Mets catcher Travis d'Arnaud hit a two-run home run Tuesday, his first since June 27 and his first at Citi Field this season.
In 74 games this season, d'Arnaud has 10 home runs, a .726 OPS and 0.7 WAR, which is 17th among NL catchers, according to FanGraphs.
"He's really stayed with his mechanics,'' hitting coach Kevin Long recently told Kevin Kernan of the NY Post. "I feel like he has done a really good job of staying more consistent. We stay on him every day about doing the exact same thing."
Aug 8, 2017; D"Arnaud (18) hits a two run home run at Citi Field. Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports
D'Arnaud, 28, is earning $1.8 million this season. He is eligible for arbitration in 2018 and 2019, after which he can become a free agent.
"He's got a high ceiling, it's time that he gets there,'' Long added, during his talk with Kernan. "He's got to push himself to be a better player, a better hitter. Sometimes it takes players a little bit longer. Hopefully, in this case, it's starting to sink in."
D'Arnaud missed more than half the season in 2016 due to multiple injuries. This year, however, he is on pace to play more games (109) than in any season during his big-league career.
In just 67 games during 2015, d'Arnaud had 27 extra base hits, 41 RBI and 2.3 WAR. This season, he's on pace for 32 extra base hits, 53 RBI and 1.03 WAR.
Matthew Cerrone (Twitter | Instagram | About Me): D'Arnaud has looked more focused and proactive behind the plate this season. I am not a fan of his passive game calling, but that is hardly exclusive to the Mets. Frankly, like I'd like to see all across baseball, I wish Travis called more pitches inside, while taking control of his pitcher more often than he does. But, again, this is probably a macro issue, less to do with Travis and the Mets and more to do with baseball as a business. That said, in the context of modern catchers, he's doing fine. Sure, his arm could be better. But, it appears catching instructor Glenn Sherlock has helped him improve his footwork, anticipation and focus enough to at least impact how freely and how often opponents are attempting to steal bases.
At the plate, he's also been just OK. I'd like to see him always hit with a two-strike mindset, choking up, shortening his swing and slapping hits toward the gap. Ideally, Travis hits .270 with significantly more doubles than home runs. Instead, he still seems to want to live and die with a long, slow, power swing, which has not been consistently effective for him.
I'm sure d'Arnaud is a constant topic among Sandy Alderson and his staff. On one hand, he's passionate, dedicated, full of potential, still under team control and a bargain in terms of his production and salary. At the same time, is he enough? Is he living up to his potential? If not, will he? And, if he does, will he stay healthy enough to remain on field?
June, 2017: D'Arnaud congratulates Jacob deGrom after a win. Credit: Adam Hunger, USA Today
Travis is going to be 29 years old next season. And, while catchers are notorious for developing in their late 20s, early 30s, can the Mets wait much longer for him to put all of his tools together.
This winter's free agent market is fairly weak at catcher, as it mostly includes aging veterans, such as Alex Avila, A.J. Ellis, Jonathan Lucroy, Kurt Suzuki and Matt Wieters. The Mets tried to acquire Lucroy a year ago, but he struggled a ton this past season and - like Wieters - is seemingly doubling in age overnight. As a result, I'm hearing Alderson and his staff have zero interest in abandoning d'Arnaud. Or, at least they're not going to proactively seek an upgrade this winter, which was essentially their approach last offseason.
Instead, I believe they're going to again roll the dice on d'Arnaud, while looking to upgrade at third base, center field and in the rotation. At this point, they have a good sense of what Travis can do and not do, assuming he's playing and not injured. Also, he's shown enough improvement behind the plate and between games to give them hope he can thrive more than he has.