There are some good indicators as to why the Mets have performed better than expected this season.
Ruben Tejada has been making the Mets forget about their former shortstop who is now donning a hideous uniform under the Miami sun, Kirk Nieuwenhuis has provided the team with a spark not only with his defense, but ability to drive the ball, and of course David Wright has performed at MVP-like levels.
However, there is one member of the team who has quietly provided the team with unprecedented offensive production — Josh Thole.
Thole, who struggled mightily last season and was even on the brink of losing his job in spring training, has started this season with a .313 batting average and has put himself in the same offensive category as star catchers like Buster Posey, Yadier Molina and Matt Weiters.
Is it too early to discuss Thole as a potential All Star? Perhaps. But his surprising start to the season can’t be looked over.
The Mets’ depth in the catching department is desperately thin, highlighted by the fact that Mike Nickeas — who boasts a lifetime .190 batting average at the major league level — is still sitting on their bench from night to night. Down in the minor leagues, not much else gives the Mets much hope for the future — making Thole’s recent play even more intriguing.
The team doesn’t have many catching prospects who have impressed, leading many to believe the Mets might look into drafting a catcher in this year’s draft. If this is the case, Thole could potentially hold plate down until that prospect is ready.
When he was first called up, Thole was heralded for his slap hitting and ability to get on base. Throughout his minor league career, Thole hit .289 with 429 hits over 450 games. The Mets hoped that Thole would rise up and become a Paul LoDuca-type hitter and hit in the No.2 slot in the lineup.
Last year Thole did not live up to that expectation. The catcher hit .268 and had a measly .395 OBP, leading many to question whether or not he had what it takes to hold down a starting job at the major league level.
If Thole can continue his current production, the Mets may find themselves with a strong option behind the plate. Right now, it appears he is comfortable at the end of the lineup — as his current stats show — but it would be wise for Terry Collins to consider moving Thole up in the order if he continues his torrid hitting.
The Mets have had many bright spots to start off what was expected to be a less than stellar season, but Thole’s star might be shining the brightest.