With Travis d’Arnaud Out, Kevin Plawecki Gets His Chance

For those of us that drafted Travis d’Arnaud in the hopes of a true breakout season are certainly disappointed that his hand was broken this weekend on a hit by pitch. I went so far as claiming that d’Arnaud would hit 20 home runs this year in our Bold Prediction series. He was certainly on the right track, hitting .317/.356/.537 over 56 plate appearances.

Stepping in for d’Arnaud will be highly regarded prospect Kevin Plawecki. Kiley McDaniel had Plawecki as the second best Mets prospect, and one of the scouts Kiley spoke to has Plawecki over Noah Syndergaard. Here is a quick note from Kiley on Plawecki from before the season.

“Plawecki is an offensive catcher, with hit over power due to his contact leaning with a short load, direct path and simple approach. Scouts hang 55 or 60 grades on his bat and he shot through the system in part because he doesn’t strike out and does a good job making adjustments level-to-level.
His raw power is fringy to average but it plays down in games, with most expecting Plawecki to grow into a 10-15 homer type with lots of doubles in the middle of the field.”

As someone who has owned Plawecki in dynasty for some time now, I am eager to see what he can do on a major league squad. I do want to preface that even though I am excited about Plawecki getting an opportunity, I am not in love with him in standard leagues just yet. If you are looking for a short-term replacement for d’Arnaud in standard formats, I think you can find something of a bit more quality than Plawecki.

Since coming into the league out of Purdue Plawecki has hit at almost every level with few struggles. The only concern I have in “scouting the stat sheet” is the fact that he has yet to really get it going in the hitter friendly PCL. He now has over 200 plate appearances at triple-A and has a wRC+ under 100. I am fairly certain the reason Steamer projects Plawecki for a less than stellar 83 wRC+ is due to his lack of dominance at this level. Whether you want to focus solely on those plate appearances is your call. I totally understand why they are relevant and do not discount them, but given how much scouts like his overall game, how much the Mets front office has spoken highly about his readiness, and his production at double-A last year, I am using my own judgment here in expecting him to hit better than Steamer.

His bat skills have been evident at every level in that his strikeout rate has never been above 13%. I expect his strikeout rate to remain low at the major league level but it is unlikely that he has an above average walk rate. While Plawecki may become a 10-15 home run per year hitter with good bat control and a solid average, I do not quite expect him to perform like that type of hitter right out of the gate.

Keep in mind that the length of time being discussed for d’Arnaud’s absence is between one and two months. However, given Plawecki’s status as a prospect, d’Arnaud’s status as a quality major league starter, along with the Mets currently looking like a competing team that has a few holes, and you could certainly see the Mets deciding to move one of Plawecki or d’Arnaud at some point this year if both continue to perform well – which would enhance each of their short-term and long-term fantasy outlooks.

The length of time he plays is a crucial element, as we will get to see more of him against major league pitching and seeing how well his defense plays live on a daily basis rather than through word of mouth. Getting data on his defense and bat control will be valuable for those in long term leagues who have invested in Plawecki. For the Mets as a team, I think the d’Arnaud we would expect to see over the next month would not for certain be a significant overall upgrade over Plawecki. For a standard fantasy team, going from d’Arnaud’s power and nice spot in the batting order, going from d’Arnaud to Plawecki would likely be a bigger downgrade than you should be willing to take on. Plawecki is an interesting guy to look at for long term leagues and eventually in standard formats, but even with his status as a highly rated prospect you likely will have time to wait and see if he produces before picking him up in standard leagues.

Ben has been at RotoGraphs since 2012 and focuses most of his fantasy baseball attention toward dynasty and keeper leagues.

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Ben – how does Plawecki compare to Realmuto?