Travis d'Arnaud knew how to make a good impression from the start. After being traded to the Mets in the deal that sent R.A. Dickey to the Blue Jays, d'Arnaud endeared himself to Mets fans by stating that he idolized Mike Piazza as a child and modeled his game around him. What an idea it is that the Mets may have Mike Piazza 2.0 on their roster, but is it realistic?
D'Arnaud was primed to spend the beginning of his 2013 season in the Triple-A Las Vegas, but he suffered a fractured metatarsal on April 18 and missed most of the early part of the season. The following months consisted of a slow rehab for d'Arnaud, and by June 21 he was still only rehabbing in the pool, but he persevered through his rehab and was finally cleared for baseball activities on July 22.
D'Arnaud began his first rehab assignment for the Gulf Coast League Mets on July 24, and he hit the ball well there. He was quickly moved up to Double-A Binghamton where, in thirty plate appearances, he struck out nine times and seemed to not hit well for contact. The Mets organization was apparently not terribly concerned with this, as they moved him up Triple-A Las Vegas on August 9, and Travis d'Arnaud did what Travis d'Arnaud does: rake against minor league pitching. In 78 plate appearances with the 51s, d'Arnaud had a slash line of .304/.487/.554 and a 176 wRC+, good enough to earn him a major league call-up.
D'Arnaud made his Major League debut on August 17 in San Diego, going 0-for-2 with two walks. He hit noticeably little in his 31 major league games: .202/.286/.263 with only one home run and a 60 wRC+. This was well below the average slash for a catcher in 2013, which sat at .245/.310/.388. D'Arnaud may have been somewhat unlucky, however, as his BABIP sat at a paltry .244. He did have a highlight night at the plate on September 15 when he broke a scoreless game in the twelfth inning by delivering a walk-off hit to defeat the Miami Marlins.
While there is much room for improvement in regards to d'Aranud's hitting, his defense was a bright spot in 2013. D'Arnaud was seen by many scouts as being a solid, but improving, defensive catcher who still needed to learn the intricacies of catching in the major leagues. One thing was evident from his first time behind the plate: d'Arnaud is a very good pitch framer. D'Arnaud impressed in other facets of the defensive game, so much so that Sandy Alderson said that he was not worried about d'Arnaud being a defensive liability in the future, but as Chris McShane wrote, he leaves something to be desired in his pitch-blocking and could benefit from a full, non-injured season.
With improvement on the offensive end and keeping up with consistently good defense, d'Arnaud should be able to stick around in the big leagues for a long time. We can only hope that his 2014 season is one without injury, so that we can get a real grasp on what kind of player he is.
Desired 2014 role: A better than league-average hitter at catcher, who continues to show defensive improvement and shows an ability to stay healthy.
Projected 2014 role: A league-average hitter at catcher, whose defense improves as he works with the Mets staff.