Kevin Plawecki struck out only eight times in 223 at-bats during his junior season at Purdue. That helped persuade the Mets to select the catcher 35th overall in 2012, with a supplemental pick obtained for losing Jose Reyes to the Miami Marlins.
The 23-year-old Plawecki’s propensity for making contact has continued as a pro, albeit not at that unsustainable college rate. In 693 career at-bats as a Mets farmhand, Plawecki has produced a .374 on-base percentage and struck out only 80 times.
This season, he is off to a .286/.333/.357 start through seven games with Double-A Binghamton.Chris Trotman/Getty Images
“I really don’t know how to answer the question every time I’m asked it,” Plawecki said about his low strikeout total at Purdue. “I just say that I like getting good pitches to hit, and I feel like I get myself in good hitter’s counts. I try not to chase and expose any weaknesses that the pitcher on the other team might be able to use against me at any point in the at-bat or in the series.
“And with two strikes I’m just up there battling, just trying to put the ball in play. Make them get you out any way possible -- with errors and all that stuff, any way to get on base. I’d rather have a slow-rolling groundball to third base.”
Plawecki was a non-roster invite to big-league camp during spring training, so he had the opportunity to receive tutelage from bench coach Bob Geren, visiting instructor Mike Piazza as well as Travis d’Arnaud.
“One thing Mike Piazza told us: When he wasn’t hitting really well, he focused on doing the little things -- catching and working with the pitching staff,” Plawecki said. “He felt he could make a big difference behind the plate as well.”
Throwing technique to second base became a spring-training emphasis for Plawecki. Accomplished offensively, Plawecki has thrown out 29 percent of runners as a pro (15 of 51).
“I think my throwing is getting a lot better from last year,” Plawecki said. “I worked on a few things in spring training to get my arm going a little bit. I think that’s improved. … In the past, sometimes there was a ‘hitch.’ That may be a bad term.
“Just a more fluid motion,” he continued, referring to the mechanical retooling. “I was kind of getting caught up, and my feet were working too quickly, and my arm was having to do something extra in the process. It was almost like a false movement that we’re just trying to eliminate. It takes a lot of stress off the arm in general and obviously makes it quicker in the process. That’s just one thing we’re trying to clean up a little bit, and I think we’re on the right track with that right now.”
Plawecki does not need to be added to the 40-man roster next offseason to protect him from the Rule 5 draft, so his big-league debut may wait until 2015.
Last year, in his first full professional season, which he split between Savannah and St. Lucie, Plawecki appeared in 17 second-half games at first base. That primarily was designed to keep his bat in the lineup as he wore down from the grind. The position was open anyway with St. Lucie teammate Jayce Boyd dealing with a shoulder issue that eventually required surgery.
There is at a modest chance Plawecki could end up full time at first base eventually, depending on how he progresses behind the plate. However, Plawecki clearly envisions himself a catcher.
“I don’t think they play on using me at first at all this year. At least nobody has brought that up to me,” Plawecki said. “I’m strictly a catcher. Last year was one of those deals where Jayce, with his arm surgery and stuff like that, they couldn’t really use him at first base. I played a few games in college, and it just happened to work out that I played a few games over there, but nothing long term.”
Average: Matt Clark, Binghamton, .394; Brandon Nimmo, St. Lucie, .391; T.J. Rivera, St. Lucie, .390; Darrell Ceciliani, Binghamton, .367; Wilfredo Tovar, Binghamton, .355; Dilson Herrera, St. Lucie, .340; Stefan Sabol, Savannah, .323; Zach Lutz, Vegas, .318; Jared King, Savannah, .316; Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Vegas, .310.
Homers: Brian Burgamy, Binghamton, 4; Matt Clark, Binghamton, 4.
RBIs: Zach Lutz, Vegas, 12; T.J. Rivera, St. Lucie, 12; Eric Campbell, Vegas, 11; Jared King, Savannah, 11.
Steals: Patrick Biondi, Savannah, 3; Jeff McNeil, Savannah, 3.
ERA: Hansel Robles, Binghamton, 0.00; Jacob deGrom, Vegas, 0.50; Domingo Tapia, St. Lucie, 0.90; Darin Gorski, Binghamton, 0.93; Robert Gsellman, Savannah, 1.46; Rainy Lara, Binghamton, 2.19; Daisuke Matsuzaka, Binghamton, 2.25; Gabriel Ynoa, St. Lucie, 2.38; Rafael Montero, Vegas, 2.60; John Gant, Savannah, 2.77.
Wins: Josh Edgin, Vegas, 3.
Saves: Jeff Walters, Vegas, 3; Chasen Bradford, Binghamton, 2; Robert Coles, Savannah, 2; Randy Fontanez, St. Lucie, 2; Beck Wheeler, St. Lucie, 2.
Strikeouts: Rafael Montero, Vegas, 18; Jacob deGrom, Vegas, 15; Jack Leathersich, Binghamton, 14; Akeel Morris, Savannah, 14; Hansel Robles, Binghamton, 14.
• Right-hander Akeel Morris, a 10th-round pick in 2010 from the U.S. Virgin Islands, earned the South Atlantic League Pitcher of the Week award. In three relief appearances this season, Morris has struck out 14 and allowed only one hit and three walks in 6 2/3 innings. Morris, 21, had a 1.00 ERA and struck out 60 in 45 innings with Brooklyn last season.
• Right-hander Cory Mazzoni (lat) is expected to resume throwing later this week. He was injured in the final Grapefruit League game.
• 2011 first-round pick Brandon Nimmo is hitting .391, which ranks third in the Florida State League. His .491 on-base percentage ranks second, and he leads the league with 13 runs scored. Nimmo has an eight-game hitting streak and has reached base in all 13 of his games. He has five multi-hit performances in his last six games.
• Matt Clark and Brian Burgamy are proving too advanced for the Eastern League. The 27-year-old Clark, who slugged 25 homers in Japan last season with Chunichi, has four homers through 10 games with Binghamton while splitting time between DH and first base. Burgamy, 32, also has four homers in 10 games while seeing action at third base, second base and first base. Burgamy played last season for York and Sugar Land in the independent Atlantic League as well as in Mexico with Campeche.
• Second baseman Dilson Herrera, who was acquired with Vic Black last August for Marlon Byrd and John Buck, has led off for eight straight games with St. Lucie. He is hitting .389 (14-for-36) in that span with eight runs scored. The Colombia-born Herrera has a seven-game hitting streak.
• Right-hander Domingo Tapia, who went 3-9 with a 4.62 ERA with St. Lucie last year, is having a better sophomore season in the Florida State League. Tapia, 22, no-hit Fort Myers for five innings Sunday before departing with his pitch count at 85. He has allowed one earned run in 10 innings this season, on a wild pitch in a 1-0 loss.
• Third baseman Jeff McNeil and catcher Colton Plaia hit their first professional homers last weekend with Savannah. McNeil, a 12th-round pick last year from Long Beach State, has eight extra-base hits this season, which is tied for the South Atlantic League. Plaia, who played high school ball for former Mets farmhand Brett Kay in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., is a 15th-round pick last year out of Loyola Marymount.
• B-Mets outfielder Darrell Ceciliani has hit safely in seven straight games to begin the season.
• Wilfredo Tovar, batting in the No. 9 hole, is hitting .355 with seven RBIs to open the year with Binghamton. He has been playing second base (seven games) more frequently than shortstop (three games). Tovar, still on the 40-man roster, was among the first spring-training cuts from big-league camp.
• Left fielder Stefan Sabol ranks fifth in the South Atlantic League in slugging percentage. He is hitting .323/.432/.645 with four doubles, two homers and nine RBIs. He's also 2-for-2 in steal attempts.
• Black (pinched nerve in neck) has returned from the disabled list.
• Veteran reliever Buddy Carlyle, caught up in a numbers crunch, is with Las Vegas but not active. He officially is on Brooklyn’s roster.
• Catcher Blake Forsythe was traded to the Oakland Athletics for future considerations. The Mets did not have playing time for him at Binghamton with Plawecki and Xorge Carrillo the priorities there.
• Eric Campbell manned shortstop Monday for the first time in his seven-year professional career. Like with second base, that’s primarily a way to get his bat into the Vegas lineup. He is not being prepped for middle-infield work. Wilmer Flores, who exclusively had been playing shortstop, had that streak snapped when he started at second base Monday.
• Bobby Abreu, who has an out in his contract at the end of the month, is hitting .429 with five RBIs and four walks in 28 at-bats with Vegas. He has now started two games in right field.