The New York Mets turned around an organization of bad contracts and bad baseball with an injection of youth and homegrown talent. Their pitching prospects have been second to none, but their battery mates have been troublesome.
Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki were highly touted young catchers, but have struggled with inconsistencies. It has made the catching position one of the few weaknesses on the National League East favorites.
Help may be on the way.
Tomas Nido had a breakout 2016. The Mets liked what they saw in their 22 year old catching prospect and added him to the 40-man roster this offseason. The question is: was his 2016 breakout for real?
Nido was selected in the eighth round of the 2012 MLB Draft out of Orangewood Christian School (HS) in Florida. He quietly worked his way up the minor leagues as a light-hitting, defensive-minded backstop.
He debuted in the Appy League and then spent consecutive seasons in the NYPL. He hit a mere four home runs and 18 doubles over that three-year span, posting a .241 batting average.
(Here's a look at a 2014 clip of his swing from FanGraphs)
2015, still a threat defensively behind the plate, saw Nido set career-high marks at the plate as well, unleashing some of that raw power. He belted six home runs and 12 doubles, while hitting .259. He still struggled with his swing and strike zone judgement, striking out 25.7 percent of the time, while walking a mere 3.6 percent of the time.
This offseason, Nido went to work. He refined his swing. There looks like there is less movement, as he has shortened his approach, getting through the zone more quickly and controlled. He remained aggressive at the plate early, but learned how to make contact deeper into counts. While his power is still primarily to the pull side, he actually landed more of his hits in centerfield and right field last season, becoming a more effective hitter.
Those changes helped Nido post one of the bigger turnarounds in the minors last season. It comes as an even bigger surprise when you consider it was in the pitching-friendly Florida State League. Nido slashed .320/.357/.459 with a career-best 23 doubles and seven home runs. His career-best batting average actually led the FSL.
Improved swing mechanics aside, other numbers suggest that this was no fluke.
Nido cut his strikeout rate in half, down to 11.4 percent from the 25.7 percent the season prior. He posted an on base percentage 22 points higher than any other year of his career by increasing his walk rate (up to 5.1 percent). Looking at his BABIP, there is little to suggest that this was a matter of luck. Looking at his past three seasons, Nido maintained his career norm with a .344 BABIP (.347 in 2014 and .352 in 2015).
Behind the plate, his receiving skills remained on par, posting a .987 fielding percentage while allowing just nine passed balls. He is a student of the game, learning the opposing hitters and handling a pitching staff well as the St. Lucie Mets recorded one of the lowest team ERAs in the FSL. And of course there is that arm. He threw out 42 percent of attempted base thieves, catching 50 of 119 runners.
Double-A will tell a lot about Nido’s improvements at the plate. The advanced pitching of the Eastern League will see how far his aggressive approach can go, or if he will continue to improve his patience. His defense alone will get him to the major leagues. Should he continue to develop that power and remain a consistent hitter, it may be sooner than we think.
VERDICT: This breakout is for real. He may not be a career .320 hitter, but he seems to have a grasp at the plate. His power should continue to grow as well. He certainly boosted his prospect status in 2016, as John Sickels has him at No. 10 in the Mets system.