New York Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud has not been impressive early in his career, according to an anonymous scout. In an interview with Baseball Prospectus, the scout said d’Arnaud has had “slider bat speed” and has missed fastballs “as if he has a blind spot.” D’Arnaud has not shown much at the major league level yet, but he has displayed signs of improvement.
After starting the season 0-for-15, d’Arnaud has hit .256/.333/.372 with a home run and four RBIs, and his OPS has steadily increased (although it’s still below .600). He’s shown flashes of why scouts and talent evaluators previously thought he could be a top offensive catcher in the majors. He’s at his best when he’s driving the ball to right-center field. That seems to be when he hits the ball with the most authority.
When d’Arnaud tries to pull the ball, he sometimes dips his right shoulder which produces an exaggerated uppercut. An uppercut leads to three negative results. If the batter is late, he’ll hit a ball weakly in the air. If he’s early, he’ll hit a weak ground ball to the left side of the infield. And of course, an uppercut makes a batter prone to missing the ball completely by swinging under it. D’Arnaud has displayed all three of these results with too much frequency this year.
The scout also hasn’t liked how he’s looked defensively, citing “a bunch” of passed balls. This year, d’Arnaud has only allowed one passed ball, although pitchers have thrown nine wild pitches while he’s been behind home plate. In a small sample, he’s caught 29 percent of potential base stealers, which is about average.
Anecdotally, he’s looked much more comfortable and confident behind home plate. He’s improved his pitch blocking, and has continued to be one of the best pitch framers in the league. The other day, d’Arnaud prevented the tying run from scoring in the ninth inning by making a diving tag of a baserunner who tried to slide around him.
Has d’Arnaud’s career gotten off to a slow start. Absolutely. Has he shown signs of growth, both at the plate and behind it? Yes. But his growth has been slow. D’Arnaud has had a few nice two-hit games here, a few one-hit games there and he hasn’t hit for much power. Mets fans are still waiting for that breakout game — a good 4-for-5 with a couple of doubles and maybe a homer. Then he’ll show why he was considered valuable enough to be traded for two Cy Young award winners in his career.