The New York Mets knew when they traded Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey, that they had to get a sure-fire major league prospect in return. Catcher Travis d’Arnaud, then 23, was that prospect. After 31 games with the Mets in 2013, d’Arnaud displayed terrific defensive abilities along with a horrific showing at the plate, hitting only .202 in 99 at-bats.
But that was a quick introduction to big-league baseball. Now, d’Arnaud is being anointed as the Mets’ catcher of the future and he’s going to have to show us a little something this year to keep the moniker.
Behind the plate, d’Arnaud may already be among the top receivers in the majors. He has a veteran’s sense of game management, a result of natural talent and hard work – d’Arnaud is dedicated to his craft. And his skill at stealing extra strikes could save dozens of runs for the Mets this year. For a young player, he has all the tools to excel at the game’s most grueling position.
But he has to hit. In seven minor league seasons, d’Arnaud has a .283 BA and an OPS of .823. On his .202 average in 2013, d’Arnaud commented, “I was trying to throw my hardest and hit my hardest to prove myself every time I got a chance. I was trying to prove myself and I just wasn’t myself.”
This kind of thing is not unusual for a rookie, especially playing in New York. To improve at the plate, d’Arnaud spent significant time at a Southern California training facility and has worked closely with hitting coach Dave Hudgens to find his comfort zone. The results haven’t been there this spring, yet after a 21-AB hitless streak earlier in March, d’Arnaud has been faring better, going 1-for-2 with a run scored and RBI in Wednesday’s 7-3 loss to the Washington Nationals.
That makes a tidy three-game hitting streak, which includes a home run versus the Miami Marlins on March 22.
D’Arnaud is too talented, with too much of a strong work ethic, to be a Mendoza-line hitter. He’ll improve this year, I believe, to hit somewhere in the .240 – .255 range with double-digit homers and at least 50 RBIs. That kind of year will cement d’Arnaud as the Mets’ “Catcher of the Future,” as well as make him a darn good player in 2014.