Travis d’Arnaud may be running out of rope

Travis d'ArnaudBy all offensive measures, Travis d’Arnaud is failing to get it done. Never mind that he was a highly touted prospect for his hitting ability, let’s just look at him through the eyes of league averages as presented by Baseball-Reference.

d’Arnaud League Average
BA: .193 lgBA: .248
OBP: .281 lgOBP: .313
SLG: .298 lgSLG: .392
OPS: .579 lgOPS: .704

Of all catchers in the NL who have at least 100 ABs (12 players), d’Arnaud ranks second to last to Yasmani Grandal of the Padres in both BA and OBP, and last in SLG. Let’s not forget his nine RBI so far this season, a number so low that it can’t even be written numerically according to this website’s standard practices. These stats come as no surprise to many of us who have watched him play over the last couple of months, and even going back into last season. But when you look at him compared to just about anyone else in the league, it’s tough to think he can continue this mediocre play, and get almost unadulterated playing time.

In case you think Anthony Recker is the solution, his .211/.250/.355 is not fairing much better over the course of 76 ABs. He has lots of power, but it’s too infrequent to make much of a difference. So then, what are the Mets to do with this situation? It seems that either they can continue on track and hope that d’Arnaud blossoms into the offensive catcher he was thought to become, or they can backtrack slightly, and give Recker roughly 50% playing time. That, however, might then negatively impact d’Arnaud’s player development, and send this situation spiraling downward even further.

Might it then be time for d’Arnaud to be sent down? Some may say this is too rash, considering he is just coming back from a concussion, and should be giving time to acclimate himself. Others think it’s high time for him to prove what he’s got, and since he hasn’t so far, then the majors might not be for him. Neither gives the Mets a lot of breathing room. So what options are left?

Juan Centeno has been hitting .295/.360/.352 out in Las Vegas, but put up only a .238/.304/.238 slash line in his brief call-up during d’Arnaud’s DL stint. Small sample size still applies to the diminutive backstop. There were some questions about his defense, specifically his throwing accuracy when he came up, and he offers little in the way of power. To be fair though, his line drive hitting style may fair well over a longer course in Citi Field.

The only other relatively available option would be to call up Kevin Plawecki from Double-A Binghamton. Plawecki has been hot of late, and has a .321/.351/.497 line for the season, to go along with 5 home runs and 31 RBIs. It’s not often that a position player is called up from Double-A straight to the majors, but this situation might warrant it.

It does create a roadblock of sorts though, for if d’Arnaud does get sent down, Centeno would see reduced playing time there. Unless of course, Recker was to be packaged with, let’s say Chris Young, and shipped off to a team in need of solid bench players. d’Arnaud could then go down to Triple-A, get his swing right, and Centeno could come up to backup Plawecki. Is it a perfect situation? Of course not, but options are limited.

There are some pluses to keeping Recker. He calls an aggressive game behind the plate and he seems to communicate well with the pitchers. But his all-or-nothing swing is something the Mets have plenty of right now. What they are in desperate need of is someone who can hit for average, and the combination of Recker/d’Arnaud is good enough for only 28th in all of baseball for BA and SLG, and 25th in OBP. Not to mention they have together driven in only 17 runs. It’s safe to say that a change, if not imminent, is at least getting closer by the day.

The Mets have plenty of questions in other areas of the game, but this one needs to be addressed soon. Recker is a nice backup, but the Mets don’t have a good starter, so the backup is carrying too much of the load. Meanwhile there are options, even if only temporary, waiting in the minors to help this ballclub out. Alderson hasn’t been shy about using the minors to bolster the New York team so far this year, but those have mainly come through the pitching staff. This could be the first big offensive call-up of the year. If it does come, let’s hope it won’t be too late to make a difference.

13 comments for “Travis d’Arnaud may be running out of rope

  1. James Preller
    June 3, 2014 at 9:05 am

    I think it’s pointless to run numbers at this time. He hasn’t been hitting, that’s obvious.

    The defense has been overall solid, with hiccups, but I’m happy with that aspect. He appears to be a ML catcher.

    Catchers are notorious for starting off their careers as poor hitters. Think of Todd Hundley’s first few years. The three most important things for a rookie catcher are defense, defense, and defense. It has to be the priority.

    Obviously, for sure, Travis has disappointed at the plate. The approach — that damn word — seems screwy.

    More to the point, I worry about the concussions (three in his young career, I believe). My POV, full disclosure, is that I believe Jason Bay’s experience in NY was a direct result of the concussions. You lose even a slight edge, it’s like losing everything. Look at Agee’s first year with the Mets, after getting beaned in Spring Training. Old school guys used to worry that it was fear, but really it might have been faulty wiring. To expect Travis to miss a lot of time last season, and now come off a concussion (what’s he played, 2 games since he’s back?), and hitting at the ML level, is unrealistic.

    I think we’re going to need to be patient with this guy and not expect too much from the offensive end. He played in the PCL and we know — or should know — that league generates stupid numbers. Throw ’em out the door.

    My hope is a post-AS break BA around .240, .250. If, you know, the brains aren’t too scrambled.

    We can’t expect prospects to arrive and function at full capacity. Struggling is the norm, and at the catcher position, it’s especially tough. Guys need time to fail in the majors, to adjust. We are watching it with Wheeler, and we’ve seen it a hundred times in the past.

    JP (“2 Guys”)

    • Chris F
      June 3, 2014 at 11:42 am

      Good perspective. I think you have a lot of good thinking in there.

  2. Name
    June 3, 2014 at 9:18 am

    At this point, you have to roll with TDA until at least the trading deadline. One has to hope that his BABIP will finally reverse itself. It’s currently at .211 on the year and .226 in his career. He’s got a very healthy walk rate and is striking out much less than his teammates too. If at the deadline he isn’t hitting and the Mets have a shot to contend, i might look at a cheap stopgap option.
    Potential free agent catchers and who could be on the block assuming their team is out of it are Russell Martin, AJ Pierzynski, Geovany Soto and Kurt Suzuki.

    One impediment to Plawecki being brought up is his little experience with catching our staff as he didn’t catch much in Spring Training.

  3. Joe Gomes
    June 3, 2014 at 9:19 am

    Kind of confused by this story. You came up with it and is based on your opinion with nothing to back it up. Yes, d’Arnaud isn’t hitting but for now, he is the best option. d’Arnaud just like Flores, have to be given time.

    Recker, on the other hand, should be traded to clear space for Centeno which will clear a spot for Plawecki in Vegas.

  4. Larry Smith
    June 3, 2014 at 10:47 am

    I think this article sums it up well.
    The conservatism of Alderson makes me doubt that he’d let Plawiecki skip AAA.
    Recker is close to worthless. He likely has no trade value and should not be considered a viable replacement for d’Arnaud.
    Perhaps Lamar Johnson’s fresh eyes on him will help get Travis’ bat started.
    I would not expect a trade for a catcher.

  5. Chris F
    June 3, 2014 at 11:29 am

    We can all see that TdA is still on the steep part of the learning curve. On his rehab he saw Plawecki first hand, so he certainly sees the train barreling down the tracks. The pressure on him to perform is substantive. I think a scans we can’t intermix the fierce urgency of now to see results (I’m there believe me) with foolishly rushing young talent through the system just for the sake of it. TdA deserves 500-700 ABs to before it’s likely for us to have a decent picture. Ultimately he needs to get through this whole season with the confidence of the club to say you are our guy, just go in there and learn…and basically by lack of other options, he is the guy.

    For that matter, I’d like to see Plawecki play a mostly a full season in AA and keep showing, keep pressing on the club to advance him. He only has 159 ABs presently in Bingo. How about we strectch it to 300 and see where we are at. I could see him on the same train Harvey and wheeler were on in terms of making the show. That would give TdA through this time next year to prove himself before Plawecki could storm Flushing. In either way, Recker and Centeno are chess pawns capable of being moved and sacrificed as needed.

    • Chris F
      June 3, 2014 at 11:40 am

      I forgot to add, SA did a poor job in my eyes by not brining back a veteran catcher to groom TdA. Ryan Hannigan could have been had and so could have john Buck. TdA is doing all this from scratch and to me that was a mistake. I believe his defense is suffering, particularly in passed balls, especially blocking 60 footers.

    • Metsense
      June 3, 2014 at 4:39 pm

      TDA has only 134 plate appearences which is too few to make a definitive judgement. So far the results are terrible but because of his minor league pedigree and stats,( AA 2012 380/595/975 and AAA 2013 420/514/934) along with no viable replacement alternative, he should ride out the rest of the season.
      Recker, who I had a lot of faith in, also has failed to meet modest expectations. On June 15th Taylor Teagarden (413/571/986) can exercise his option if not on the roster. This should be of some concern to Recker.
      I am a firm believer that Plawecki should be promoted to AAA at the minor league break. If TDA doesn’t improve this season then maybe Plawecki could be legitimate competition in Spring of 2015.

  6. Sean Flattery
    June 3, 2014 at 2:55 pm

    It’s frustrating, but I think he’ll be fine. Timing looks off, and I think 2nd half of season he’ll come around, Hope the fans are patient.

  7. June 3, 2014 at 5:05 pm

    Beyond the obvious impact that missing time, as mentioned in other comments, has on a player and specifically a developing minor league, d’Arnaud is also still brand new to the Mets’ hitting system. He’s been with the organization for less than two years and has missed significant time during that span, so not only is he dealing with the typical repercussions of being young and injured, he’s taking in what’s evidently a pretty aggressive enforcement of the organization’s hitting philosophy.

  8. Larry Love
    June 4, 2014 at 5:52 am

    The mets need to trade for a bona fide catcher and get contact hitters who hit for average rather than all or nothing hitters hitting 200 and always striking out. Chris Young is the pits. How could they lose to the Cubs last night ? I’m glad I ripped up my Met hat in frustration 52 years of heartache since 1962

  9. Jim OMalley
    June 4, 2014 at 7:35 am

    I don’t think the team would get much if anything back in exchange for Young and d’Arnaud. It wouldn’t make sense to even try to move these players.

    You have to give TdA the year. It’s not going to be easy though. His offensive WAR though truly is horrendous…it is sitting at negative six right now.

    • Rich Grogan
      June 4, 2014 at 10:41 am

      You got that right!

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