Prior to the last five season, New York Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud has been rated as one of Baseball America’s top 100 prospects. Over the past three, he’s held a similar lofty position for the folks at MLB Pipeline and Baseball Prospectus. He’s held a ranking as high as #6 (MLB Pipeline, 2013), and one as low as #81 (BA, 2010). Having been given such “status” has, of course, led to high expectations.
And so does being the 37th overall selection in any draft. The Philadelphia Phillies did that in 2007. That same draft gave us David Price (1.1 – Rays), Madison Bumgarner (1.10 – Giants), Jason Heyward (1.14 – Braves), and Josh Donaldson (1.48 – Cubs).
When I think of New York Mets catchers, there are three names that immediately come to my mind: Jerry Grote, Mike Piazza, and “The Kid”, Gary Carter. Some may also recall Todd Hundley and John Stearns. The Mets have had some pretty good luck in manning the position.
Hasn’t been the case over the past decade. Since Piazza’s last season in the Big Apple (2005), the Mets have seven different catchers who have led the team in games started including d’Arnaud this season. They’ve tried the like of Paul Lo Duca, Brian Schneider, and Josh Thole, who oddly enough, was in the deal to bring d’Arnaud to New York. Last season, John Buck was the guy until a late August deal sent him to Pittsburgh, thus opening the door for d’Arnaud.
The instability is hardly a secret. The position has seemingly developed into a black hole. We’ve heard chatter about the Mets shortstop woes, but catcher could be placed right up there with it. The hope was that acquiring d’Arnaud would fill that ling, present void.
A reason d’Arnaud held some acclaim as a minor leaguer was his bat. Including the parts of the last two seasons, d’Arnaud produced a slashline of .285/.347/.476 while in the minors. He posted a trio of seasons where he cracked double-digit home runs (2009, 2011, 2012). Only once did he fail to crack .250 as his batting average, which was 2007 when he hit .241 in 151 PA.
So far this season, the slashline is a meek .180/.271/.273 with three homers and nine RBI.
And the defense hasn’t been present either. No one would dare compare his “D” to the likes of Grote or Stearns (both hold a top 10 season in terms of defensive WAR for the organization). In his brief time in the bigs, d’Arnaud has thrown out 21% (9-for-43) of would be thefts. The overall league average since the beginning of last season is 27%.
There are currently 21 catchers that have spent at least 300 innings behind the plate for the 2014 season. Of those 21, d’Arnaud’s -6 DRS is tied for worst in all of baseball with Miami’s Jarrod Saltalamacchia).
Here’s d’Arnaud after going 0-for-3 including a pair of strikeouts during last night’s game against the San Francisco Giants (via Mike Puma’s recap from the New York Post) :
“I’ve got to be better than this,” d’Arnaud said. “This is unacceptable for me.”
Since his return from the 7-day concussion list on May 29th, d’Arnaud has struggled even more.
To date, the expectations that were placed on d’Arnaud’s shoulder clearly haven’t been met. And speaking of expectations, prior to the season’s start, the talk of these Mets winning 90 games surfaced. Seems like there’s little chance of that happening this season. Those won’t be met either, but those of d’Arnaud still have hope.
With the talk evolving into when will the Mets demote d’Arnaud, I think the team should let him spend some time in Las Vegas. The Mets aren’t likely to see the postseason this year, so let d’Arnaud rebuild that lost confidence. He’s only spent a total of 86 games at the Triple-A level. Maybe the time away from the big leagues can provide him with some much-needed seasoning.
Who knows. Maybe the Travis d’Arnaud everyone expected to see at the major league level when he was drafted and traded for will appear.
UPDATED: This hit Twitter in the wee hours of the morning…
Mets have demoted d'Arnaud to Vegas.
— Mike Puma (@NYPost_Mets) June 8, 2014