FSL notes: Mets' Plawecki plows ahead

St. Lucie backstop undaunted by introduction to another level

Kevin Plawecki is hitting .365 since joining St. Lucie last month. (Ken Inness/MiLB.com)

By Guy Curtright / Special to MiLB.com | July 17, 2013 6:00 AM ET

St. Lucie catcher Kevin Plawecki knows about turnarounds. The New York Mets' No. 17 prospect has already been part of a big one.

Purdue hadn't won a championship since 1909 before the Boilermakers won the Big Ten title in 2012.

Plawecki, a devout Cubs fan, compared Purdue's drought to the one that begin a year earlier on Chicago's North Side. His allegiances have shifted east since being taken by the Mets with the 35th overall pick in the 2012 Draft.

Now the 22-year-old would like to someday be a part of a turnaround in New York, where the Mets have had some lean times themselves lately.

Barely a full year into his profession career, Plawecki has already shown plenty of promise and piqued the interest of Mets fans.

The right-handed hitter batted .314 in 65 games with Class A Savannah before being promoted to the Class A Advanced Florida State League, where he has stood out even more.

Plawecki homered in his first at-bat with St. Lucie on June 20 and hasn't stopped hitting since.

"I got off to a hot start, and I've been able to carry it on from there," he said.

Plawecki hit .365 in his first 21 games with St. Lucie and has struck out just nine times in 74 at-bats. For the season, Plawecki has 38 extra-base hits, 61 RBIs, nearly as many walks (27) as strikeouts (41) and a slash line of .398/.492/.891 in 86 games.

That's an amazing first full Minor League season for anyone, let alone a catcher.

Catching, of course, has been an area of need for the Mets, and that is why they gave Plawecki a bonus of $1.4 million after a big junior season at Purdue in which he hit .359 and was the Big Ten's Player of the Year.

Plawecki didn't keep his standing as the Mets' top catching prospect long, though.

In December, New York received Travis d'Arnaud from Toronto as part of the trade of National League Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey to the Blue Jays.

Plawecki says he wasn't bothered by the deal.

"Every team needs two good catchers," he said.

Right now, though, Plawecki is the only one of the two playing.

D'Arnaud, ranked No. 5 among MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects, broke his left foot in April while with Triple-A Las Vegas, and the 24-year-old is rehabbing at the Mets' training complex in Port St. Lucie.

Meanwhile, Plawecki has closed the gap a bit in the catchers' prospect status.

Plawecki, not considered a prime prospect coming out of high school in Indiana, batted cleanup for the South Division in the South Atlantic League All-Star Game on June 18 and left Savannah for St. Lucie shortly afterward.

Former Florida State standout Jayce Boyd, a sixth-round pick in the 2012 Draft, was moved up with Plawecki, and they have combined with Dustin Lawley for a potent middle of the St. Lucie lineup.

Boyd hit .313 in his first 22 games and Lawley, who bats fourth between the newcomers, led the Florida State League with 19 homers through Monday.

Plawecki is considered an offensive catcher, but that doesn't mean he is a liability behind the plate. He's a solid receiver who works well with pitchers and has a quick release on an arm that was good enough to throw out 32 percent of would-be base stealers last season with Brooklyn in the New York-Penn League.

"I work hard on my catching," Plawecki said. "Being a good receiver and establishing a relationship with your pitchers are important. For a catcher, hitting is a bonus."

With Plawecki, though, it could be his calling card. Mets fans just might be able to look forward to two good catchers in the future, not just one.

In brief

Hit parade: Charlotte second baseman Ryan Brett, 21, got a late start on the season and then was sidelined for a time, but Tampa Bay's third-round pick in the 2010 Draft was batting .338 through 38 games. Brett, who had to complete a 50-game suspension for a failed drug test last year while in the Class A Midwest League, has a .391 on-base percentage and 15 steals in 18 attempts with the Stone Crabs after stealing 48 bases in 100 games with Bowling Green last season. He is the Rays' No. 20 prospect.

Rare failing: Fort Myers center fielder Byron Buxton, Minnesota's No. 2 prospect and No. 16 in MLB.com's Top 100, struck out in both his plate appearances for Team USA in the All-Star Futures Game on Sunday in New York. Buxton, 19, was promoted to the FSL after hitting .341 with 33 extra-base hits, 55 RBIs and 32 stolen bases in 68 games for Cedar Rapids. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 Draft had five straight multi-hit games shortly after joining the Miracle and was hitting .300 after 15 games.

Time to shine: Tampa right-hander Rafael De Paula had struggled in his last two starts, but he pitched a scoreless inning for the World in the All-Star Futures Game. He allowed one hit and struck out one. DePaula, 22, pitched five scoreless innings in his first FSL start, after being promoted from Charleston of the Class A South Atlantic League, but gave up 11 runs over 9 2/3 innings while losing his next two outings. The Yankees' No. 19 prospect was 6-2 with a 2.94 ERA and 96 strikeouts in 64 1/3 innings for Charleston.

Guy Curtright is a contributor to MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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