Breaking Down the US Roster for the 2012 MLB Futures Game: Part 2, The Catchers


With the festivities of All-Star weekend rapidly approaching it is time to take a look at what the United States Futures Game roster will look like from an offensive standpoint. Let’s start by taking a look at the players who will be in the squat. Travis d’Arnaud, a member of the Toronto Blue Jays organization, has been tabbed for the event as well as San Francisco Giants prospect Tommy Joseph.

Each have been bestowed the honor of representing their country during the undercard event of All-Star weekend and each of them have a bright future behind the dish. Currently they represent both ends of the prospect spectrum with d’Arnaud knocking on the door of the Major Leagues and Joseph just beginning to figure out Double-A. What they do have in common is outstanding potential and serious talent. It is on this national stage that both will have a chance to shine. So with no further delay let’s see how and why the next generation of battery mates from Toronto and San Francisco made it this far.

Travis d’Arnaud-C-TOR

Age: 23
Height | Weight: 6’2 | 195
Facts:  Bats and throws right handed. Currently playing for Class-AAA Las Vegas of the Pacific Coast League.
Stats: .333/.380/.595 with 45 R, 16 HR, 52 RBI, 1 SB

Summary: Widely regarded as the best catching prospect in the minor leagues; Travis d’Arnaud has exceeded even the loftiest of projections for this season.

Prior to the 2012 season Baseball America had d’Arnaud rated as the Blue Jays best prospect and the 17th best overall. In 2011 he was named the Eastern League MVP when he hit .311/.371/.542 with 21 HR and 77 RBI so his success at the plate is well documented. While d’Arnaud has always had a highly regarded bat with plus power and the ability to hit for a strong average, it is his improved overall game calling skills and plate defense that have scouts and fans alike believing he could be the next great catcher.

The two biggest knocks against him have always been that he has to refine his throwing/defensive mechanics behind the plate and that he has a tendency to strikeout too often. A cursory look at the numbers will show that d’Arnaud has never thrown out more than 30% of base stealers at any level of the minors and although he has an excellent bat speed he has consistently struck out at around a 20% clip since being acquired by the Jays.

This season however, d’Arnaud refined his approach a bit and in turn has reduced his strikeout rate from 21.5% in 2011 to 19.5%. He has also improved his caught stealing percentage from 27% to 30%. While both of these numbers represent small changes it is important to note that he has done so at a higher level and that no matter how small they are trending in the right direction. It is increasingly clear that d’Arnaud is the Blue Jays’ catcher of the future and although the Blue Jays have another outstanding young catcher in J.P Arencibia, d’Arnaud has the skill and the potential to force Arencibia out from behind the plate. Just for perspective Arencibia was one of the top offensive catchers in all baseball in 2011; a season in which he hit 23 HR and drove in 78 RBI as a 25 years old as a rookie in only 129 games.

For some historical perspective Travis d’Arnaud was drafted by the Phillies in the 1st round (#37) in 2007. In December of 2009 he was traded to the Blue Jays as part of the package that sent Roy Halladay to Philadelphia. A fair player comparison for d’Arnaud in my opinion is Buster Posey. While it is unlikely that d’Arnaud will develop the defensive prowess of Posey, I believe their bats will play very similar to one another with d’Arnaud having an opportunity to hit for a bit more power but sacrificing some OBP to get there.

Just for comparison’s sake let’s take a look at their Triple-A  stats in the Pacific Coast League. It is not a perfect comparison as Posey played in 15 more games across 2009 and 2010 but the statistics are still relative. Posey played in 35 games in 2009 and 47 games during his stint in 2010. He totaled 82 Triple-A games for Fresno and a composite line of .337/.421/.535 with 35 extra base hits 11 of which were home runs. The two distinguishing factors between Posey and d’Arnaud is that Posey walked 45 times and only struck out 53 times, hence the excellent OBP, and Posey plays superior defense which included him catching roughly 42% of base stealers and only allowing 5 passed balls. Travis d’Arnaud on the other hand has accumulated a .333/.380/.595 slash line with 16 home runs and 39 extra base hits over 67 games. He has also allowed 6 passed balls and, as mentioned above, has only caught 30% of would be base stealers. His power is real but he will need to improve his plate discipline to sustain his success at the next level. I project a stat line of .290/.340/.480 with opportunity to hit 25+ HR and be a middle of the lineup contributor during his peak at the ML level.

UPDATED: d’Arnaud has a torn posterior cruciate ligament in his knee and will be out 6+ weeks.

For more info on Travis d’Arnaud check out Jays Journal


Tommy Joseph-C-SFG

Age: 20
Height | Weight: 6’1 | 215
Facts:  Bats and throws right handed. Currently playing for Class-AA Richmond of the Eastern League.
Stats: .250/.293/.359 with 24 R, 4 HR, 17 RBI, 0 SB

Summary: Tommy Joseph was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the 2nd round of the 2009 draft. Prior to 2012 Baseball America had him ranked the 2nd best prospect in the Giants farm system. His best tools are his ability to hit for power and plus defense behind the plate.

In 2010, his first professional season, he had roughly 38% of all of his hits go for extra bases; 16 of which left the yard. From the beginning the power was obvious but so was the lack of plate discipline. Joseph struck out 116 times (24.5% K%) in 2010 and only drew 26 walks. This not only suppressed his batting average, which was a paltry .236, but it also left him with a sub-par .290 OBP. Like with so many prospects coming out of the prep ranks Joseph was raw but he had tremendous upside.

In 2011, only his second full professional season, Joseph broke out in the California League. He continued to display his power at the plate this time to the tune of 41% of all of his hits going for extra bases and 22 long balls but strikeouts were still a big problem. He was able to reduce his strikeout percentage from the aforementioned 24.5% to 18.2% in 2011 which was a very encouraging sign of progress from such a young hitter. The 6.3% change boded well for his continued development, but much work was still needed to be done.

Joseph’s 2012 season has gotten off to a slower than anticipated start due to an early season injury. He is only hitting .250 with very little power (4 HR and only 16 XBH), but the transition from a hitter friendly atmosphere in the CAL League to Double-A Richmond of the Eastern League is a steep learning curve. In addition to reducing his strikeout numbers Joseph has also shown improved plate discipline with a BB% of 6.0% (a career high) and a K% of 17.0% (a career low). As for his defense, Joseph has thrown out 46% of would be base stealers in 2012 and has shown improved defense at every stop along the way. He should continue to build off of this trend going forward as he matures and as he logs more innings behind the dish.

When looking at Joseph one of the most impressive things about him is the success that he has had compared to the competition he has faced. When evaluating prospects the theory of “age relative to league” is very important. A 27 year old lighting up Double-A doesn’t get anyone excited. Conversely a 20 year old holding his own at Double-A gets front office executives and fans attention in a big way. That is exactly the case with Tommy Joseph.  Right now in the Eastern League there are exactly four players who are 20 years of age or younger. That list includes Manny Machado, Nick Castellanos, Jonathan Schoop, and Tommy Joseph. Each of those players are highly touted prospects with Machado and Castellanos universally considered elite talents. Joseph needs to continue to improve his plate discipline and contact ability if he hopes to perform at the Major League level but considering he has a long way to go in turning his tools into baseball skills it is a good thing he has time on his side.

For more on Tommy Joseph check out Around The Foghorn