“Well, maybe you’d like him if you got to know him?”
Oh, I got to know him…
Travis d’Arnaud is widely considered the best catching prospect in baseball. Over the offseason he was traded from the Toronto Blue Jays to the New York Mets for 2012 NL Cy Young, R.A. Dickey. Like most catchers, d’Arnaud has next to no speed (33 steal attempts in 2,019 minor league plate appearances). A right-handed bat, d’Arnaud’s 2012 season ended in June when he tore his left PCL.
“So he had an injury. Big deal.”
Well, ya. It is kind of a big deal. But that’s just reason numero uno.
Travis d’Arnaud called Las Vegas home for the 2012 season. Aside from a wild nightlife, Las Vegas is known as an incredibly inflated hitting environment. But soon, d’Arnaud will be taking his cuts at the Pitcher’s Haven in Queens, New York. At Citi Field d’Arnaud will see a park-adjusted drop in homers of nearly 20%.
“A home ballpark like Coors or Fenway would be nice, but Park Factors are imperfect.”
Okay, well how about level of play? Aside from MLB being more difficult than the minors, several of the Mets’ NL East rivals are great at run prevention.
Since 2008, Philadelphia and Atlanta have lead all of MLB in SIERA. In 2012, the Phillies and Braves were joined by the Nationals to represent 3 of the Top 10 SIERAs in baseball. In terms of RA9-Wins, the Phillies and Braves are both in the Top 6 since 2008, and last season the Braves and Nationals rounded out the Top 5. Defense? Last season the Braves were 1st, and Nationals 8th in UZR/150.
Not that Park Factors, and Pitching, and Defense really matter because the New York Mets don’t know how to hit!
Since 2008, the Mets are 13th in wRC+. Not bad, but that number plummets to 22nd in 2012. When eliminating Park Factors and just focusing on plane old fashioned Runs Scored, the Mets rank 21st over the last five seasons, and 25th last year.
“He’s got things going against him, sure, but he’s still a top prospect.”
Right you are. But I believe that’s more of an indictment against his fellow prospects than it is praise for d’Arnaud. Let’s delve into rookie catchers…
Assuming d’Arnaud makes his rookie debut this season, and I think everyone expects he will, he’ll be debuting as a 24-year-old. Since 1980, 210 catchers have made their rookie debuts. That number drops to 161 if we focus only on catchers, 24-or-older. Some notable names on that list include Mike Piazza and Jorge Posada.
Of those 161, just 47 logged at least 300 Plate Appearances. As a group those 47, averaged a wRC+ of 85.62, with 12 better than 100. So, over the past 33 seasons, 12 out of 161 rookie catchers (24-or-older) have had significant playing time and been average or better (7.5%).
If you want to focus on even more recent years, 11 catchers have debuted with 300 or more PAs since 2008. Those 11 averaged a wRC+ of 101.9; the five who were 24-or-older posted an average wRC+ of 99.8. Of late, rookie catchers who get a good amount of playing time are basically average.
“Nope, nope, nope. Travis d’Arnaud is no ordinary catcher. How about top catching prospects since 1980?”
How about you do that work, huh? For top catching prospects, let’s just focus on recent memory.
In the last few seasons, three top catching prospects come to mind. Matt Wieters and Buster Posey each reached the Majors in their Age-23 season after a full season in the minors, plus some additional time to delay their arbitration clocks. Carlos Santana spent more than 4 years in the minors before reaching the Big Leagues as a 24-year-old. To date, Travis d’Arnaud has spent parts of 6 seasons in the minors without a call-up.
Furthermore, d’Arnaud’s power, which we’ve already established will be hurt at Citi Field, isn’t close to his contemporaries. Wieters, Posey, and Santana each posted ISOs of .200+ in the minors; d’Arnaud’s is a more modest .188.
Lastly, over their minor league careers, Wieters, Posey, and Santana each posted a BB/K near 1, with Wieters the worst at .96. Travis d’Arnaud: .39. Granted, when the Blue Jays acquired him prior to the 2010 season, they instructed him to sacrifice plate discipline for power, and it’s fair to expect some further tinkering with a new organization.
“Does his body type, at least, fit well?”
I don’t know. I’m not a doctor.
At 6’2” and 195 pounds, d’Arnaud’s Body Mass Index is the lowest compared to the 11 catchers (using current weight listings) who made their Big League debuts and logged 300 PAs in the last five seasons. Do with that what you will.
“I just drafted d’Arnaud in a dynasty league. I hate you.”
Maybe you’d like me if you got to know me.
Statistics from Baseball-Reference, FanGraphs, and StatCorner were used to write this post.