Former top-100 prospect Travis d'Arnaud has been an enigma for the Mets, showing flashes of offensive prowess while struggling to stay on the field. As the Mets look ahead to an offseason of question marks, he is working diligently to prove he isn't one of them.
D'Arnaud's biggest strike against him has been an inability to stay healthy. And while he has not avoided the disabled list completely, his three-week stint in May is a minor blip compared to the long stretches of missed time in prior years. While many of his injuries have been considered "freak," he still shows a tendency towards bone injuries beyond what would be expected of someone at his position.
The persistence of his lost time has suggested there's something more than bad luck in play, but this season has arguably been a step in the right direction.
A microcosm of his career as a whole, d'Arnaud has seen many highs and lows in his performance at the plate this year. His overall line of .242/.294/.432 is below league average overall, but right in line with average production from the catcher position, where offense has been scarce for a number of years now.
D'Arnaud peaked at a season-high .786 OPS in June, bringing to mind his breakout at the plate that helped fuel the team's 2015 playoff run, but has struggled particularly with getting on base, his 6.5 percent walk rate is the lowest of his career, largely attributable to a more free-swinging approach. His power capability is a positive, but he needs to try to recapture the patience he showed earlier in his career. At 28 years old, he may seem to have maxed out offensively, but it's the norm for catchers to take longer to hit their peaks than their peers at other positions.
Defensively, d'Arnaud has some clear strengths, but also some highly visible weaknesses. His numbers regarding baserunning are poor, further exacerbated by a staff that is vulnerable to the stolen base as well as a defensively-challenged infield. While he will likely never excel at catching potential base-stealers, he does show much better skill at pitch-framing -- generally considered the most important component of catcher defense. And his blocking skills have improved tremendously over his career. Overall, he generally rates as a slightly above average backstop and this season has continued the trend.
The Mets have largely accepted that d'Arnaud is unlikely to reach the All-Star level performance hoped for from any top prospect, but with two more years of team control keeping his salary low, they take on relatively little risk in keeping him on the team. League-wide, contributions from catchers are very low and the crop of free agents at the position is quite poor. No catcher under 30 years old is up for grabs and the premium name, Jonathon Lucroy, is having the worst season of his career on both sides of the ball.
Additionally, with scarcity of catching affecting the vast majority of teams, trades for reliable backstops are nearly impossible. All signs point to the Mets sticking with d'Arnaud for the foreseeable future, and with a cost-controlled, average catcher, it's the right call.
Maggie Wiggin (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Archive Posts) has been a Mets fan since birth and a MetsBlog contributor since 2013. She loves throwing hard and hitting hard and hates the DH. When baseball is out of season, she fills her days with data analysis and evaluation and patiently waits for Spring