Moneyball Mets Make A Scouting Move With Travis d'Arnaud

Jonathan Ferrey

Travis d'Arnaud is a better prospect than Jeff Mathis was. But there are a couple of spots on the back of Travis d'Arnaud's baseball card where his stats don't match up to the elite prospects in the game. Does that mean anything?

I'm such a wet blanket, ask anyone. Fun anyway, I'd retort, but still a wet blanket. Often think about worst-case scenarios.

Most Met fans are getting excited about Travis d'Arnaud and an elite catching prospect behind the dish in New York. We've seen Mike Piazza's name thrown around. The welcome mat is out. 2015 or bust!

And I'm over here wondering why d'Arnaud's stats aren't great, even with the assist of one of the offense-friendliest home parks in the minor leagues. I've already attempted to put the catcher in context by looking at the other hitters that went through Las Vegas and the research on 'superior' outcomes among catchers and tall catchers in particular. In that piece, I list other top-25 Baseball America catchers since 2000 (WAR courtesy www.fangraphs.com):

G PA HR BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wRC+ WAR
Joe Mauer 1065 4552 94 12.2% 10.4% 0.323 0.405 0.468 133 40.1
Victor Martinez 1149 4819 143 9.5% 11.1% 0.303 0.37 0.469 121 29
Buster Posey 308 1255 46 9.3% 14.7% 0.314 0.38 0.503 142 13.7
Matt Wieters 509 2031 65 9.0% 18.5% 0.26 0.328 0.421 100 12.9
Carlos Santana 344 1459 51 15.4% 18.0% 0.247 0.363 0.443 124 8.9
Jarrod Saltalamacchia 474 1733 64 8.1% 29.4% 0.239 0.302 0.418 88 3.9
Jesus Montero 153 622 19 5.8% 18.6% 0.267 0.31 0.408 99 0.4
Devin Mesoraco 72 237 7 8.4% 18.1% 0.205 0.274 0.353 63 -0.1
J.R. House 32 63 3 1.6% 25.4% 0.167 0.206 0.367 46 -0.3
Jeff Mathis 496 1587 34 6.6% 27.0% 0.198 0.256 0.314 51 -0.5

So, obviously the consensus scouting book on Travis d'Arnaud is overwhelmingly positive, with Jonathan Mayo putting him at #11 in the game most recently. And Jeff Mathis really only got one (semi-)breathless scouting report -- TDA has more love from all over. Keith Law called him a good shot at top-four overall catcher production in a recent chat. TDA has had more seasons that were better than Jeff Mathis' best seasons.

But Travis d'Arnaud's hitting stats don't measure up to the guys at the top of those lists, either. His minor league walk (6.9%) and strikeout (17.8%) rates are actually a little too similar to those of Jeff Mathis (8.2% and 17.2% respectively) to get real comfortable. And d'Arnaud's plate discipline stats don't measure up to those players ahead of Jeff Mathis on that list either:

MiLB BB% MiLB K% MiLB ISO
Joe Mauer 11.00 8.70 0.097
Victor Martinez 9.90 11.30 0.170
Buster Posey 13.10 13.60 0.209
Matt Wieters 14.70 15.30 0.233
Carlos Santana 15.30 14.80 0.21
Jarrod Saltalamacchia 11.70 20.30 0.187
Jesus Montero 7.80 16.50 0.193
Devin Mesoraco 9.10 18.20 0.184
J.R. House 8.30 14.00 0.17
Jeff Mathis 8.20 17.20 0.168
Travis d'Arnaud 6.90 17.80 0.188

Those combined numbers are bottom-two on this list. Check out his Major League Equivalencies and projections from Brian Cartwright's OLIVER system:

Those projections would be worth an approximated .313 wOBA, or almost league average offense. Remember how Wieters' numbers projected. This is different.

What's stranger is that one of the few defensive stats we have on catchers, percentage of runners thrown out, is also not kind to d'Arnaud:

I'm not a rabid anti-scouter. So I've trusted the scouts so far -- who, for the most part, think d'Arnaud can at least be league-average with the gove -- and personally put him somewhere short of Matt Wieters' status as a prospect, which was pretty intense. That might be pessimistic compared to some right now, but maybe it's useful for sober projecting.

Tim Marchman had an excellent Wall Street Journal piece about the relative value of a decent, cost-controlled young catcher, and after reading that you might feel like even a catcher like Jarrod Saltalamacchia would make the trade valuable. If that version of TDA pissed some people off because he wasn't Mike Piazza, I'd be the one saying, no he's still useful, the wet blanket in the room again.

But a conversation with Marchman on twitter also jarred something loose about what this move meant about the front office and their predilections:

Yeah. The Moneyball Mets look like they are taking a bit of a leap based on scouting. The numbers of the prospect in question aren't great. There must be scouts that have him ahead of others. The Mets' scouts obviously like him.

Maybe I should just stop being a wet blanket and trust them.

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