The 2015 season was a pretty magical one for the New York Mets and their fans. The Metropolitans came out of nowhere to not only win the National League East, but also make it all the way to the World Series. Obviously the team came up just short, but the team’s success cannot be overstated. In fact, I cannot recall a single national writer who picked the Mets to win the division, let alone make it all the way to the World Series.
Going into 2016, expectations are high, and rightfully so. The Mets are returning much of that successful playoff team, including the enigmatic Yoenis Cespedes, and seem poised to once again make a deep playoff run. While stars like Cespedes, David Wright, Curtis Granderson, and the entirety of the team’s fantastic pitching staff get most of the credit, there is one player who very well could be the most important player in the Mets’ bid to repeat as not only NL East champs, but also as National League champions.
That player is young catcher Travis d’Arnaud.
Despite injuries that caused d’Arnaud to miss much of the 2015 season, he was arguably one of the better players on the Mets in the time he was on the field. Due to those injuries, d’Arnaud was only able to play in 67 games, accumulating just 268 at-bats, but in the playing time he was highly successful, slashing .268/.340/.485 and finishing the season hitting 31 percent better than league average by wRC+. All in all, d’Arnaud was perhaps the most dangerous offensive catcher in the league behind Buster Posey, albeit in a small sample.
However, even with his offensive success, d’Arnaud was even more critical to the Mets success for what he did for the team behind the plate. Despite playing less than half of the season, was 10th in the league with a RAA of 11.0 according to Statcorner. Among the players ahead of him, all nine had at least 6000 pitches in their sample, while d’Arnaud was just above 4,400. For reference, d’Arnaud’s backup Kevin Plawecki was nearly as good in a similar number of chances, but did not have anywhere near the offensive success of d’Arnaud.
Beyond that, d’Arnaud also ranked near the top of the league in plus calls. If his performance is extrapolated over a full season, d’Arnaud could realistically be one of the better pitch receivers in all of baseball. Add that to his offensive profile, and d’Arnaud could quickly vault himself into the conversation for best catcher in baseball behind Buster Posey.
Even with all the great numbers d’Arnaud put up last season in limited playing time, more importantly for the Mets, he is a critical component of the Mets pitching staff, which looks to be the best in baseball. The group of Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, and Bartolo Colon rely heavily on d’Arnaud, making him a critical part of the Mets chances for continued success in 2016.
Perhaps no catcher in baseball, outside of Buster Posey, will have more eyes on him in 2016. If d’Arnaud can finally stay healthy in 2016, the Mets backstop could have a true career year. At only 27 years old, d’Arnaud still has a long and bright future ahead of him. Any chance of the Mets returning to the postseason for a second straight year relies heavily on the bat, and glove, of the Mets young catcher. Staying healthy will be the key.