(Neil Miller/Sportsday Wire)
PORT ST. LUCIE, FL – With Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and Michael Conforto coming up and making impacts last season, it is very easy to overlook Kevin Plawecki’s contribution from the Mets rookie brigade.
After Travis D’Arnaud went down with an injury, Plawecki was called upon to fill. Unlike his teammates, he made have had the hardest job, because not only did he have to adjust to big league hitting, he also had to handle a whole pitching staff.
“I think it goes both ways, learning how to go offensively and defensively as a while,” Plawecki said. For me it’s just the preparation you do on a day to day a basis. You need to how to simplify it as much as possible.”
His slash line of .219/3/21 wasn’t going to get him any Rookie of the Year votes, but the 25 year-old played a key role early in the season keeping peace with the staff until the reinforcements came.
“It was a mixture of still learning the league and doing too much too soon and getting a little antsy,” Plawecki said of his hitting. “My swing is entirely different this year a lot of me this year is using a lot of the other side of the field a little bit more. I hope I will be more consistent.”
So now, with his first season out of the way, it’s time to show that he belongs. The former first round pick got to work this spring to improve on his hitting, while growing his defensive skills.
“He played some games last year, but we are trying to get Kevin not to hit the ball out of the ballpark that much,” said manager Terry Collins. “He’s been a get hits guys and there’s an emphasis of hitting for power. Kevin (Long) is trying to get him to get the barrel of the bat on the ball and hit flatter through the zone to create more backspin. What I always liked about Kevin is he always uses the field to hit.”
That was the problem last year. Always a spray hitter, he tended to pull the ball more in the majors, going away from his strengths. So coming into 2016, there was work to be done.
First, there’s his swing, which is much more compact with less movement
“I am trying to wind up a little bit and drop my hands a little bit, before a pitch even comes,” he said. “Last year I had a lot of movement, we got rid of a lot of that and now we seem to be moving in the right direction.”
He hopes that will make him more consistent at the plate. Remember, he’s not going to be like his buddy D’Arnaud and hit 15 homers, but more like Paul LoDuca was for the Mets with a high average and timely hits.
And then there is his defense. Behind the plate, he’s fine and works with the pitchers very well. Arguably, he’s the best defensive catcher in camp. But with D’Arnaud owning the position when he’s healthy, Plawecki will need some versatility, which is why he took reps at first base to back up Lucas Duda.
“It’s more challenging,” he said. “Your footwork and seeing the ball come from a different angle. When I was there the other day, I was very comfortable.”
And finally, there’s a change on his back going from No. 22 to No. 26, which he wore at Purdue. Tom Goodwin was good enough to switch with him, and he didn’t even have to but the first base coach a car.
“No can’t afford that,” he said “If I could I would, but nothing like that.”
So as of right now, he’s already off to a good 2016.