Mets vs. Braves: Catching Prospects

Travis d'Arnaud changes the catching landscape

Comparing what the Mets and Braves have at each position in the minor leagues, we take a look at the crop of catcher prospects in each system. Which system is deeper? Which prospects have the most power? The highest ceilings? Take a look at this comparison between the two NL East farm systems.

The Two Farm Systems: It is amazing how much difference just one trade can make. Prior to this offseason it was quite clear that the Atlanta Braves had the better overall depth of catching prospects between these two organizations, at least of potential big league impact guys, but New York's acquisition of Travis D'Arnaud in the R.A. Dickey trade with the Toronto Blue Jays immediately changed the landscape.

d'Arnaud can simply do everything well enough to be a potential big league All Star on both sides of the ball. He is an above average hitter despite not being overly patient at the plate, thanks in large part to good pitch recognition and great bat speed. He has above average power right now and long-term plus power potential, giving him a heart of the order type of offensive profile. Defensively he's more solid than spectacular, but he does boast above average arm strength. And not only does he have the highest ceiling in either organization, he is the closest to being big league ready after playing the 2012 season in Triple-A.

Prior to the d'Arnaud trade, however, Atlanta had a pair of catchers in the form of Christian Bethancourt and Evan Gattis with very different profiles, both of whom offered intriguing long-term upside and both of whom had already reached the Double-A level. Bethancourt is a plus defensive player in every sense of the term, boasting plus arm strength, great agility behind the plate, some of the best hands in baseball, and clear leadership skills behind the plate. His bat hasn't come around to produce good stats just yet, but with a quick bat and raw plus power, he has some interesting offensive potential.

Gattis on the other hand is nearly the polar opposite of Bethancourt. While he too has raw plus power, his power already plays up in games, hitting 40 combined home runs over the past two injury-shortened seasons. An absolute masher, he can hit really well too because he has outstanding plate discipline. His biggest problem is on the defensive side of the ball though. Built like an NFL linebacker at 6-foot-4 and a muscular 230 pounds, he isn't exactly nimble behind the plate. He has a strong arm but the release isn't very quick. He is adequate though defensively, meaning he can man the position if called upon, but his bat will make up for any defensive shortcomings. Think Josh Willingham for a good big league comparison.

There's a big dropoff in catching depth behind d'Arnaud, Bethancourt, and Gattis, however. The Mets though do have a pair of lower level catchers who provide some long-term intrigue as potential big league starting catchers someday; Kevin Plawecki and Tomas Nido. Plawecki, New York's supplemental first round pick in 2012, is a solid all-around catcher in nearly every phase of the game. He shows great plate discipline, doesn't strike out very much, displays average big league power potential for a catcher, and defensively he does everything well outside of his below average arm strength. He has a quick release though and makes accurate throws so he is adequate in holding down the running game.

Nido, New York's eighth round pick in 2012, is a long-term project who could really pay big dividends down the road. Blessed with raw plus power potential, he could be an impact home run hitter in due time if he continues to work on refining his offensive approach and not get too pull-happy. Some have questioned his defensive abilities, but he boasts a plus arm and some agility behind the plate. He'll just need to continue to get reps at catcher and more in-game experience but he at least has the chance to stick there defensively.

Behind that group are catchers who project more as potential big league backups than anything, including Atlanta's Braeden Schlehuber, Josh Elander, Tyler Tewell, and Bryan De La Rosa. De La Rosa, a third round pick in 2012, has the requisite catch and throw skills to be a difference-maker defensively, but that bat could take some time to develop. Elander, Atlanta's sixth round pick in 2012, is the exact opposite. He could hit his way up through the minor leagues but he has some work to do defensively.

The Mets have their own group of potential backup catching types, including Juan Centeno, Albert Cordero, Blake Forsythe, Kai Gronauer, and Camden Maron. Centeno in particular already has big league catch and throw skills, and Double-A tested, he can hit for average too. The Puerto Rico native just doesn't have any power to speak of though and that limits his long-term ceiling. The same can be said of Venezuelan native Cordero, but he's a bit further away after just completing low-A ball.

Forsythe, a third round pick in 2010, is one of the better wild cards in either organization. He's solid defensively and offensively, but doesn't really have the one plus tool that would put him into legitimate starting potential discussions yet. He's a bit of a 'sleeper' though. Maron and Gronauer are more solid organizational catchers at this point, and Francisco Pena, once one of the top International signings, has already come close to hitting his ceiling at the Double-A level.

How Do They Compare In...

Power: Gattis and d'Arnaud, both of whom have above average to plus power potential, cancel each other out in this comparison, and so do Bethancourt and Nido, both of whom have plus raw power that has yet to materialize in game situations. Beyond them, however, while they are probably more backup and organizational type players, the Mets have a bit more depth here with Forsythe, Maron, and especially Plawecki. Advantage: Mets

Hitting For Average: Gattis and d'Arnaud once again come close to canceling each other out, although d'Arnaud might have a slight edge here. Bethancourt doesn't project to be a high average hitter and neither do any of the other Braves' catching prospects, while Plawecki at least has the plus plate discipline to possibly become one. There really isn't a whole lot of depth of quality hitters in either organization though. Advantage: Mets

Defense: This would have been a closer race before the Mets traded for d'Arnaud because prior to that New York didn't have anyone close to Bethancourt's defensive caliber. The problem for Atlanta is, however, outside of Bethancourt they don't have much in the way of defense behind the plate and the Mets can roll out Plawecki, Centeno, Cordero, etc. Advantage: Mets.

Speed: These are catchers -- speed doesn't matter -- and neither organization has a decided advantage. Advantage: Even.

Overall Potential: Again, the trade for d'Arnaud really changed things because prior to that the Mets' best catching prospects would have been in short-season ball this past season and now they at least have one impact catching prospect who is big league ready, and the Braves don't have a whole lot of catching depth at the lower minor league levels right now. Advantage: Mets.

Highest Ceilings: Travis d'Arnaud (Mets), Christian Bethancourt (Braves), Evan Gattis (Braves), Tomas Nido (Mets), Kevin Plawecki (Mets)

Best Power: Evan Gattis (Braves), Travis d'Arnaud (Mets), Tomas Nido (Mets), Christian Bethancourt (Braves), Kevin Plawecki (Mets)

Best Average: Travis d'Arnaud (Mets), Evan Gattis (Braves), Kevin Plawecki (Mets), Juan Centeno (Mets), Josh Elander (Braves)

Best Defense: Christian Bethancourt (Braves), Travis d'Arnaud (Mets), Kevin Plawecki (Mets), Juan Centeno (Mets), Bryan De La Rosa (Braves)

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