The 2013 season was a pretty rough ride, Mets fans. Now that it’s complete, though, we can start to fully reflect on it. What went right, what went wrong, disappointments, and surprises are all topics that will be covered in-depth by Mets media outlets in the coming weeks. One such reflection will be the performance of Mets top catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud during his major league debut. While it didn’t go quite as well as most would have liked, there’s reason for optimism going into the off-season.
d’Arnaud was promoted by the Mets on August 27th after John Buck was placed on paternity leave. He made his major league debut that same day, going 0-for-2 with two walks in four plate appearances in a Mets loss. It was a solid debut and one that d’Arnaud characterized as “indescribable.” It was initially unclear if it was a temporary taste of the big leagues, but when Anthony Recker was optioned rather than d’Arnaud upon Buck’s return it was clear he would be getting the bulk of the playing time going forward.
After an 0-for-10 skid to start his major league career, d’Arnaud got his first hit on August 20th in a Mets win against Atlanta. However, the month of August was not kind to him, as he batted .194/.318/.333 over 12 games. In fact, he carried his struggles into September and went .145/.221/.217 over his first 21 games. It wasn’t quite the performance you’d like to see from a top prospect, but he didn’t exactly have a smooth ride to the majors in 2013.
D’Arnaud suffered a broken foot from a foul ball in April while playing for the Mets’ AAA affiliate in Las Vegas. It was an unfortunate injury for him and one that kept him from playing in live games until the end of July, giving him less than a month of game action before being called up to make his debut. That combination would be tough for anyone.
Still, d’Arnaud acknowledged that he’d been pressing at the plate and recently told ESPN that he found himself trying to “hit the ball 600 feet” and over-swinging. He added, “When I would try to do that, I would over-wrap or over-swing pretty much and it would just dig me in a bigger hole.”
Identifying what’s going wrong and determining how to fix it are keys to being a successful ballplayer, and it appeared that d’Arnaud was able to accomplish that to close out the season on a high note. He turned in a much improved performance in his last ten games with a triple slash of .333/.429/.367. Obviously the power left much to be desired, but the high on-base percentage is a very good sign of things to come for the young catcher.
D’Arnaud impressed with his receiving skills as well. Specifically, he garnered rave reviews from the coaching and pitching staffs for his ability to frame pitches. Essentially, d’Arnaud has an impressive ability to make pitches low and out of the zone appear to be strikes, thereby getting those pitches called strikes. It’s an ability he’s refined over the years after modeling his catching game after Russell Martin, a catcher long known for his pitch-framing ability.
The future is bright for the young backstop. Despite his early struggles, d’Arnaud as the battery mate of the young, talented pitching staff the Mets have put together should have fans excited about the future and looking forward to 2014 and beyond.