Minor League Position Breakdown: Catcher
Now that the minor league season is over, it’s as good a time as any to take a closer look at the prospects in the Mets farm system. There will be plenty of time to rank prospects later, but for now we’ll breakdown each position starting at the top with guys in the upper levels of the farm system who are closer to getting to the big leagues and work our way down to the lower level guys that are a ways away, but might one day be able to make an impact in the majors.We’ll start behind the plate with the catcher position, where Mets fans are anxiously awaiting a great homegrown backstop. Mets fans should already be familiar with Mike Nickeas, a long time minor leaguer who has never been able to hit quite enough to stick in the major leagues (especially when you can sign a guy like Ronnie Paulino). Still, Nickeas is a great fit to be the 3rd catcher in the organization. He can be promoted to become the major league back up in case of injury, he fits well if the major league team wants to carry three catchers, and as a veteran he can work well with young pitchers in AAA. Kai Gronauer is getting closer to being at the same level as Nickeas, giving the Mets more depth in the upper levels. The German Gronauer had a breakout season swinging the bat in 2010, so much so that the Mets sent him to the Arizona Fall League to help accelerate his development; however, an injury kept him sidelined for more than two months this past season, which has hindered him from being in a position to be the Mets 4th option at catcher heading into the 2012 season, which doesn’t sound like an important position, but can sometimes be needed, especially with the injury problems the Mets have had over the last several years.The guys in the mid-level have more potential but their futures are less certain. Francisco Pena was once a much-hyped catching prospect because of his genetics, and because he was playing full-season ball in Savannah at age 17. After five years in the organization, Pena still hasn’t made it out of A-ball, but that is due in large part to the fact that he was put at levels he was far too young for. He also missed much of 2010 with an injury. This past season, he ended the season strong after struggling in the first half, while finally playing at an age appropriate level. He’ll still only be 22 on opening day next year, and even though he’s no longer a top prospect, he should not be written off just yet. Pena split at bats this past year with Juan Centeno, another guy who will be 22 when the 2012 season starts. Centeno struggled in the first three years of his career, but broke out in 2010 with a .371/.417/.517 line for Brooklyn and then hit .318/.368/.382 for St. Lucie this past year. Centeno is only 5’9’’ so he’s smaller than a typical catcher, but he’s shown some potential with the bat as a contact hitter and is heading to the Arizona Fall League this year, which gives him an outside chance of being added to the 40-man roster or being taken in the Rule 5 Draft.At the level below Pena and Centeno this past year were a couple more promising catchers Albert Cordero and Blake Forsythe. Cordero is likely the top catching prospect in the Mets system. He has the defensive, receiving, and throwing abilities to become a major league catcher, and then sent his value sky-rocketing with a phenomenal hitting performance during the second half of the season. Cordero is at least two to three years from being major league ready, but if he can continue to hit as he moves up the ladder, he’ll be a big leaguer someday. Forsythe was a third round pick in 2010, but he has underperformed in his first two seasons for such a high draft selection. If at some point he starts to his and shows the power he had in college he could be quick to move up the system and be an offensive threat at the catcher position.There are a few more catching prospects at the lower levels of the system as well. Nelfi Zapata has shown some promise; he played in Brooklyn this past year. Below him are two young guys: Camden Maron and Jeffrey Glenn, who played at Kingsport this past year and who the organization is excited about. The Mets have also signed several catchers from the international market.Overall, there’s no shortage of catching prospects in the Mets system, but there is a shortage of guys who can legitimately become big league starters (which is a trend throughout baseball). The odds are against most guys to ever become major contributors in the big leagues, even someone as promising as Cordero. It would be unfair to call the Mets situation bleak at the catcher position, but there’s unlikely to be an impact player that comes from the farm system there for at least a few more years.