New York Mets: Tomas Nido and the importance of defensive-minded backup catchers

Tomas Nido has an important place in the New York Mets‘ organization. As the backup catcher of a defensively weak starter, he had more than his share of playing time in 2019. The situation will likely not change in 2020.

Wilson Ramos is the starter, and the more consistent offensive force. His .275/.322/.436 career line are proof of that, and his 104 wRC+ certifies that the Venezuelan has been an above-average offensive performer in his career.

However, while Ramos offers the bat, Nido provides the defensive chops for the Mets. His pop time was in the 93rd percentile (although it didn’t quite translate to him being particularly successful at preventing steals.) His framing was in the 74th percentile, whereas Ramos’ was in the 26th percentile. Nido had a +1 DRS. Ramos registered a -13 mark.

Pitchers love a catcher with which they can establish a good communication. They also benefit from a “stolen” strike here or there thanks to good pitch framing. The ability to call a game is more important than it is perceived. Nido beats Ramos in all of those, and that itself buys him some playing time.

That’s why Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard didn’t hide the fact that they prefer to pitch to Nido instead of Ramos. The latter was substantially more effective on the mound when Nido was his catcher.

The Mets know his weaknesses

And it’s good that Nido has such a big advantage in framing and game calling. His bat is… well, not good. In parts of three seasons, he has a career line of .187 /.222/.291 and a putrid 35 wRC+ in 244 plate appearances.

Nido spent the majority of the 2019 season in the bigs with the Mets. He registered a .191/.231/.316 line with a 40 wRC+ in 144 appearances, with four homers and 14 runs batted in.

Despite his offensive struggles, Nido will play for the Mets. He won’t be the starter, but he will have his share of games. Catchers need a break, and very few of them surpass 150 games played in our times. If a team’s starter is very good at the dish but suspect defensively, it would be better if a defensive-minded backup was in the roster. One has what the other lacks. One is the complement of the other, roster-wise.

Some offensive improvements from Nido would be welcome, but the 2020 New York Mets only need him to hold his own at the plate and spell Ramos every now and then while being a great framer and game caller. He needs to improve with the bat to remain with the organization long-term, though.