We kick off our 2014 Mets Season in Review series with catcher Travis d’Arnaud. d’Arnaud, 25, was finally handed the reins of the starting job after a disappointing 2013 in which he missed significant time with a broken foot. After rehabbing, he finally received a September call-up during which he only hit .202/.286/.263; showing some signs of his potential but failing to answer any questions.
Entering 2014, we had two questions – can d’Arnaud handle the Mets’ young pitching staff, and can he show the offensive potential Sandy Alderson hoped he’d display when he traded R.A. Dickey for him (and Noah Syndergaard) two winters ago?
How he fared in 2014:
Sep 12, 2014; New York, NY, USA; New York Mets catcher Travis d
Well, for all the optimism surrounding a top prospect getting his chance, d’Arnaud failed to impress early. Thanks to some solid plate discipline, he managed a poor-but-not-disasterous .209/.303/.299 in April, slugging only a single home run. May was even worse – his OPS dropped 76 more points due to a sharp increase in strikeouts. His performance was so bad, Alderson pulled the plug and optioned Travis to Las Vegas, hoping some time out of the spotlight would help him regain the swing that once made him baseball’s top catching prospect.
Travis returned two and a half weeks later, and slugged a three-run home run in his first game against the Oakland Athletics. Though not perfect, it was mostly smooth sailing from there. He would go on to hit 9 more home runs with a .272/.319/.486 line over that span. Only four NL catchers hit more home runs than d’Arnaud’s 13 this season. His .474 slugging percentage in the second half ranked 14th among 75 qualified National League hitters (his .209 ISO tied for 13th).
Areas to improve upon:
The most glaring weakness in d’Arnaud’s game is his defense. Though he’s lauded as an exceptional pitch framer, and Mets pitchers are impressed with his ability to call a game, he struggled with passed balls and throwing out basestealers. His 80.6 stolen base percentage very narrowly trailed only Jared Saltalamacchia of the Marlins for worst in the MLB (among qualified catchers), and his 12 passed balls led the majors.
Offensively, it’s hard to nitpick d’Arnaud’s .805 OPS after his recall, but the one area that he could improve upon is his 5.8 walk percentage. A few more walks could make d’Arnaud into a very formidible offensive player, but if he can simply mirror his line he could be one of the best offensive catchers already.
Projected Role in 2015:
Starting catcher, hitting either third or fifth. His plate discipline and Wright’s health/production will determine where he hits specifically, but Travis d’Arnaud showed that he can be a prime middle-of-the-order bat, and it will be fun to see him mature there. If he can avoid injury or a slow start, the sky is the limit.
Travis d’Arnaud underwent surgery today to remove a bone spur in his throwing elbow. The procedure shouldn’t have any impact on the 2015 season, though it’s unknown how much the spurs impacted his throws.
Contract Status and Trade Rumors:
Aug 29, 2014; New York, NY, USA; New York Mets catcher Travis d
There’s not much chance that d’Arnaud isn’t the starting catcher for the Mets next year. He still has two years before he reaches arbitration, so cost isn’t going to be a factor for several years. Prospect Kevin Plawecki, himself a touted catcher with offensive upside, raises the possibility that the Mets can move one of their young catchers in a trade, but d’Arnaud possesses the higher ceiling, and his second half suggests that he’s capable of reaching it. As such, I’d bet on Plawecki being the catcher they move, although there’s certainly no pressure to move either in the short-term. Plawecki likely isn’t major league ready just yet, and there are currently plenty of at bats on this team for a right-handed hitter between backup catcher and first base (platooning with Lucas Duda), so the Mets could roll with both until an offer entices them.