Off Day Thoughts: With Thole Returning, Which Backup Catcher Remains With The Mets
Josh Thole caught the entirety of Chris Young’s rehab game today, and Thole seems to be ready to be activated in time for tomorrow night’s game against the Cardinals. Assuming Thole does indeed get activated, there’s some question as to who gets sent down to clear a roster spot. The Mets have to decide then, which of the following three players is least necessary to keep in the big leagues right now.
Mike Nickeas- A .148 batting average, .235 on base percentage, and .230 slugging percentage certainly make the case to send Nickeas back to the minors. Aside from his Grand Slam against the Padres, Nickeas has just 2 extra-base hits and 6 RBI in 61 at bats. Defensively, he was supposed to be the best backup catcher the Mets had on Opening Day, but his 4 passed balls and 25% Caught Stealing rate don’t inspire Ivan Rodriguez comparisons.
Rob Johnson- Johnson’s got just 35 at bats, but his .313/.371/.344 slash line looks a lot better than Nickeas’. He’s only thrown at 11% of base stealers, which is an awful statistic, but in admittedly small sample size (1 for 9). He hasn’t been charged with a passed ball, and he strikes out at a slightly lower rate than Nickeas (7 K’s in 35 plate appearances vs Nickeas’ 16 in 70 plate appearances).
Vinny Rottino- In just 20 at bats, Rottino has 4 hits (2 of which are home runs). He strikes out more than either of the strict backup catchers (6 K’s in 22 plate appearances), but also provides the power threat neither of them do. .200 batting average, .273 on base percentage, and a .500 slugging percentage. Rottino suffers (SMALL SAMPLE SIZE WARNING) from an impossibly low batting average on balls in play (.167) and an impossibly high isolated power (.300). Rottino does, however, provide flexibility as he can play any corner infield or outfield position, as well as some catcher.
While they could demote Rottino, his flexibility gives them no reason to get rid of the least offensively useful of the three players. Even if the Mets want to keep 3 potential catchers on the roster, they needn’t keep Johnson and Nickeas. My gut tells me it’ll come down to loyalty (Nickeas) versus Production (Johnson), and with the injuries to Ruben Tejada, Jason Bay, and Justin Turner the Mets should stick with Johnson for now.