Today’s Rising Apple Season In Review series takes a squat behind the plate with twenty-four year old catcher Travis d’Arnaud.
The Philadelphia Phillies selected d’Arnaud with the 37th overall pick of the 2007 amateur draft. On December 16, 2009, d’Arnaud was included in a trade package along with Kyle Drabek and Michael Taylor, and sent to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for ace pitcher Roy Halladay. A few years later, acquiring Travis d’Arnaud was Mets general manager Sandy Alderson’s main objective in executing the December 17, 2012 trade that sent popular Cy Young award winner R.A. Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays.
Travis d’Arnaud only played in 31 games last season and did not exceed 130 at-bats, so he still qualifies as a rookie heading into the 2014 regular season. He is currently ranked as the #2 prospect within the Mets organization behind pitcher Noah Syndergaard, and ahead of #3 Rafael Montero. Entering the 2013 season, Baseball America had d’Arnaud ranked #23 on their list of the top 1oo prospects in baseball.
However, d’Arnaud is behind schedule. Injuries over the last two seasons have twice delayed his expected time of arrival. In fact, d’Arnaud’s injury history has garnered the attention of Sandy Alderson who, in the latter days of the season said he would be looking to secure a proven MLB catcher for 2014 as insurance should Travis go down.
After winning the 2011 Eastern League MVP playing for Toronto’s Double-A New Hampshire affiliate, d’Arnaud tore a ligament in his left thumb while playing for Team USA in the 2011 Baseball World Cup in Panama, which required surgery. He was sure to be called up by the Toronto Blue Jays in the summer of 2012 before tearing the posterior cruciate ligament in his knee while sliding into second base during a June 25th game. Then last year in his second season with the Las Vegas 51′s, but this time as a player in the Mets organization, d’Arnaud took a foul ball off his foot on April 17th. He wound up suffering a non-displaced fracture of the first metatarsal in his left foot that kept him out of action until July 24th.
Upon his return, d’Arnaud began his rehabilitation with the Gulf Coast League Mets through July 30th. He then made seven appearances with Binghamton before returning to Las Vegas on August 9th. Seven games later, when former catcher John Buck took leave from the Mets to be with his wife who was in labor, Travis d’Arnaud finally made his major league debut on August 17th.
Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins were alarmed to witness the frequency with which d’Arnaud got hit in the head on the back end of a batter’s follow through, in addition to his propensity for taking foul tips to the face mask, shoulder, arms, and the like. The Mets feel he sets up uncomfortably shallow in the catchers box, and last season they strongly encouraged him to switch over to a more protective hockey style mask, which would better safeguard against concussions. He complied, but needed a custom manufactured mask fitted to his particularly wider facial features.
There are two things you can generally expect out of highly touted prospects – flashes of potential and proficiency, and a great deal of struggling. So went Travis d’Arnaud’s short 2013 MLB debut.
How He Handled The Bat:
In 99 at-bats, d’Arnaud batted .202, with 20 hits, 3 doubles, 1 home run, and 5 runs batted in. He drew 12 walks, struck out 21 times and had a .286 OBP. No one is looking to hold those statistics against him, though. Ideally, Travis will enjoy a full season in 2014, and remain injury free.
In his one full season playing for Double-A New Hampshire in 2011, he posted an impressive quadruple slash of .311/.371/.542/.914 in 424 at-bats, with 21 home runs, 33 doubles, and 78 runs batted in. He did strike out 100 times, though.
He spent the last two seasons primarily playing for the Las Vegas 51′s in the Pacific Coast League. The notoriously hitter friendly circuit didn’t necessarily inflate d’Arnaud’s production numbers, so much as it confirmed his Double-A production and potential. In 335 combined at-bats, he compiled 110 hits for a .328 batting average. He hit 29 doubles, 18 home runs, drove in 64 runs, scored 64 runs, and drew 40 walks.
Travis d’Arnaud does have a sweet swing, and scouts believe he can hit for both average and power at the major league level. He drives the ball with authority to all fields. He is a free-swinger and there will be strikeouts to contend with. But d’Arnaud should draw his share of walks as well.
How He Handled The Glove:
D’Arnaud has already been credited with possessing soft hands and being a good receiver by his various battery mates. He helps his pitchers along by effectively framing pitches with his wrist, instead of pulling pitches back in over the plate, and playing show-and-tell with umpires. Pitchers may also throw breaking balls with confidence knowing d’Arnaud can handle pitches in the dirt.
Over seven minor league seasons, he threw out would-be base stealers at a rate of 27 percent. His throwing arm is rated above average. In 258.1 innings played for the Mets last season, he committed no errors, allowed three passed balls and threw out runners at a rate of 21 percent. Nineteen runners were successful against him, while five others we not. He posted a .990 career minor league fielding percentage.
Projected Role For 2014:
Unless injuries continue to have their way with him, Travis d’Arnaud should be the New York Mets’ starting catcher for the 2014 season and beyond.
Contract Status And Trade Rumors:
D’Arnaud is under team control, and is not arbitration eligible until the year 2016. There have been some who have thrown d’Arnaud’s name into a wishful trade that would bring either Carlos Gonzalez or Troy Tulowitzki to the Mets. The problem, is that the Rockies already have an impressive young catcher in Wilin Rosario. Barring something strange, d’Arnaud will be with the Mets next season.