It was no secret that the New York Mets were trying to upgrade over the trade deadline. After General Manager Sandy Alderson missed out on the coveted catcher Jonathan Lucroy, he focused his sights on acquiring veteran outfielder Jay Bruce.
Jay Bruce, and his career-high 130 wRC+ this season, should help the offense this year, and the next (despite not being a perfect fit defensively). However, this also means that Travis d’Arnaud has a legitimate shot to cement his place as the Mets unquestioned catcher of the future.
He has a few roadblocks in his way, however.
d’Arnaud’s injury history is the biggest roadblock for him. In his major-league career, he has never topped 110 games played, and has only played a total of 108 games in the past two seasons, at the time of this writing. That is abysmally low, and it warrants worry going forward. He has had a wide array of injuries as well; the hits are from all over.
This season, d’Arnaud has not been really effective at the plate, either. He is slashing a paltry .245/.292/.343, with only three home runs and a 75 wRC+ in 41 games. His power is down significantly, where he hit 12 home runs in 67 games last year, and 13 in 108 games in 2014.
While his bat has been down this year, his 2015 season should not be forgotten.
He hit .268/.340/.485 in 2015, and ended the season with a robust 131 wRC+. That 131 wRC+ would have been 25th among all players, and second among catchers. His 2.3 WAR would have been tied for sixth among catchers. Unfortunately, and highlighting his biggest problem, he did not have enough at-bats to qualify. But simply put, he was a top-end hitting catcher when he took the field last season.
Defensively, d’Arnaud has a poor reputation, but he was only -1 in rSB (basically DRS stolen base above average), which is only one point under the average. His arm, especially in 2015 and 2016, has been around average. His biggest calling card is the ability to frame pitches; he is one of the best at it. He lead the league last year in rate of strikes called (87.2%), especially excelling at balls low in the zone (90.6%). He also has gotten dramatically better at blocking balls as well. In 2014, he had 39 wild pitches elude him. Last year, it was down to 23. So far this year, it is down to 14. He is also better in regards to passed balls as well. He had 12 passed balls in 2014, only one in 2015, and only two this season. He has come a long way behind the dish.
Travis d’Arnaud has to feel the pressure from the front office; the Mets were interested in Jonathon Lucroy for weeks, and kept that interest even after acquiring Bruce. Now that the Mets missed out on Lucroy, d’Arnaud has the chance to cement his place as the Mets catcher all over again.