Ask just about any New York Mets fan nowadays about who will be behind the plate in 2010, most will have no idea. And, I can’t really blame them, the Mets have not made getting a quality catcher a priority in the past few seasons, unless you call Brian Schneider and his .189/.272/.318 line quality.
If you ask anyone connected to the Mets, they’ll most likely say Josh Thole and Omir Santos, a tandem I dubbed Tholmir.
This makes sense, both players are young and their combined salaries most likely wouldn’t even crack $1 million, which is perfect for the suddenly cost-cutting Wilpons.
Lately, the only positive hype surrounding the Mets, besides injuries and surgeries has been the talk of calling up catcher, Josh Thole. And for good reason, since the beginning of last season Thole has done nothing but hit at the minor league level.
The Mets selected the 23-year-old catcher in the eighth round of the 2005 draft, which was the same draft where they picked Mike Pelfrey.
Last season, in Class Single-A ball, Thole hit for .300, which is impressive since in his prior season he only hit .267. This year, his progression continued and he hit .328 at the Class Double-A level, which features generally better, more major league-esque pitching.
He is also said to have a great demeanor when it comes to the game and is extremely hard working and passionate about what he does.
However, when I read articles by some of the game’s best beat writers I get the sense that he is being overvalued. There are some who suggest that Thole could be the best catcher the Mets have had since Mike Piazza departed the team back in 2005. And the truth is, he very well could be the next big thing.
Personally, however, I am a bit skeptical about how Thole will perform at the big league level. Consider this, Thole grew up in rural Illinois and learned to play baseball in a barn. Now he will be expected to perform in front of thousands and thousands of New York fans, who are not always the most forgiving when it comes to a player’s shortcomings.
Also, Thole is not a power hitter by any means. This is evident by the fact that he only hit one home run in 384 at-bats this season. According to Eric Simon of Amazin’ Avenue, who profiled Thole yesterday, Thole does not hit very many line drives, which begs the question is his high average sustainable?
Even more surprising is that using computer generated statistics, Simon shows that Thole projects as only a .254 hitter in the big leagues. That’s less than what Omir Santos is currently hitting.
In all fairness, projections are not always accurate and it’s entirely possible that Thole could blow those away.
If anything, it concerns me that Thole will hit .300 in the final month of the regular season, and that will be enough for Mets management to warrant starting him next year.
The last Met player that was thrust into a starting role following success in such a small sample size was Daniel Murphy, and he’s had his share of troubles at the plate and on the field this season.
The other half of the Mets projected 2010 catching tandem is Omir Santos. One of the few feel good stories this year, Santos came from out of nowhere to become a pretty decent backstop in the big leagues.
His hit for a .263 batting average and clubbed six home runs, which isn’t anything to sneeze at. He’s even had some clutch hits, including one dramatic go-ahead home run off of Jonathan Papelbon earlier this season.
To me though, Omir is more suited to be a backup at the big league level as he has gone through a pretty brutal slump from mid-June that lasted into early July.
My suggestion for the Mets would be to let Thole spend a month at the major league level and see how he handles it. Then in the offseason, try to acquire a veteran catcher that is capable of starting like Ramon Hernandez.
This would enable Santos to slide into a backup role, which is better suited for him. This would also allow Thole more time in the minor leagues to collect more playing time and allow Mets officials to see whether or not he is the real deal.