the 24-year old Plawecki has shown flashes of potential with his bat and defense while filling in for d’Arnaud as he heals from a broken hand. After d’Arnaud suffered a fractured finger a few weeks back, Plawecki was told that he would be receiving an accelerated big league call-up. He never expected to be promoted under such circumstances, but the Indiana-born catcher was prepared to step in.

“It’s obviously, a dream come through,” said Plawecki, who is considered the No. 60 prospect in the sport, according to MLB.com. “But obviously I’m here to win and help this team any way I can, whether it be calling a good game or having a good day at the plate. I just try to go out there every day and give 100 percent and hopefully continue to help this team win.”

Undrafted out of high school, Plawecki went to Purdue, like his parents, where he grew into one of the games finest catching prospects. As a freshman, Plawecki led his team in batting average (.343), multi-hit games (23), multi-RBI games (14) and ranked 2nd on the team in home runs (8). He was named a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American by Collegiate Baseball, NCBWA Freshman All-American and to the Big Ten All-Freshman team. He was also already calling his own games behind the plate.

“I started my freshman year,” Plawecki told me in the Mets locker room. “We were getting beat pretty bad and our coach just handed the game over to me and told me to call the rest of the game. And I’ve called my game ever since.”

Plawecki continued to thrive during his sophomore campaign, batting .341 and finishing as a semifinalist for the Johnny Bench Award, given to the nation’s top collegiate catcher. In his junior year, in 2012, Plawecki put himself on the map and had one of the best individual seasons the program has ever seen. He hit .359 with a .445 on-base percentage and seven home runs, 20 doubles, three triples, 47 RBI and just eight strikeouts in 223 at-bats. He also became the first player in school history to be named Big Ten Player of the Year and the conference tournament’s Most Outstanding Player after helping the Boilermakers to their first regular-season conference championship since 1909.

“I wasn’t ready I don’t think to come right out of high school if that opportunity did present itself,” said Plawecki, who won Purdue’s Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2011 and was named Purdue Male Athlete of the Year in 2012. “Going to Purdue was the best decision that I ever made and it shaped me to the player I am right now.”

Following his junior season, Plawecki was selected by the Mets in the first round (35th overall) of the 2012 draft, a supplemental pick the team received after losing Jose Reyes in free agency. He was polished at the plate, could get on base, flash some power and manage his pitchers. He had all the makings of a major league catcher and his mentality at the plate perfectly fit the Mets’ organizational philosophy: Wait for the right pitch, avoid strikeouts and get on base.

“I just think it’s important to get good pitches to hit, whether it be early in the count or if they’re throwing some balls,” said Plawecki, who struck out only 29 times over 638 at-bats during his time at Purdue. “It’s just important to get a good pitch to hit and that’s what I try to do.”

He lived up to his billing as a gifted contact hitter and quickly made his way through the Mets system. Plawecki hit .250 at Class-A Brooklyn in 61 games before splitting the 2013 season between the Class A affiliates Savannah and Port St. Lucie, where he batted .305 overall with a .390 on-base percentage, 8 home runs and 80 runs batted in. He then hit .309 with 11 home runs in 101 combined games between Double-A and Triple-A last year, playing only eight games this season before learning his next stop would be the big leagues.

Plawecki did not disappoint in his major league debut, finishing 2-for-4 with two runs in helping the Mets win their ninth consecutive game. He also made some history during the recent Subway Series, becoming the first player to hit his first big league home run during a Mets-Yankees game. He has slowed down a bit of late and he was not in the starting lineup for the fourth time in six games on Tuesday. But manager Terry Collins reiterated that the intention is for Plawecki to remain the No. 1 catcher during the remainder of d’Arnaud’s DL stint, which shouldn’t be for much longer.

On Monday it was announced that d’Arnaud has been cleared to swing and he could be activated as early as this weekend. Neither youngster can effectively continue their growing process if they’re not playing every day and it seems likely that the Mets will demote Plawecki back to Triple-A so he can play regularly. There’s been some speculation one of Plawecki or d’Arnaud could eventually transition to a corner outfield spot, but right now, the Mets see neither as anything but catchers and they are fortunate to be faced with such a conundrum.

However, while Plawecki may be competing for d’Arnaud’s job that’s had no effect on the close relationship that the two have established.

“On and off the field it’s a great relationship,” said Plawecki, who revealed that d’Arnaud even took him out to dinner before his debut in order to give him a rundown on what to expect on a day-to-day basis. “I know he’s been there for me since day one and I know that he will continue to do that for me.”

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