TWO GUYS TALKING: Travis d’Arnaud

Mike:

With all of the other holes they have, the Mets need catcher Travis d’Arnaud to come through in 2014. D’Arnaud was a big-name prospect when the Mets acquired him in the R.A. Dickey Travis d'Arnaudtrade in the winter of 2013. Of course, there were some warning signals with Travis, he had a tendency to get injured and Toronto was already the second organization willing to trade him. Later, even though d’Arnaud was already 24 years old in April 2013, the Mets did not include him on the Opening Day roster. Early on during his minor league campaign Travis was injured again, and he missed most of the season with a broken foot. When he finally came up to the Mets he was bad, with a slash line of .202/.286/.263 in 112 plate appearances. The team almost has to go with d’Arnaud this year, but he enters this season at a crossroads. Turning 25 before Opening Day, he needs to begin producing or any worries about his future free agency that we heard about in 2013 will sound pretty silly. Yet, despite all this I feel optimistic about d’Arnaud as our 2014 backstop. Overall in his minor league stops he has proven he can hit, and I saw a solid compact swing from Travis. His defense was also better than I expected. Heading into 2014, how do you feel about our catcher?

Jimmy:

I like him very much. The number one priority for a catcher has to be defense, getting acclimated, building relationships with the staff. To my untrained eye, I thought he looked good darnaud18s-3-webbehind the plate. A quiet glove, as they say, not a twitchy guy back there. The feet look quick. And as you said, the swing looked good to me. I’d be patient with the offense, it takes more time for catchers than for players at any other position. And by “time” I mean: give it a couple of years.

It has been conclusively demonstrated that minor league batting statistics are reliable indicators of major league performance. Yes, there are exceptions up and down, particularly when “park effects” are considered. There are no sure things. But a player who hits throughout his minor league career is a very good bet to be a productive bat at the major league level.

What troubles me is that I keep reading speculation that he could be moved in a trade. This is a body I would not flip, though of course he’s not untouchable. Last winter, we identified catcher as the team’s primary need. It was a black hole. We traded a Cy Young winner to address that area of weakness. We applauded the trade then, I still love it now. I really think we can leave d’Arnaud alone for 2014, supported by a veteran, defensive catcher who can help in handling the staff. A mentor.

I should add that part of the speculation is fueled by widespread enthusiasm for Kevin Plawecki. There’s no denying it, he really had an outstanding 2013 season in A-ball. With him, I have concerns about below-average defense — reports of a slow body and a weak arm. I only saw him play once in person. Time will tell, but he certainly can’t help the team now. He needs to rinse and repeat at a more appropriate level. A year from now there’s a scenario where the club will be holding a strong hand. Right now, d’Arnaud is undervalued and Plawecki unproven. They could both be worth a lot more a year from today.

Mike:

I don’t understand this school of thought. No matter what, Plawecki would appear to be years Kevin_Plawecki_8a772pcm_18h2pkzpaway. Doing this would be understandable in year one of a rebuild, not year four. If we are always trading away major league players to create room for guys who are not yet ready to play in the majors we will never win. And the fact is d’Arnaud had a rough 2013. This would be a classic case of selling at the wrong time. I expect Travis to be a Met in 2014.

Jimmy:

I hope so, too. My constant worry with this particular management group, including Dave Hudgens as batting coach, is that they can really get into the skull of a young hitter in an extremely counter-productive way. I thought d’Arnaud took a lot of strikes last year, and I guess people are happy with his walk totals. But I want him to hit.

Look, this is old ground for us. Obviously, it’s a good thing for hitters to lay off pitches that are out of the strike zone. If you chase too much, they’ll never throw you a strike. Yet I have a fundamental belief here:

There’s a real danger in taking away a hitter’s aggressiveness. Not everybody can function that way.

Too much thinking, too much worrying about pitches-per-plate-appearance, too much fretting about what the coach will say if you attack a first-pitch fastball. That’s what I worry about, these kids can get tied up in knots. Lacking almost all evidence that these guys have helped any young hitters in the system, I wonder about the potential of the team “approach” doing real damage to a developing hitting talent.

The best thing about bringing in an established player — Cruz, Peralta, Granderson, Gonzales, whomever — is that these veteran hitters won’t have to listen to that methodology. They are proven hitters, getting paid. Hitting is a personal thing, not a one-size-fits-all unitard.

Mike:

Two of the Mets best teams in franchise history featured catchers who batted cleanup, Gary Gary CarterCarter in 1986 and Mike Piazza in 2000. Mets fans know what a weapon a good hitting catcher can be.

Starting now, Travis d’Arnaud will be given the opportunity to show he can be the next in line. Another big hitting Mets catcher would solve a lot of the teams offensive problems. As we wait to see what other pieces will surround him, seeing a full year from Travis is something tangible to look forward to.

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16 comments

  1. LongTimeFan says:

    D’Arnaud looked unprepared for the big leagues on both sides of the ball – overmatched. major disappointment for his age and status, and think that the assessment both of you offered, is well off the mark with the exception of quiet glove, and quick feet – for throwing.

    I also disagree on the Plawecki assessment – that he’s years away, that he’s weak defensively – both of which are untrue. We should expect to see him in spring training, expect him to begin the season in AA and potentially promoted to AAA at some point in 2014, if not the majors in September. If not, expect him here in 2015. He’s moving up the ladder fast, now the Mets #5 prospect.

    • On Plawecki’s defense, I am only going by what I’ve read (seen him exactly once). While some sites rave about him, other guys have been cautionary about the defense — to the point where some of talked about moving him off the catcher position entirely. I don’t believe he was ever discussed as a strong defender even right out of the draft, but I can’t really make any strong claim in any direction.

      As for d’Arnaud’s defense, which you call a “major disappointment,” I’m a little confused. You like his glove and quick feet. The arm seems good (not great). Is it the game calling? That’s a tough thing to measure. Offensively, I’m willing to dismiss 100 MLB at-bats, particularly coming off a season of inactivity, batting in a bad spot in the order, and so on.

      I’m hoping for a healthy season and 500 ABs.

      • I do think that if things work out for Plawecki, your timetable might work out. To date, we have not seen much urgency from this management team in moving players along, and your timetable assumes positive answers to several questions. I’d love to see him have a strong season at AA and get promoted later in the year to AAA — though, of course, you know how important those AA playoffs were to the organization last year. At this point, I’m neutral on Kevin Plawecki, though I expect him to be a major league catcher. If the defense is as good as you say, that would be a huge plus for me.

        • Patrick Boegel says:

          I keep trumpeting this, but this is such a huge year for this front office group on many fronts, not least of which to me, 2014 is the tell tale sign of just how good the scouting acumen of this group and whomever they have hired to roam the country and international markets really is at this stage.

          Guys they did not trade for are starting to hit the upper levels A+ and AA.

  2. Eric says:

    D’arnaud is your Catcher…PERIOD!!!! after 200 abs…. he’s batting .190…He’s your Catcher. He’s your Catcher.

    The upside is a highly competent major league backstop at a very low cost for the next 5 years. The scouting reports and his performance at a high minor league level make him The Guy. Give him the year to become what he is.

  3. Patrick Boegel says:

    The Travis d’Arnaud wasted 2013 experiment still irks me to no end.

    I can buy the argument of guys getting their time at each level, but when they dealt for d’Arnaud presumably it was because they thought he was the real dea, not that they were then intending to flip him for someone else.

    So when a guy has 2,000+ pro ball plate appearances, rakes in the spring and then gets sent down for phantom reasons the Mets basically shot themselves in the foot. <-that was intended

    I like what I have seen from d'Arnaud, he strikes me as a better version of Paul LoDuca. A guy with a short stroke who will have the ability to hit close to .300 maybe above a few times and get you 50-60 xbhits from catcher.

    • Michael Geus says:

      Keeping Travis down was a joke, and just as funny as Aldersons other failed attempts at humor.

      The first rule, Sandy, know your audience.

      Don’t mock them.

  4. Eric says:

    Their Fascination with SUPER 2…..heck, their fascination with EVERYTHING except a Winning MLB team…is Maddening!

    These guys are are amazed by their own “ability” to map out all of the fine points…..before they’ve taken care of the Bulk Work. I enjoy seeing this level of arrogance awarded with it’s natural result of failure— I do hate that it applies to my team!

    Fire The TROIKA!…I’d rather have a Left Fielder!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Patrick Boegel says:

      I think even more than Super 2, they are terrified of being exposed as being wrong on a player. They don’t seem to have much or any regard to anyone they did not draft or acquire via a trade, but with their acquisitions everything is measured in careful baby steps.

  5. Eric says:

    Marlon Byrd…2 years, $16 Mil…Phillies. I’m not bemoaning the fact that he won’t be back, but this is an indication of where the market is.

    • Patrick Boegel says:

      If Byrd performs even to half the “value” he did in 2013, he would earn his keep. This is where teams find short term value. For the Phillies this type of deal given their circumstances makes a lot of sense. For the Mets they need to be targeting things with bigger upside potential.

      • RAF says:

        Byrd was a steady 800 OPS in 2007, 2008, 2009, & 2010- He got hit in the face in an off-year in 2011, and I think he got suspended for PED in 2012. Then he had his “career year”, this year- but not so out of line with his prior 4 year run in ’07-10. SO, the Phils are betting that he’s THAT guy— The Guy who has consistently logged 800 OPS seasons, including this year. I’m inclined to agree with their assessment. This leaves me wondering: 1) The Mets saw him Close-UP for a full year, Did they see something, or do they have some “advanced-statistics” which indicate that he is NOT the player who produced his stat-line? 2) If Alderson had signed Byrd to the same deal, What would the reaction have been here and among the Mets fans?

        • Patrick Boegel says:

          I think it just comes down to hopefully having bigger things in mind. There are plenty of options and a trade market that will likely develop in ebbs after Thursday.

  6. RAFF says:

    2GUYS – and all who follow them and participate on this “board”– I’m a little confused and frustrated. Maybe I wasn’t hugged enough, as a child. This is a nice, cozy place- Just big enough to provide a wide range of views, but small enough to maintain a certain intimacy. So, when we post opinions and questions, it’s ACTUALLY possible to Follow The String of Responses and stay in-line with the topic. What I am missing is the relative lack of Direct responses to questions we ask each other… We have, as I have observed, two “camps” — Those who would like to “fill-in”, mainly, with Major League Ball Players through Free Agency, and those who want to make BIG DEALS, through trades, for IMPACT players. , I am in the “former” group. I think the Mets need to pick up players in free agency.I have listened to YOU, who are of the mind that TRADES for Impact Players are preferable. And I have asked- What is YOUR DEAL? The response has been a NAMING of just one player— ie: “I’D GIVE SYNDERGAARD for Stanton”— but when I ask for particulars— “Who Are the Additional Players?” in the BIG DEAL- I have gotten little response. So, for those of you in The OTHER “camp”, can you name your trade targets and tell us who you think it takes to get them…?

  7. Fonzi Rules says:

    Well if what you mention comes to fruition about players who hit well in the minors translating well to the majors, I’d be a lot more optimistic about Flores. I know he’s young and he was an RBI machine in Vegas but I was not encouraged by what I saw at the big league level. D’Arnaud does have a very sweet swing though and he needed more time in the minors to adjust after the injury.

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