Barring injury Travis d’Arnaud will be the New York Mets’ starting catcher in 2014. Of course plans for him have rarely worked out as he fought through a major setback each of the last four years. It hardly requires a detailed explanation, but d’Arnaud has missed plenty of development time.
2010: back injury, limited to 292 plate appearances
2011: torn thumb ligament, 466 PA
2012: torn PCL ligament in knee, 303 PA
2013: broken foot, 245 PA counting both minor and major league time
Since he is constantly dealing with a health issue or is just plain rusty d’Arnaud is hard to analyze numerically. His line with the Mets was a mere .202/.286/.263, but it was his ML debut and he only had 133 minor league plate appearances to tune up.
Scouts peg d’Arnaud with an above average hit tool. In his 2013 book John Sickles observed “a good swing that generates power to all fields.” His minor league spray charts from 2013 fully support the idea that he goes line to line comfortably. Sickles goes on to call him “impatient” and while it is true that he drew a walk in less than 10% of his plate appearances in the minors, his BB% with the Mets was 10.7%. It’s a small sample size, but he backed up that number with better than league average marks in OSwing% and SwStr%.
d’Arnaud’s power did not show up in New York, his ISO was only .061. While he limited his strikeouts to a respectable 18.8%, the organization is more concerned with cutting them down than anything else. He will work on shortening his swing this year. That focus, coupled with a tendency towards ground balls, makes it hard to believe peak power will come this year. The just-released ZiPS projections estimate he will only reach the bleachers nine times.
d’Arnaud should not be targeted in one catcher leagues. There is some sneaky depth at catcher this year, so much so that ESPN ranks Miguel Montero 13thth. Matt Wieters did not get his OPS+ over 100 until his third season. Fantasy players should take a wait and see approach with d’Arnaud and watch for stability in his walk rates and improved power numbers.