Weight: 195 lb.
Born: February 10, 1989 (Age 24)
In 2013 the Travis d'Arnaud era went off without a bang, but as the top rookie-eligible catcher heading into this season, the expectations are still high from Mets and fantasy owners alike. d'Arnaud has always been viewed as an offensive-minded backstop with enough defensive chops to stick long term, or in fantasy terms: future gold. He exhibited the potential throughout his minor league career with .300+ AVG seasons and double digit HR power despite a rash of injury concerns. A presence on Baseball America's Top 100 list from 2010 through 2013, scouts and stat-heads both loved what they saw from Travis d'Arnaud. As a result of all the publicity, d'Arnaud's name has been a factor in dynasty leagues for the past few seasons.
Unfortunately, his slow ascension through the minors and lackluster results in his recent cup of coffee bring significant risk into play when evaluating Travis d'Arnaud. He will need to string together multiple seasons of 130+ starts to shed the injury label that has haunted him throughout his development. Catcher is a brutal position with a lot of wear and tear on your body, and I'm inclined to give d'Arnaud a break and chalk it up to bad luck, but the amount of games played in his minor league career is difficult to ignore. Only two times in 5 full minor league seasons he has managed to play more than 71 games; and following each season, his prospect stock saw a huge bump. In 2014 the most important number in his stat line will be games played. I'm remaining calm on my optimistic outlook for d'Arnaud, but if he can manage 130+ starts, I will really begin to buy in to his legitimacy as a stud fantasy backstop.
Evaluating 2014 and Beyond
This is where we begin the evaluation of d'Arnaud for 2014 and beyond. The starting gig is all d'Arnaud's and he projects to hit 7th in the New York Mets lineup according to mlbdepthcharts.com, so lack of playing time won't be an issue. He'll face the same hurdle all rookie catchers do by learning to adjust to big league pitching while at the same time, learning the nuances of helming a pitching staff. Catcher is the most demanding defensive position, and with so much to learn the offense typically takes a backseat in the first year or two of big league development.
Lucky for Travis d'Arnaud and future fantasy owners, his offensive game is very polished and in need of little work to make an impact in fantasy leagues. His past two seasons have seen an impressive maturation in his plate discipline bumping his walk rate up to double digits and sustaining a 10.7% BB% in his big league debut. He has solid strikeout rates for a power hitter, and has the natural feel for hitting that will allow him to find success while focusing most of his energy on the defensive side of the ball. He also has the added benefit of Citi Field, which played slightly above-average to right-handed hitters last year in terms of Home Runs. The power and potential contact ability should make d'Arnaud a Top 12 fantasy catcher in standard leagues. I have him ranked #11 in our consensus rankings and am the highest on him in our entire site.
Working against d'Arnaud is the weak lineup he is placed in, which figures to hurt his ultimate counting stats. He'll hit behind some combination of David Wright, Curtis Granderson, and Ike Davis and should get decent RBI chances as a result, but many other catchers can boast more favorable hitting conditions. The 7th spot in a below-average, National League lineup is not the ideal place to search for fantasy value, but a strong start could certainly bump him up to the 5th spot. The injury bug is definitely a scare, but the upside for d'Arnaud is something I'm willing to take a risk on.
I'm pegging d'Arnaud to deliver a usable line, something along the lines of .265, 55 Rs, 18 HRs, 70 RBI in 135 games. Odds are someone in your league is willing to pay a higher price for his services. While I project him as the 11th rated catcher, there are a few similarly rated players around him. I won't pop d'Arnaud in a draft until I feel I'm getting sufficient value for him and have shored up most of my other starting positions.
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