45 Prospects in 45 Days: New York’s Travis d’Arnaud
Over the next 45 days the staff here at the Fix will profile and predict the fantasy fates of prospects that could – should, in some cases – be closely monitored on the waiver wire or even in the draft room.
For the projection portion of the article, we will try our best to give you projections from all three major projection systems. Those projection systems are: ZiPS, Steamer, and Oliver. Oliver varies from the other two by projecting what a player would accomplish over 600 PA. Obviously, most prospects won’t reach 600 PA, due to various reasons. It can help to pay more attention to the rate stats that are included in order to get a clearer idea of what you’re dealing with in a particular player.
Travis d’Arnaud was a 1st round pick (#37 overall) by the Philadelphia Phillies in 2007 out of Lakewood High School in California. The right handed hitting catcher stands 6’ 2” and weighs 195 pounds as he enters his age 25 season. He made his major league debut in 2013 getting 112 plate appearances over the last month and a half of the season.
d’Arnaud was dealt to the Toronto Blue Jays in 2010 in a package for Roy Halladay. In 2012, he was dealt to the New York Mets in a deal to acquire R.A Dickey. He’s been dealt twice in his young career and each time in a package for a Cy Young Award winner. Not too shabby.
Baseball Prospectus keeps d’Arnaud as the second rated prospect in the Mets system as he was in 2013. He sits at fourth in the top 10 talents under 25 and younger for the Mets and clocks in at 48th overall in baseball coming down from 15th last year. As Parks explains in what happened last year (though this could apply to nearly any season for d’Arnaud:
An injury once again limited d’Arnaud’s ability to stay on a field, but the long-time prospect finally made his major-league debut in 2013, although the bat showed up lighter than expected.
And part of his look ahead for 2014:
A run of good health could lead to a run of more comfort and confidence in the box, and the real d’Arnaud can emerge, a legit dual-threat catcher who has the overall skill set to develop into a first-division talent.
d’Arnaud would be a top-10 prospect if he could stay on the field, but 2013 was yet another injury-shortened year for the twice-traded prospect who has reached 400 plate appearances in just two of his six full pro seasons.
Stay. On. The. Field. His first injury-free season since 2011 would help make d’Arnaud a Rookie of the Year contender.
MLBPipeline puts him at the highest ranking for 2014 checking in at #22 overall and also second for the Mets. They say he’s the total package (if healthy):
d’Arnaud earns praise for his ability to frame pitches and his agility behind the plate. He has a good arm and works well with pitchers. As good as d’Arnaud’s defense is, hitting is his strength. He creates good bat speed with his compact swing, and he should hit for both average and power in the Major Leagues.
Minor League Production
So d’Arnaud doesn’t stay on the field for long stretches of time. What does he look like when he actually gets some at bats? I’ve included his short MLB stint as well.
If we look at wRC+, we see that d’Arnaud has been above average as a hitter at nearly every stop along the minor league trail. He brings excellent power in bursts and has shown the ability to hit for average (though it is expected that the hit tool will be the last for d’Arnaud to develop at the major league level). His K% is high, but certainly not outrageous for a player that’s put up ISO numbers like he has.
We can quickly see why so many pundits are still high on this receiver. d’Arnaud has a lot of tools to like if he can get on the field.
So, what can we expect from d’Arnaud if we are actually lucky enough to see him for a full set of plate appearances at the major league level?
Even though he is slated to be the #1 catcher for the Mets this season with absolutely no competition, neither ZiPS nor Steamer see a full set of ABs for d’Arnaud. And if we look at wRC+ again, we note that all three predictive systems see him as a league average hitter. He’ll give you good power and damage your batting average.
d’Arnaud’s value in 2014 is tied to his health. His playing time is nearly guaranteed (sorry Anthony Recker, Juan Centeno and Taylor Teagarden) for a Mets team that is still rebuilding. He’ll likely bat down in the lineup so his opportunity to drive in and score runs will be limited unless he can suddenly find his hit tool at the major league level.
Do I think he’ll stay healthy? No. Is he a greater risk than other catchers to stay healthy? Maybe, but probably not by a lot – catching is inherently dangerous (even with the introduction of new rules to limit home plate collisions). d’Arnaud enters his age 25 season – a point where many catchers begin to see some progress offensively – with a solid hold on a job and a reputation for a solid stick in the minors.
I can see d’Arnaud as a low end second catcher option in two catcher leagues, but is likely destined for the waiver wire in almost any other re-draft format. He brings pop, but little else at this point in his career.
In keeper/dynasty leagues I generally stay away from catchers as they take so long to develop (just look at d’Arnaud’s circuitous route to the majors) they just hog a roster spot that can be used by a player who might contribute more quickly. That said, d’Arnaud isn’t a young man anymore and will have playing time this year so he could be a good buy low candidate in those dynasty/keeper leagues if his owner has grown tired of waiting for his arrival.