The New York Mets will be sparsely represented at the All-Star game this year, but there are several young players who are starting to show All-Star potential. One such player is catcher Travis d’Arnaud.
Before his demotion on June 6, the 25-year-old was batting .180 with just six extra-base hits. In 2013, he had a slash line of .202/.286/.263. But in the nine games in which he’s played since his recall on June 24, he’s batting .303/.361/.485 with four extra-base hits (coming into Saturday). His last hit was a two-run double that put the Mets in front for good against the Texas Rangers on Friday night. He’s raised his batting average to .207 — still ugly, but only if you don’t remember where it once was.
The key, d’Arnaud says, is that he stopped over thinking every at-bat. Las Vegas 51s manager Wally Backman adds that, while Travis was under his (and his coaching staff’s) tutelage in triple-A, they had the catcher move his back foot about four inches closer to home plate. That adjustment has allowed d’Arnaud to reach outside pitches more effectively. It also resulted in an open stance, which for many hitters, allows them to see the pitch better with both eyes. In a closed stance, sometimes the hitter is peering at the ball out of the side of his eye.
D’Arnaud still has some improvement left if he wants to be an All-Star someday. He still uppercuts occasionally, causing him to swing under the ball. He’s also shown the ability to drive the ball to right-center field, which is a habit he should get into more often, especially on pitches on the outer half of the plate. And defensively, he allows too many passed balls. He’s terrific at framing pitches, but sometimes lets the ball slip out of his glove when doing so. With runners on base, he needs to put priority on catching the pitch over framing it.
Nevertheless, all-around catchers are hard to find, and if d’Arnaud keeps hitting and refines his skills behind the plate, there’s no reason he won’t represent the Mets in the All-Star game in the near future.